The head of a Catholic Church council set up to work with the royal commission into child abuse says the church wants to work transparently with authorities so "the truth can come out".

But Francis Sullivan, the chief executive of the new Truth, Justice and Healing Council, says the seal of confession remains "intimate" for the church and its followers, and should be maintained.

The new council, announced in December, will be headed by former NSW Supreme Court chief judge Barry O'Keefe and Mr Sullivan, the former secretary-general of the Australian Medical Association.

Two bishops and a nun have already been nominated to the 10-person council but it will be led by lay people, whose brief is to nationally co-ordinate the church's "embrace" of the royal commission.

Victims' groups have already branded the council a smokescreen and a barrier designed to protect the church from the full force of the royal commission.

But Mr Sullivan said the council was operating on a principle of openness and transparency.

If the commission required documents about the laicisation - or "defrocking" - of a priest suspected of committing child sexual abuse then the church would comply.

"If the royal commission at times will want certain documentation, the role of the council is to facilitate that," Mr Sullivan told ABC radio on Friday.

"Our responsibility from here on is to assist the royal commission so the truth can come out."

But he denied that the church's refusal to release information received in the confession box was an insult to victims.

Mr Sullivan said the church was bound to the gospel and therefore people should understand priests were committed to offering a "compassionate response" to everybody.

"The issue of the confessional is sacrosanct. It's a more intimate issue for the church and for people who participate in confession," he said.

Mr Sullivan said the commission should provide a platform for all victims of these "atrocities" to tell their story, an issue the federal government must be grappling with.

The government announced last month that it would delay releasing the terms of reference for the royal commission until January, while work was continuing to establish the commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.


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