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Cathedral opens door to glass confessional; Liverpool responds to report on national sex abuse scandal.

Byline: Emma Gunby and Chris Brown

LIVERPOOL'S Catholic Cathedral may become one of the first places of worship to use a transparent confessional.

The glass box will replace some of the traditional wooden versions - a move prompted by a spate of sex abuse scandals in the Catholic church nationally.

Last year, a double-glazed glass panel was inserted into the confessionals but staff at the cathedral are now considering introducing a completely transparent box following a report's recommendations.

The aim is to allow others to see what is happening, protecting children and adults from any risk of abuse and to save priests from false allegations.

Right Reverend Monsignor Peter Cookson, Dean of Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral, said: ``We were one of the first places in the country to have this sort of thing.

``We wanted there to be a degree of transparency to confession and also to provide protection for both parties, including the priest.

``We are currently considering altering the arrangements even further so the confessional is fully transparent.''

The new design means the confessors and the priest will be seen, but not heard, outside the confessional and by doing so protect the priest and the confessor.

This design means that it does not breach the traditional seal of secrecy because of the lack of sound.

But critics fear the new glass-fronted boxes go against the confidential principles of making a confession.

Formal confessions were first introduced in the early monastic communities and became commonplace by the mid 12th century.

The first of the traditional wooden confessional boxes was created by the Archbishop of Milan in the 16th century; prior to which priest and confessor would be visible to all, but separated by a grill.

Winifred Fitzpatrick, 91, a parishioner at Holy Name RC Church, in Fazakerley, said: ``The whole point of going into confession is that it is secret, you really do not want the world and his wife to see that you are there.

``And surely if someone can lip read then they will be able to see exactly what you are saying.''

A spokesman for the archdiocese said: ``There will still be plenty of the traditional confessionals at the cathedral.

``This has been a decision that has been made by the people at the cathedral.

``At present, there are no plans to spread this out to other churches in the diocese.''

The glass confessionals will cost more than pounds 1,000 because the glass needs to be completely soundproof.

The new confessionals follow the Nolan Inquiry into the Catholic Church last year, which recommended that children and adults should make confession in the open.

Lord Nolan, a former law lord, said that it should become the norm for children to receive the sacrament of reconciliation or to make confession in the open and in time that it should be introduced to adults.

Between 1995 and 1999, 21 out of 5,600 Catholic priests in England and Wales were convicted of child abuse.


OPEN: A new confessional booth at Plymouth Cathedral
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 14, 2002
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