The nation's Roman Catholic bishops approved new steps this week to deal more strongly with the clergy sex-abuse crisis.
But activists and others say the moves leave the bishops in charge of policing themselves and potentially keep law enforcement at arm's length.
As their national meeting in Baltimore concluded Thursday, the bishops stopped short of mandating that lay experts take part in investigating priests accused of child molestation or other misconduct.
They also did not specify a procedure for informing the police of abuse allegations fielded by a newly proposed hotline.
The meeting followed a string of abuse-related developments that have presented the bishops and the 76-million-member U.S. church with unprecedented challenges. Many dioceses around the U.S. have been targeted by prosecutors demanding secret files.