"modest proposal", the Rev Dr David Williams (letter, Sept. 5) tells us that during the Black Death in 1349, when the clergy had been decimated, the bishop recommended confession to a lay man or woman. Such confessions were not sacramental confessions though it was the Church's practice to encourage nun-sacramental confessions when no clergy were available and the penitent was in danger of death. That was not something invented by a bishop in 1349. Still less is it a "precedent" for Bishop Malone's remarks.
Moreover, after such nonsacramental confession to a lay man or woman, if the penitent survives he or she must, when fully recovered, seek out a priest for sacramental confession and absolution. The truth is that Bishop Malone's "modest proposal" is anything but modest or humble and there are two reasons for that.
Firstly, it offensively implies that the ministry of women over some 2,000 years of the Church's history was deficient because it did not include some of the functions of priesthood.
Secondly, his "Modest proposal" is a direct challenge to the claim of the Catholic Church to teach with authority. Popes and councils have consistently, definitively and authoritatively taught that the ordinary minister of confession and absolution is a priest and the matter of ordination is a baptised male.
If they were wrong about that, a teaching taught authoritatively for some 2,000 years, then they can be wrong about any other solemn teaching. Bishop Malone's proposal is a direct, root and branch challenge to that most fundamental teaching of the Catholic faith.
He will doubtless deny this, but it is the inescapable logic of his position. He will also deny that he has been offensive to Catholic women who do not share his views about women's ministry. But that, too, is the logic of his position.
Yours faithfully, JAMES BOGLE 10 Kings Bench Walk London EC4