One of Ireland's leading bishops has revealed he almost left his vocation after he fell in love, but eventually decided to stay where he was. He also stated he would like to see women be permitted to become priests.
Bishop Willie Walsh of Killaloe in Clare, who is 75 and retiring, said "There would have been a small number of people in my life that I would have felt very attracted to and would have loved the opportunity of... indeed visualizing them as a partner for life.
"Certainly, there was a small number of people. Thankfully, I don't feel that I ever exploited that friendship," he said.
"Some of them would be some of my closest friends still and to whom I would have been very attracted towards at all levels of feeling and I would feel confident that those feelings were reciprocated.
"I gradually convinced myself that this was the best way for me. There is no guarantee if I left priesthood at that time that I would have been happy in marriage," he said. "There was a period during my 40s when I did seriously consider leaving priesthood, but looking back on it now I'm glad I didn't," he said. Walsh was speaking to a local radio station Clare FM.
Asked why he considered leaving, Walsh said: "I never had difficulty about the values that Christ gave us, but certainly I would have struggled with faith and certain aspects of our moral teaching and so on.
"Also perhaps at times an over-emphasis (by the church) in the area of sexuality and perhaps not enough emphasis in the area of justice.
"I gradually convinced myself that this was the best way for me. There is no guarantee if I left priesthood at that time that I would have been happy in marriage," he said.
Walsh -- who will remain Bishop of Killaloe until his successor is appointed, also re-opened the debate on women becoming priests -- by stating that he would welcome it.
"I would certainly have no difficulty if it was seen that that was the right way to proceed. I would welcome it," he said.
"I really believe -- and I have said this on a number of occasions -- that if somehow women had been more seriously involved in decision-making in the church, I think that this dreadful tragedy would not have happened," he said.
"I certainly always find that if I am faced with a very serious human issue, I would tend by instinct -- if I wanted to consult someone -- I would consult a woman friend."
Walsh also said he would be telling the Pope during a meeting later this month how disappointed he was with the Vatican response to the sexual abuse crisis.
"I was quite disappointed with the response of the Vatican to the Murphy commission when they were asked to respond and giving excuses that it should have through the Department of Foreign Affairs.
"I have to hope that Pope Benedict's intervention will make a difference."