A DISSIDENT Catholic bishop who criticised the church's "authoritarian" nature and doctrines on celibacy and female priests has resigned.
Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Patrick Power, an auxiliary bishop of the Canberra-Goulburn archdiocese, on Thursday, five years before he reached the church's mandatory retirement age of 75.
Bishop Power had criticised the church's response to sexual abuse scandals and called for its systemic reform.
"Bishop Power was one of the most progressive, reformist bishops that Australia has seen," the editor of the Catholica website, Brian Coyne, said.
Yesterday, Mr Power reiterated his concerns that the church was moving away from the modernisation inaugurated by the Vatican II reforms designed to make the church more accessible.
"It's not just the Pope," he said. "In the whole life of the church, that there's been a move away from the Second Vatican Council and that's been a great disappointment."
In a 2010 article on sexual abuse cases and the church, he wrote: "I wondered aloud if the church would be in its present state of crisis if women had been part of the decision-making in the life of the church."
The NSW chairwoman of the group Women and the Australian Church, Bernice Moore, said Mr Power's legacy was "one of true commitment to people".
Mr Power denied his retirement was prompted by frustration with church hierarchy. "I'm 70 and I'd always intended to resign," he said.