An article published Saturday in a leading Vatican magazine maintains that in most cases Catholic bishops should not be held responsible for child abuse committed by priests.

The 12-page article appeared in the authoritative Jesuit magazine Civilit? Cattolica. It makes a detailed analysis of how church law should be interpreted with regard to the moral and legal responsibility of bishops whose priests are involved in sex abuse scandals.

The article was signed by Reverend Gianfranco Ghirlanda, Dean of Canon Law at the Roman Catholic Gregorian University in Rome.

His article said in most cases a bishop or superior cannot be held responsible for criminal acts committed by one of their priests. The article says bishops only bear a certain amount of responsibility, but did not specify what that meant.

In his Vatican-approved article, Reverend Ghirlanda said the relationship between a bishop and his priest cannot be compared to that between an employer and an employee. He said the church is not like a corporation or multinational company.

The article was published just as two leading U.S. cardinals, William Keeler of Baltimore and Roger Mahony of Los Angeles apologized for having reinstated priests accused of sex abuse.

The U.S. Catholic Church has been under fire for some time for its handling of allegations of sex abuse by priests. Twelve U.S. cardinals attended a special meeting with Pope John Paul II and top church officials at the Vatican last month to discuss the crisis.

The Civilt? Cattolica article appears to be expressing the Vatican's planned defense in cases of alleged child abuse committed by Catholic priests.