Bishops says let women hear confession and grant absolution
Women should be permitted to hear confessions and grant absolution, according to Bishop Vincent Malone of Liverpool in England.
He said the the Church should consider choosing lay women to be confessors because some people might prefer disclosing their sins to a woman rather than a man.
Writing in a new book, he also said that other sacraments reserved for the all-male clergy might be opened to lay people, including the annointing of the sick.
Bishop Malone said he was merely raising questions rather than "starting a revolution", and stressed that any reforms would have to be agreed by the whole Church before they could be implemented.
Bishop Malone's comments will carry particular weight because he is the liaison person between the English and Welsh Bishops' Conference and the National Board of Catholic Women.
In his contribution to Healing Priesthood: Women's Voices Worldwide, he said the Church's tradition "may sometimes seem only to inhibit the freedom to engage with difficult questions".
But some practices could be varied. Although the Pope had ruled out women priests, the Church had "not so ruled in other areas which might yield surprising fruit".
He added: "It is not difficult to conceive circumstances in which a female minister could more appropriately than a man be the receiver of the humble confession that opens a soul to hear the glad words of the Lord's forgiveness.
Daily Telegraph (London)
Bishop suggests more roles for women in the Church (Independent Catholic News)
Healing Priesthood: Women's Voices Worldwide (Australian enquiries Tel: 1300 650 878)
Archdiocese of Liverpool
Bishop Vincent Malone (catholic-hierarchy.org)
National Board of Catholic Women
Catholic Church in England and Wales
29 Aug 2003