Question from Frank Watson, January 12, 2012
The role of the Pastoral Council is well defined in the Vatican II Decree on Bishops (no. 27) and in more recent documents, such as the Instruction of 2002 entitled “The Priest, Pastor and Leader” and the 2004 Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops entitled “Apostolorum successores.” However, there is no mention of what course of action should be taken if the Pastor refuses to accept the pastoral council’s recommendations. Don’t those recommendations reflect what the Parishioners want?
Response from Mark F. Fischer
The church’s documents unanimously state that the pastoral council has a “consultative only” vote. The pastor is not obliged to accept the council’s recommendations. The church does not want to force pastors to take poor advice.
That does not mean, however, that the pastor may consult falsely or insincerely. When bishops require pastors to form such councils, they intend a genuine dialogue. Pastors raise important questions, and councils develop helpful answers. Pastors invite the councils to accomplish a threefold task: first, to investigate some aspect of the parish reality; second, to give it thorough reflection, and third, to recommend to the pastor their conclusions. Councils respond by careful study and thorough analysis.
If a pastor refuses to accept the council’s recommendations, he should explain why and ask the council to consider his objections. If the councillors feel that the pastor is being unfair, they should state their reasons. The church’s documents imply that a relation of good faith exists between pastor and councillor. Without it, there can be no meaningful consultation.