Church authorities repeatedly failed to act when alerted about suspicions of child abuse by priests and instead sought to move clerics to other parishes, the Commission of Investigation into Clerical Sexual Abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese has found.

The report of the commission, which was sent to attorney general Paul Gallagher last week for advice on making it publicly available, is also expected to outline a litany of failures to limit the exposure of vulnerable children to serial clerical sex abusers.

While justice minister Dermot Ahern has declined to comment on the content of the report, it is understood that it will focus much of its criticism on how a number of bishops in the archdiocese handled allegations of abuse.

"The priests were moved around when complaints were made rather than dealt with by the authorities. The church has a long history of doing this around the world," a government source told the Sunday Tribune.

The commission has examined a representative sample of 46 priests who were suspected of abuse. They were overseen by a total of 19 bishops in Dublin between January 1975 and April 2004.

Four of these were archbishops of Dublin. These include the late John Charles McQuaid, Dermot Ryan and Cardinal Desmond Connell.

Connell previously took a High Court action claiming privilege over 5,586 documents which were handed over to the commission by his successor as archbishop, Dr Diarmuid Martin. However, he subsequently withdrew his action.

In a statement last week, Ahern said he was concerned that "nothing should be done which would harm the prospects of the perpetrators of these horrific acts of depravity against children being brought to the justice they deserve".

As a result, it is expected Ahern will seek directions from the High Court concerning the publication of the report.

If the court considers publication might prejudice any criminal proceedings, it may direct that the report or a specified part of it not be published until the court otherwise directs.

There are currently cases involving three men investigated by the commission before the criminal courts. On foot of its own legal advice, the commission opted not to identify one of the priests it had previously intended to name.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said Ahern is studying the report and will give his reaction "when it is put into the public domain".

She was unable to say when this would be.

Meanwhile, the president of St Patrick's College national seminary in Maynooth, Monsignor Hugh Connolly, has told the Sunday Tribune that an individual who is "disposed to abuse will seek to abuse", but said it was his belief that "celibacy does not alter this fact".

However, he acknowledged it was not possible "for anyone to honestly say... that a particular category of person/profession will never offend in the future".