Bishop of Killaloe Willie Walsh yesterday revealed that he seriously considered leaving the priesthood in the past due to the church's over-emphasis on sexuality.
Dr Walsh (75), who is about to retire from his post, spoke about how he had been attracted to a number of people during the course of his priesthood and how he was confident that the feelings had been reciprocated.
However, he added that he was pleased he had not left the priesthood and said that there was no guarantee he would have been happy in marriage.
In a wide-ranging interview with local radio station Clare FM, Dr Walsh also said that he was "extremely disappointed " with the Vatican response to inquiries by the Murphy commission.
"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.
Asked why he considered leaving, Dr 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.
"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 visualising 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."
Dr 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.
Dr Walsh said that the role of women in the church would be brought up with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome next month when he met the Irish bishops on the fallout from the church's child sex abuse crisis.
"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.
Dr Walsh said that the Church was missing out on a great deal on the lack of serious involvement of women in the church.
"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."
Dr Walsh said that he would be telling Pope Benedict XVI that he had been extremely disappointed with the response of the Vatican in not responding to questions posed to it by the Murphy commission.
"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."