Healing Priesthood: Women's Voices Worldwide

 LONDON - 28 August 2003 - 435 words

Could some Sacraments, including the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and Anointing of the Sick, be open to lay men and women? Bishop Vincent Malone, auxiliary bishop in Liverpool, reflects on this in his contribution to a new book: Healing Priesthood: Women's Voices Worldwide.

The compilation of essays by more than 25 women from the UK and around the world, edited by Angela Perkins and Verena Wright, from the National Board of Catholic Women, (NBCW) will be launched during the National Conference of Priests next month.

In his reflection - the only male contribution to the book - Bishop Vincent Malone emphasised that 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.

But he points out that some practices in the Church "could be varied". Although the Pope had ruled out women priests, he said, "the Church had not so ruled in other areas which might yield surprising fruit."

He said: "It is not difficult to conceive circumstances in which a female minister could more appropriately than a man to be the receiver of the humble confession that opens a soul to hear the glad words of the Lord's forgiveness."

"Common practice in our society today would expect equal access in many professions to either a man or a woman at the client's choice. It would be an unusual medical practice that did not have both male and female practitioners. Similarly with a firm of solicitors or a team of councillors.

"Has the time come to expect a similar availability in even more sacred areas of our lives - without thinking that this is impossible without the ordination of women?"

Healing Priesthood: Women's Voices Worldwide covers a wide range of issues in the Church. It is divided into three parts: Women's Voices, which includes essays from many leading Catholic women writers including Vicky Costick, Sr Pia Buxton, Rosemary Read and Tina Beattie; Women in the Pews- with contributions from many women who responded to an appeal for essays; and Women in the World - with writing by women from Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, East Timor, the USA, Holland, Nigeria and India.

Freda Lambert, former president of the NBCW, told ICN: "Angela Perkins was inspired to compile the book after attending the National Conference of Priests last year. They had just launched a three year programme of renewal. One of the years' themes was 'healing priesthood' ".

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