The Australian Catholic Church must do more to atone for the widespread child sexual abuse within its ranks and its cover-up despite facing influential pockets of resistance, its key royal commission adviser argues.
The need for reform and change in the church is far from over despite the end of the five-year inquiry that exposed "a massive concealment exercise", Truth Justice and Healing Council CEO Francis Sullivan says.
"Church leaders can apologise until they're blue in the face but until they demonstrate by their actions that they sincerely want to atone for what's happened, no one will listen to them," Mr Sullivan told AAP.
"It will be on their heads if they don't step up and demonstrate that they are going to take the church in a direction that resonates with what the community and the royal commission believes to be a sensible and prudent approach."
Mr Sullivan expects some influential individuals and interests in the church will continue to be defensive about aspects of the child abuse royal commission's recommendations and governments' responses where they impact the operation of the church.
"I think there are interests within the church, and some of those interests are near bishops, who are still defensive, who are still reactionary, who are trying to push back on the royal commission, almost as if they think it is some sort of infringement upon the religious freedom of the church."
The church has already declared the seal of confession must remain intact despite the prospect of its priests facing criminal charges for failing to report child sexual abuse, if a royal commission recommendation becomes law.
Mr Sullivan does not expect the church to change its position that the seal of confession is inviolable in the case of a priest maintaining confidentiality for a penitent.
But he believes there has been confusion even among Australia's senior church leaders about the application of the seal when abuse is revealed by a child in the confessional.
"I think these type of issues in the modern world need to be sensibly addressed and at the same time not undermining the integrity of the sacrament."
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge has said Australian bishops recognise cultural change - not just refining protocols and procedures - is needed and it cannot be business as usual after the royal commission.
However, a number of priests warned the inquiry not to expect to change the theology and structure of the universal church despite those issues being examined as part of its investigation into widespread abuse over decades in Catholic institutions.
The inquiry released world-first data revealing 1880 priests, religious brothers and sisters, and lay people have been identified as alleged perpetrators in abuse claims made to the Australian Catholic Church by 4445 victims.
Mr Sullivan said the church has made significant changes including in the way it deals with abuse complaints and by establishing a new national professional standards body.
Amid criticism from a number of abuse survivors and child protection advocates that some in the Catholic Church still do not "get it", Mr Sullivan said it had a way to go around safeguarding children and in fully taking on board and being sensitive to the victim experience.