VATICAN CITY, OCT. 5 -- A senior U.S. archbishop today told a worldwide synod examining the role of the laity that the Roman Catholic Church should give women more authority, including high policy-making positions in the Vatican and its diplomatic corps.

"The credibility of the church in our century in its pastoral mission depends on its forthright response to the concerns of women in church and society," said Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee.

The issue, he said, "definitely touches the credibility of the church's teaching on human dignity everywhere on this planet."

Weakland, one of four prelates chosen by the U.S. bishops to represent them, said the church should give lay people, including women, decision-making roles in all levels of the church, including the Curia and diplomatic corps. He also urged that lay men and women be allowed to "function in all liturgical roles that do not demand priestly ordination."

Bishop Gerhard Schwenzer, of Oslo, Norway, said the shortage of women in church administration "is seen more and more as a fundamental failure of the church."

There are no women in the Vatican's diplomatic corps, but some represent the Holy See as advisers at the United Nations and other international organizations. The highest-ranking woman in the Vatican is a British nun, Sister Mary Linscott, a department head at the Congregation for the Religious.