Parish Council (US Catholic Church) - Confusion With "Pastoral" Councils

Confusion With "Pastoral" Councils

It is an understandable mistake to distinguish parish councils from parish pastoral councils, as if the two were separate parish entities. The first parish councils were, properly speaking, "apostolate" councils of the type recommended in the Decree on Laity, par. 26. When the Code of Canon Law was revised, it did not refer to apostolate councils, but called for pastoral councils.

Those who do not know about the development of the "pastoral" council idea in the Vatican documents of 1971, 1973, and 1984 may mistakenly believe that the "parish" councils that emerged immediately after Vatican II are separate from pastoral councils. They may wrongly suppose that "parish" councils are bureaucratically structured decision making bodies, independent of the pastor, that oversee such parish matters as the annual plan, schedule and budget, capital improvements, and the like. But councils do not make decisions independently of the pastor and have a consultative vote only.

The so-called "parish" council idea has developed and is now more precisely referred to as the "parish pastoral council." Pastors may establish these councils and consult them to achieve a threefold purpose -- namely, to investigate some aspect of the pastoral situation, reflect about it, and recommend conclusions.

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