Are you saying that the Decree on the Laity, par. 26 is calling for a separate and/or distinct council from a “pastoral” council, and that this council’s purpose is to assist the laity with their secular apostolates? The reason why I ask is because it is the “pastoral” role of the pastor to assist the laity in their mission to the world. I am trying to wrap my head around it all.
Mark F. Fischer replied:
Many people mistakenly accept the Vatican II Decree on the Laity (par. 26) as the origin of the pastoral council, even though it doesn’t use the word “pastoral.” The Laity Decree describes the apostolate of the laity, the apostolate of being a Christian in the world. The origin of the “pastoral” council, however, is the Vatican II Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops (par 27). The “pastoral” apostolate is the work of leading parishes.
You have understood me correctly when you say that the lay apostolate councils may coordinate lay initiatives (such as the National Councils of Catholic Women and Men). That is what the Laity Decree states at par. 26. But many people interpret that paragraph as referring to parish committees or commissions. They think that the work of the pastoral council is to coordinate them. This is a mistake. Parish committees and commissions do not belong to the lay apostolate of being a Christian in the world. No, they belong to pastoral apostolate, the apostolate of parish life.
The difference between pastoral and lay apostolate councils was first brought to my attention by the Malaysian Jesuit, Peter Kim Se-Mang.