Vatican II Intent

DPC LogoSmallWhat Was Vatican II’s Intent Regarding Parish Councils?

By Mark F. Fischer, St. John’s Seminary, Camarillo

Published in Studia Canonica 33 (1999): 5-25.

Shortly after I joined the staff at the Diocese of Oakland, the reformed Code of Canon Law appeared in bookstores. The green cloth, dual-language edition which I bought at that time lies on the desk before me. I remember my thoughts as I first looked at it: only five canons out of 1752 devoted to pastoral councils — how disappointing! And as I read the handful of canons, I thought: how brief these references are, how little they say about the purpose and scope of councils! The number and length of the canons seemed small in proportion to the importance I felt such councils ought to enjoy.

Still, I reflected, these canons are the Church’s official legislation. And so I duly photocopied them for distribution to the members of Oakland’s Diocesan Pastoral Council, whom I served in my official capacity. In fact, I prepared for each DPC member a packet of all the Church’s official documents recommending local councils: the relevant texts of Vatican II as well as the few references in documents published since 1965. There could not have been more than ten pages. By my recollection, the council spent little time on them. Council members considered them a mere skeleton on which to hang the flesh and blood of the DPC. The members simply accepted the documentation as a rather dry but official statement of what they were already committed to. They felt they knew the content of the documents by personal experience, both on the diocesan and the parish level. But I studied the documents closely. Before long, I had a good command of them.

Imagine my surprise when, in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, some authors began to suggest that the intentions of Vatican II regarding parish councils had been widely misunderstood. Published after the November 27, 1983 promulgation of the Code of Canon Law, these authors reinterpreted Vatican II in light of the new Code. Vatican II, they said, had not intended the kind of parish councils which appeared in the immediate postconciliar period, but rather a special kind of council, the parish “pastoral” council. The Vatican II “Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People,” they said, was not a source for parish pastoral councils, contrary to widespread belief. And matters relating to parish administration, they said, were outside of the scope of pastoral councils. These authors challenged a number of assumptions that I had taken for granted. Who were the authors? What did they see that I had missed?

Arguing that the 1983 Code clarified Vatican II’s intentions regarding parish councils, the authors included a professor of canon law, a former officialis and seminary rector, a diocesan bishop, a Jesuit professor, and a diocesan vicar general. They were all scholars with pastoral experience as parish priests.[#1] They were trying to make sense of the way the 1983 Code transmitted the Vatican II doctrine regarding parish councils. They noted that the Code in this regard was innovative and selective. A good example of innovation is canon 536. With its affirmation of pastoral councils at the parish level, canon 536 formally extends to parishes the type of council which Vatican II had suggested for dioceses alone. Diocesan pastoral councils, not parish pastoral councils, had been recommended in number 27 of the Vatican II “Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops.” With the publication of the new Code, the authors had to explain why canon 536 speaks of parish pastoral councils when Bishops 27 had spoken only about diocesan pastoral councils.

Moreover, the authors saw that the new Code was selective. It does not refer to the apostolic or coordinating councils recommended in number 26 of the Vatican II Laity Decree. This was surprising, because most dioceses and writers on parish councils had cited Laity 26 as the basis for parish councils. But the Code in no way affirms the application of the Laity Decree to parish councils. There are no canons about apostolic or coordinating councils. That Vatican II doctrine is absent from the Code. This selectivity was a challenge to the five authors. They had to explain why the Code does not use the language of the Laity Decree to describe parish councils. Their approach was to say that the parish council pioneers who had cited the Laity Decree were mistaken.

The five authors advanced what I call the thesis of constant homogeneous intent. This is the thesis that the bishops at Vatican II had intended two types of council, the apostolic and the pastoral, from the start. Furthermore, the bishops’ intention had remained constant, and the doctrine on pastoral councils was re-affirmed in the 1983 Code. In short, the teaching of the 1983 Code on parish pastoral councils is homogeneous with the teaching of Vatican II. Table 1 correlates the basic features of the thesis with the five authors.

The Church’s constant homogeneous intent, so the thesis goes, was the proper yardstick by which to judge the development of actual parish councils. And by that yardstick, most parish councils did not measure up. The Catholic world had misinterpreted the direction indicated by the Second Vatican Council, according to this thesis, and had to be put back on course. A clear Vatican II intention, and a widespread misinterpretation of it, were the two components of attempts by the five authors to rewrite the history of parish councils.

In order to get to the truth of this matter, I first shall sketch the development of the thesis of constant homogeneous intent.





Experience taught that Laity 26 did not call for councils to coordinate parishes. The “pastoral” councils of Bishops 27 embodied the true intent of Vatican II. The 1983 Code expressed the intention of Vatican II regarding pastoral councils.
Dalton Vatican II did not mandate parish pastoral councils (171-2). Parish councils failed because they were not “pastoral” (172) Councils are part of Vatican II ecclesiology (171).
Griese ’85 Laity 26 was not speaking of pastoral councils (47) Parish pastoral councils developed by evolution and imitation (48-49). The new Code follows closely the concepts of Vatican II (52).
Keating Laity 26 was not speaking of pastoral councils (260). Bishops 27 is “somewhat germane” to parish councils (260). The new Code draws on 20 years of council experience (259).
Kim Laity 26 called for councils to coordinate the ministries of apostolic groups (92). Vatican II intended pastoral councils to give advice on pastoral matters (66). After 1983, what were called parish councils ought to be called pastoral councils (68).
Renken Laity 26 does not apply to parish pastoral councils (148). Parish pastoral councils have the same nature and function as DPCs (145). From the beginning, pastoral councils were to do pastoral planning (132).

Although no one author has formally proposed the thesis, so many have advanced bits and pieces of it that a synthetic picture can emerge. After documenting the thesis, I shall attempt to refute it. My method is to probe its consistency and coherence. The intentions of the bishops at Vatican II regarding parish councils, I maintain, were no more clear and unambiguous than the efforts of later commentators to write the history of those intentions. Finally, I will propose an alternate thesis: Vatican II’s intentions regarding councils had been unclear from the start and the 1983 Code sought to clarify them.

Elements of the Thesis

The thesis of constant homogeneous intent has three parts: the original intention at the Second Vatican Council; the extension of the idea of pastoral councils to parishes; and the confirmation of the Vatican II intention regarding councils in the 1983 Code. The thesis begins with a double assertion about the original intention of Vatican II. First, the Vatican II bishops intended two types of councils, separate and distinct.[#2] Second, the bishops were not calling for the kind of parish councils that did in fact emerge during the immediate post-Vatican II period. The recommendation in no. 26 of the Laity Decree, namely, that councils should be established to assist the Church’s apostolic work and to coordinate lay associations at all levels, including the parish level, was not (according to this thesis) a call for parish councils.[#3] The Laity Decree intended something quite different. It recommended councils for individual apostolic activities, or councils to coordinate diocesan institutions, or councils to coordinate autonomous apostolates.[#4] Not the coordination of the parish, but the coordination of autonomous groups (so the thesis goes), was the intention of Laity 26.

This intention was widely misunderstood. True, the misunderstanding was not malicious or intentional. Parish council pioneers did believe they were establishing councils “in the spirit” of Vatican II, and this point is generally conceded, even by those who hold the thesis of constant homogeneous intent. But the well-meaning pioneers, according to the thesis, were mistaken. They were imitating representative democratic government or the management style of corporate business, not the model of Vatican II.[#5] The problem word was “coordination.” Laity 26 had expressed a desire for apostolic councils to coordinate lay associations, and this was misinterpreted as a desire for parish councils to coordinate parish ministries.[#6] In order to accomplish this coordination, the thesis maintains, many fledgling councils unrealistically expected pastors to surrender to them all responsibility. Henceforth, according to the mistaken belief of the pioneers, nothing would be done at the parish without consultation and the council’s approval. “Parish councils as envisaged by the Second Vatican Council,” wrote William Dalton, “did not materialize in the way intended by the Council Fathers.”[#7] Their intention was not even properly grasped.

The intention was there, however, for those who took the trouble to see it. The clearest evidence of the Vatican II intention regarding consultation of parishioners, according to the thesis we are considering, lies in the “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.” Number 37 of Lumen Gentium speaks of the laity’s right to advise pastors. “This should be done,” it states, “through the institutions established by the Church for that purpose.”[#8] Parish councils, the thesis goes, were among these institutions. Their main purpose, the one sketched in Lumen Gentium 37, was to advise pastors, not to coordinate apostolic works. Such consultation accords better with the “pastoral” councils envisioned in Bishops 27 than with the “coordinating” and “apostolic” councils of Laity 26. Hence pastoral-style parish councils were the fundamental intention, however indirectly expressed, of Vatican II. Some pastors and parishes, according to the thesis, were able to rightly discern the intention. They created pastoral-style councils on the parish level, in imitation of Diocesan Pastoral Councils, even before Church officials had officially called for them.[#9] But these discerning few were the exception.

Nine years after the publication of Lumen Gentium, the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy lent further support, so the thesis goes, to the intention of Vatican II regarding councils. Its 1973 “Circular Letter” on pastoral councils stated that there is nothing to prevent the institution of pastoral councils, the very councils which had been recommended in Bishops 27 at the diocesan level, for parishes as well.[#10] This was not a departure from Vatican II, according to the thesis, but homogeneous with the intention expressed in Bishops 27 and Lumen Gentium 37. The Circular Letter merely expanded the earlier documents and confirmed the Church’s experience of councils.[#11] The letter did not, however, mention the “apostolic” or “coordinating” councils of Laity 26. Since the Circular Letter was the first official document to explicitly mention parish pastoral councils, and was the only post-conciliar document to deal exclusively with pastoral councils, its silence regarding Laity 26 was deafening. For those who maintain the thesis of constant homogeneous intention, it suggests that Laity 26 was never meant as a basis for parish pastoral councils.[#12] The vast majority of writers, those who cited that text as a basis, had misread the intention of Vatican II.

The 1983 publication of the Code of Canon Law rectified that mistake, according to the thesis considered here. Canon 536 wrote into law what was implicit in the documents of Vatican II and was first explicitly permitted in the 1973 Circular Letter. By allowing parish pastoral councils, canon 536 followed Lumen Gentium’s grant to the laity in no. 37 of the right to freely express opinions and to unite lay energies to the work of pastors. By applying the word “pastoral” to parish councils, canon 536 endorsed the pastoral-style council recommended for dioceses in the Vatican II Bishops’ Decree.[#13] It ended a period of experimentation on parish councils by affirming one model above others, namely the pastoral council.[#14] In this way (according to the thesis), canon 536 stopped the mistaken reliance upon Laity 26 as the basis of parish councils.

Canon 536, so goes the thesis, also corrected two widely-held errors about the authority and scope of parish councils. The first was the misconception that parish councils have a deliberative (as distinct from a consultative) role. Canon 536 laid this to rest. “The parish council,” wrote Bishop Keating, “is not a legislative body.”[#15] Those who believed that parish councils had been empowered by Laity 26 to “coordinate” parishes must henceforth reconsider. The pastoral council is consultative only. Moreover, the Code provided for a second parish council, the parish finance council. This corrected the mistaken focus on temporalities of many parish councils, so the thesis goes, and limited the scope of the emerging parish pastoral council.[#16] Canon 537, by requiring finance councils to “aid the pastor in the administration of parish goods,” implicitly restricted the administration of temporalities to the finance council. No longer may pastoral councils concern themselves, according to this thesis, with the administration of the parish.[#17] That had become the province of finance councils.

The thesis of constant homogeneous intent, in short, expressed a belief about the relation between Vatican II and the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Canons 536-537 on parish pastoral and finance councils are homogeneous, according to the thesis, with the Vatican II intent regarding councils. The thesis maintains that Laity 26 did not express the desire of the council fathers for the kind of parish councils which blossomed in the late 1960s. Their intention was rather expressed in Lumen Gentium 37 and Bishops 27. Most people, however, misinterpreted it in the immediate postconciliar period. In 1973, with the publication of the “Circular Letter” on pastoral councils, the intention of establishing parish pastoral councils first became explicit. And after the publication of the 1983 Code, the intention of Vatican II was broadcast to the world.

The trouble with the thesis of constant homogeneous intent is that it does not hold up to scrutiny. Although the authors cited above unanimously maintain the three basic elements of the thesis sketched in Table 1, nevertheless they do not agree on particulars. The task of parish councils, the number of councils recommended for each parish, the scope of councils–all of these are areas of disagreement. More to the point, there is ample evidence to suggest that the bishops of Vatican II were ambiguous about “pastoral” councils and about councils at the parish level. To claim that the Code of Canon Law is homogeneous with the intention of Vatican II regarding councils, and that such an intention has remained constant, is fraught with difficulties.

Refuting the Thesis

The thesis of constant homogeneous intent is admittedly a synthesis. No one person maintains the thesis as a whole. It amalgamates a number of viewpoints, not all of which are compatible. Yet it deserves to be called a single thesis because it has an apparent logic and persuasiveness. A seemingly unified set of assumptions guides all five of the authors to whom the thesis is attributed. In order to show the weakness of the thesis, I intend to break it down into six assertions. These assertions make manifest what, in the authors of the thesis, is often latent. After stating each of the assertions, I will show how they are inconsistent with each other and with the Church’s official documents.

Assertion 1: Vatican II intended, at least implicitly, parish councils of the “pastoral” type. This first assertion is the heart of the thesis of constant homogeneous intent. It is implicit in the arguments that early pioneers had misapplied Laity 26 in creating parish councils, and that the 1983 Code correctly expressed the Vatican II intention regarding councils. The assertion is also the easiest to answer. The documents of Vatican II did not mention, let alone recommend, parish pastoral councils. To claim, in the light of canon 536 and the vague words of Lumen Gentium 37 about the laity advising pastors, that Vatican II had intended parish pastoral councils from the start, is an inaccurate revision of history. Only one document of Vatican II, the Laity Decree, advocated councils at the parish level. However, that document did not apply the word “pastoral” to such councils. Unless Laity 26 is construed as recommending a pastoral-type council for parishes, then Vatican II did not intend parish pastoral councils.

Assertion 2: Vatican II intended two types of councils, i.e., pastoral councils and apostolic coordinating councils, which are clear and distinct. This second assertion seems not only plausible but self-evidently true. It is based on the differing descriptions of councils to be found in Laity 26 and Bishops 27. These Vatican II documents speak of “apostolic” councils and of “pastoral” councils respectively. The different language of the two documents was clearly noted by early commentators.[#18] Some of the early parish council pioneers expressly compared the language of the two documents, finding the “pastoral” council (described in Bishops 27) inferior to the “apostolic” councils (described in Laity 26).[#19] And as late as 1991, Peter Kim suggested that parishes ought to have three kinds of councils, an apostolic council as well as a finance and a pastoral council.[#20] It seems almost indisputable that the bishops of Vatican II made a clear distinction between the kinds of councils recommended in Laity 26 and Bishops 27.

But there is evidence that the distinction between the “apostolic” and “pastoral” councils was by no means hard and fast, even in the period at which the Vatican II decrees on bishops and on the laity were drafted. To begin, the preparatory documents leading to the Vatican II Bishops’ Decree show that both a “pastoral” and an “apostolic” function were originally assigned to Diocesan Pastoral Councils. At the preparatory stage, DPCs were to perform both functions. The final language of Bishops 27, while excluding references to coordination of the apostolate, was taken from a passage originally about Diocesan Coordinating Councils. A redaction of the passage which was to become Bishops 27 exchanged the term “pastoral council” for “coordinating council” and substituted the phrase “pastoral works” for “apostolic works.”[#21] The fact that a passage about coordinating councils could so easily be changed into a prescription for pastoral councils suggests that the two types of councils were considered fully compatible, at least at an early stage of the composition of the Bishops’ Decree.

In addition, the Vatican documents themselves did not preserve a rigid distinction between the “apostolic” councils of Laity 26 and the “pastoral” councils of Bishops 27. The “apostolic” function (including the “coordination” of lay initiatives) was assigned, in the “Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity,” to pastoral councils.[#22] Moreover, at least one later Vatican document failed to maintain the pastoral/apostolic distinction. The 1973 “Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops” states that lay people in parish pastoral councils are to take charge of the works of the apostolate proper to themselves.[#23] In light of the evidence from the Missionary Decree and the1973 Directory, it seems at least questionable that the distinction between pastoral and apostolic councils has been clear and distinct in the eyes of Vatican authorities.

Furthermore, the two “types” of councils are by no means mutually exclusive. The language of Laity 26 is not incompatible with that of Bishops 27 or with canon 536. There is nothing to prevent an “apostolic” council from doing, in the course of its apostolic activities, what “pastoral” councils do (i.e., studying pastoral problems and proposing conclusions). Nor is there any obstacle to “pastoral” councils doing, in the course of their pastoral efforts, the work of “apostolic” councils (i.e., promoting the apostolate or coordinating lay initiatives). Apostolic councils can still be pastoral, pastoral councils can still be apostolic. What may seem to be clear and distinct, namely, the two “types” of councils mentioned in the documents of Vatican II, may more properly be described as two functions which a single council can perform. Vatican authorities have not consistently maintained the distinction, and the language of the documents is not mutually exclusive.

Assertion 3: Parish councils which looked to Laity 26 as their foundation were mistaken. If Vatican II had indeed intended parish “pastoral” councils (assertion one), and if the the distinction beween pastoral and apostolic councils was indisputably hard and fast (assertion two), then the Vatican II doctrine regarding councils has been widely misuderstood (assertion three). This chain of reasoning is implicit in the thesis of constant homogeneous intent. The many thousands of early councils which took Laity 26 as their charter had simply failed to read the fine print. Laity 26 called for councils to promote the Church’s apostolic work, councils which are able to coordinate autonomous lay initiatives–but it did not call for “pastoral” councils. Pastoral councils were recommended in Bishops 27. That is the document to which, some would assert, the mistaken champions of Laity 26 should have turned.

There are good reasons, however, to exculpate the council pioneers. First, only Laity 26 had called for councils at the parish level. That decree was a more plausible basis for parish councils than Bishops 27, at least before the publication of the 1983 Code. The vast majority of council pioneers cited Laity 26 as their warrant.[#24] No early writer conjectured that the Vatican II documents had implicitly recommended parish pastoral councils. If the pioneers had misinterpreted Vatican II, then the misunderstanding was widespread and systematic. Misinterpretation belongs rather, I believe, to those who project a hard-and-fast distinction, the distinction between pastoral councils and apostolic councils, upon a scene in which the distinction was by no means clear.

Second, scholarly dissertations on the Church’s law regarding councils, written before and after the 1983 publication of the new Code, acknowledged Laity 26 as the Vatican II warrant for councils.[#25] They either assumed that both Laity 26 and Bishops 27 were applicable to parish councils, or that Laity 26 is the proper source for such councils. If it is a misunderstanding to think that Laity 26 is the source of parish pastoral councils, then the misunderstanding extended to the canon law faculties of the Catholic University in Washington, D.C., St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, and the Pontifical Urban University in Rome.

Finally, there is abundant evidence that the “pastoral” and “apostolic” ideas have been combined, both in theory in practice. It is common for theoretical books to assign both “apostolic” (including “coordinating”) activities to “pastoral” councils. Indeed, at least one of those who apparently hold the thesis of constant homogeneous intent, William Dalton, himself collapses the distinction between the two types of councils. He states that the earliest parish councils, who based themselves on the “apostolic” council idea of Laity 26, were not pastoral enough.[#26] In his mind, it is consistent with the intention of Vatican II to apply the ideas of both Laity 26 and Bishops 27 to parish pastoral councils. Such councils would not only do pastoral planning but would also coordinate pastoral activities.

General practice in the United States also lends support to the idea that the Vatican II texts about “pastoral” and “apostolic” councils are not mutually exclusive. In this country, the belief that parish councils ought to fashion themselves as “pastoral” councils was not widely held until the publication of the 1983 Code. By that time parish councils (loosely based on the “apostolic” council idea of Laity 26) were widespread in the U.S. After the publication of the new Code, they simply appropriated “pastoral” elements (from Bishops 27 and canon law) as they saw fit.[#27] The distinction between “pastoral” and “apostolic” councils has never been clearly maintained or widely held by U.S. parishioners. To conclude that they have all misunderstood the documents of Vatican II seems far-fetched. A different assertion seems more plausible: namely, that the distinction between pastoral and apostolic councils is not hard and fast.

Assertion 4: The 1973 Circular Letter was homogeneous with the Vatican II intention regarding parish pastoral councils. This fourth assertion convinces only if one is willing to believe assertion one, namely, that the bishops of Vatican II recommended parish pastoral councils. If they did, then the guidelines of the 1973 Circular Letter are homogeneous in intention. They merely amplify and extend what Bishops 27 and what Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Letter of 1966, Ecclesiae Sanctae, had to say about pastoral councils. The extension of the diocesan pastoral council idea to parishes then merely repeated the original intention, and was not an innovation.

But the documents of Vatican II never mentioned parish pastoral councils. And in light of that indisputable fact, the Circular Letter must be seen as an innovation. The crucial sentence occurs in no. 12 of the letter: “There is nothing to prevent the institution within the diocese of [pastoral] councils of the same nature and function [as DPCs], whether parochial or regional.” This is the Church’s first official reference to parish pastoral councils, eight years after Vatican II. One can only maintain that the Circular Letter’s intentions regarding parish pastoral councils were homogeneous with those of Vatican II by making (without any documentary evidence) an enormous assumption: namely, that the bishops of Vatican II had no objections to a widespread parochial extension of the pastoral council idea.

The assumption that the bishops would not have objected to parish pastoral councils is itself unexceptionable. The guidelines for pastoral councils in the 1973 Circular Letter are conservative but quite sound, developed during a three-year process of compromise and revision. They concede nothing to the laity but the right to advise pastors in pastoral matters. It is quite likely that most bishop-members of Cardinal John Wright’s Sacred Congregation for the Clergy had participated in Vatican II, and so made their assumption about the intent of Vatican II based on first-hand experience of the council. But theirs was undoubtedly an assumption. Vatican II spoke only of apostolic councils at the parish level, not of pastoral councils.

Assertion 5: The 1983 Code of Canon Law rectified the widespread but mistaken interpretation of Laity 26. This fifth assertion follows assertion three, namely, that the parish councils which looked to Laity 26 as their foundation were mistaken. If parish council pioneers throughout the United States and the rest of the world were wrong in their interpretation of Vatican II, failing to see that the true intention of the bishops (implicit in Lumen Gentium 37) was to establish parish pastoral councils (not apostolic councils), then it would take more than 1973’s barely-publicized Circular Letter or a brief comment in the 1973 “Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops” to set the record straight. It would take legislation. Canon 536, which allows for the establishment of parish pastoral councils (and which does not even mention apostolic councils), manifested the true intention of the Vatican Council to the world. Rather than an innovation, canon 536 was homogeneous with Vatican II, faithfully expressing its constant (if frequently misunderstood) intention.

This assertion becomes a problem, however, as soon as one begins to ask whether the Vatican II intent regarding councils was in fact misunderstood. For there to be misunderstanding, a clear intention must first exist. But Vatican II did not clearly express its intentions regarding parish councils. Laity 26 was the only conciliar document recommending parish councils, and they were parish apostolic councils. Nowhere did Vatican II call for parish pastoral councils. Moreover, the distinction between “pastoral” and “apostolic” councils is not mutually exclusive. In short, the intention of Vatican II regarding councils was by no means clear and distinct. Hence the claim that parish council pioneers misunderstood Vatican II is overstated.

Instead of rectifying a widespread misinterpretation of the Vatican II intention regarding councils, the Code is itself a selective and innovative reinterpretation. It is selective in that it affirms the language of Bishops 27 and virtually ignores the language of Laity 26.[#28] It is innovative because it mandates the creation of parish finance councils, something not expressly intended at Vatican II. Canon 536 eliminates the ambiguity of the two Vatican II documents by insisting on the “pastoral” language of the Bishops’ Decree. The Code’s selective and innovative interpretation of the Vatican Council’s intentions simplifies those intentions. As such, it is far from improper and indeed quite helpful. But to claim that the Code merely makes explicit what was already implicit in Vatican II, correcting a widespread misinterpretation and setting the record straight, is an oversimplification.

Even proponents of the thesis of constant homogeneous intent cannot agree about the Vatican II intentions expressed in Laity 26. One states that coordinating the apostolate ought to be done in the way that the National Council of Catholic Men and Women do it. Another asks the pastoral council to assume the responsibility for coordinating parish activities. A third proposes that each parish have three councils, finance, pastoral, and coordinating.[#29] If there were a clear Vatican II intention regarding parish councils, an intention made explicit in the new Code, then one would expect agreement. The absence of agreement proves the ambiguity of Vatican II’s intentions. The new Code did not rectify a misinterpretation. It offered an authoritative reinterpretation.

Assertion 6: Canon 537 expressed the desire of Vatican II for a separate finance council to offer advice on administration. This sixth assertion is a corollary of the first, namely, that Vatican II intended parish councils of the “pastoral” type. The meaning of the word pastoral is somewhat obscure, but the five proponents of the thesis of constant homogeneous intent seized on the language of canon 537 to say what pastoral did not mean. The mandatory finance council, states the canon, aids the pastor “in the administration of parish goods.”[#30] Three of the five took this to mean that “pastoral” excluded “administration.” Parish administration is outside the scope of the pastoral council, they said, and may sidetrack it.[#31] Vatican II intended pastoral councils to treat pastoral matters, among which administration does not belong.

Assertion six runs aground, however, on the shoals of the historical record. Vatican II did not intend to rigidly separate the administrative from the pastoral function. Bishops 27 states that groups such as the Diocesan Pastoral Council are “cooperators of the bishop in the governing of the diocese.” Pagé, in his 1970 study of the DPC, emphasizes its connection with diocesan governance. To be sure, the Senate of Priests, created in a later document than the Bishops’ Decree, was designed to assist a diocesan bishop in the management of his see. Nevertheless the assignment of “management” to the senate does not remove “administration” from the DPC agenda.[#32] To confirm this, one need only turn to the 1973 Circular Letter. It states that the senate assists the bishop in pastoral questions pertaining to governance, then adds:

Nothing prevents the pastoral council, however, from considering questions requiring mandates of a jurisdictional act for execution: and proposing suggestions regarding them to the bishop.[#33]

The fundamental principle is that a pastor enjoys full freedom to consult the pastoral council on any matters he deems appropriate. Pastoral means, in short, whatever pertains to the Church.[#34] To try to define pastoral by excluding from it the realm of administration, as if this were a matter about which a pastoral council has nothing to say, flies in the face of Bishops 27 and the 1973 Circular Letter.

The Thesis Crumbles

A close look at the six assertions contained in the thesis of constant homogeneous intent reveals its flawed nature. The assertions lack persuasive support. Their proponents do not wholly agree. And the thesis itself oversimplifies the development of council doctrine, a development which resists such oversimplification.

  • The first assertion, that Vatican II intended pastoral councils at the parish level, lacks explicit support in the Bishops’ Decree and in Lumen Gentium.
  • Assertion two maintains that pastoral and apostolic councils were sharply distinguished, but this distinction has not been maintained strictly by either Vatican authorities or by parish practitioners.
  • The third assertion is that parish council pioneers misunderstood Vatican II; if so, then their supposed misunderstanding was widespread, systematic, and unrecognized until 1984.
  • Assertion four, about the homogeneity of the 1973 Circular Letter, fails to acknowledge that the extension of the pastoral council idea to parishes was an innovation.
  • Assertion five maintains that the 1983 Code set matters aright, but the Code left the teaching of Laity 26 in obscurity.
  • The sixth assertion, that canon 537 narrowed the scope of parish pastoral councils by excluding finance and administration, is an overstatement that would curtail the freedom of pastors to consult as they see fit.

In short, the six assertions cannot be sustained. Without them, the thesis of constant homogeneous intent crumbles. To hold that the 1973 Circular Letter and the 1983 Code simply made explicit the Vatican II teaching on parish councils is simplistic.

Not even the five authors whom I have associated with the thesis of constant homogeneous intent agree about it (Table 2). Some see the origin of parish councils in Vatican II itself, others see pastoral councils as an evolution or the result of experience. Some argue that the 1983 Code rejected Laity 26 as the basis for parish councils, others argue that Laity 26 refers to pastoral councils or to an additional kind of parish council. Some believe that canon 537 excludes administration from the scope of pastoral councils, others do not. The lack of unanimity among those associated with the thesis of constant homogeneous intent weakens the thesis further.




Did Vatican II implicitly call for parish pastoral councils? Does the 1983 Code reject Laity 26 as a basis for parish councils? Does canon 537 remove parish administration from pastoral councils?
Dalton Yes, councils stemming from Laity 26 should have been more pastoral (172). No, because pastoral councils can indeed coordinate parish activities (172) No, the pastoral council performs the administrative task of coordination (177)
Griese ’85 No, parish pastoral councils evolved in imitation of DPCs (48). Yes, Laity 26 is no basis for councils about specifically parish matters (48). Yes, finance and administration are outside the scope of pastoral councils (52).
Keating Yes, CD 27 is “somewhat germane” and LG 37 is “more relevant” (260). Yes, Laity 26 does not speak of parish pastoral councils (260). Yes, Pastoral council competence does not extend to parish administration (264).
Kim No, parish pastoral councils were a “new ecclesial structure” in the 70s (38). No, Laity 26 is the basis of one council, Bishops 27 of another (59, 83). Yes, finance and administration are outside the scope of pastoral councils (48).
Renken Not Vatican II but exper- ience recommended parish pastoral councils (148). Yes, research does not support Laity 26 as a font for councils (148). No, some issues may need attention from finance and pastoral councils (150).

What motivated the five authors to maintain that canon 536 simply expresses the intent of Vatican II, and nothing more? The answer is not hard to find. Each of the five had had experience of parish councils, experience which they found incompatible with their pastoral vision. Parish councils, they said, were insufficiently pastoral, preoccupied with decision-making, jealous of their power to dictate policy and programs, unfocused on the development of the parish mission, and concerned more about coordinating existing efforts than about planning for the future.[#35] The five did not like what they saw. They seized upon the word “pastoral” in canon 536, I would hazard a guess, to explain what they wanted parish councils to become.

Another motive was historical. The five authors recognized that official documents since Vatican II had not used Laity 26 to clarify the doctrine of parish councils. We saw that the Code of Canon Law had employed only the language of Bishops 27 in its recommendations of parish pastoral councils. It did not refer to the apostolic councils of Laity 26. In fact, references to Laity 26 in Vatican documents are practically nonexistent. To be sure, the technical language of Laity 26 appears in official documents which refer to councils which “coordinate” (Ad Gentes Divinitus) and which assist the “apostolate” (twice in the Directory on Bishops). And there is a reference to Laity 26 as a foundation for parish pastoral councils in the record of the discussions leading to the creation of the Code of Canon Law.[#36] But apart from these scant references, Laity 26, the only Vatican II document to mention councils at the parish level, has disappeared from Vatican discussions. The authors who proposed to reinterpret Vatican II intentions regarding councils in light of canon 536 could well argue that Laity 26 did not count. Official documents were silent on it.

In short, the five authors had good reasons to reinterpret Vatican II’s teaching about councils. They expounded on the “pastoral” idea, and so broadened the understanding of councils. Bishop Keating’s insight that parish councils exist, not to guarantee the laity’s right to be heard, but to counsel the pastor, deserved its influential reception. Peter Kim performed an invaluable service by linking pastoral councils to the parish mission. John Renken’s treatment of the development of Church legislation about councils was the most thorough of its kind. These authors clarified the purpose, apostolic thrust, and documentary basis for councils. We are in their debt.

But in asserting the homogeneity of later doctrine about pastoral councils with Vatican II, they went too far. Canons 536-537 were no mere iteration of Vatican II teaching. They were innovative and selective. Parish council pioneers were not mistaken about Vatican II. They rather were implementing a new ecclesial structure based on the scantiest documentation. The 1973 Circular Letter and the 1983 Code were not simply making plain what was latent in the documents of Vatican II. They were clarifying ambiguities which no one in 1965 had anticipated. The proponents of the thesis of constant homogeneous intent applauded the clarification. They believed that it expressed the spirit of Vatican II. But that spirit depends on the documentary letter, and the letter authorizing parish pastoral councils is not to be found.

Original Intent, Later Adjustment

What was the original intent of Vatican II regarding parish councils? About this, very little can be said with absolute certainty. Vatican II’s only explicit reference to parish councils in Laity 26 is quite brief. It states that diocesan councils “to assist the Church’s apostolic work” should also be found at other levels, including the parochial. So parish apostolic councils are an extension of councils originally anticipated for dioceses. The word “apostolic” is given a very broad meaning: evangelization, sanctification, charity, social relations, “and the rest”–the list of four synonyms for apostolic is by no means exhaustive. And these councils are “able” (but not obligated) to coordinate “various lay associations and undertakings.” They may coordinate these groups, but cannot legislate for them, because the groups retain their autonomy. In short, under the rubric of assisting the Church’s apostolic work, Vatican II intended parish councils with enormous scope, but without juridical authority.[#37]

Much more than that we cannot say. There is the proviso for diocesan pastoral councils in Bishops 27, but without reference to parishes. Lumen Gentium 37 mentions “institutions” established to promote dialogue between pastors and laity, but these are not termed councils. The explicit doctrine of Vatican II regarding parish councils is wholly contained in Laity 26. Attempts to broaden that doctrine by reference to other Vatican II documents remain inferential and speculative.

Canon 536 in the 1983 Code marked an innovation in the Vatican II doctrine, an innovation which gave pastors enormous freedom to consult and which dispelled a certain ambiguity. The innovation was the extension to parishes of the “pastoral” council idea. To be sure, the innovation was first suggested in the 1973 Circular Letter and mentioned in the 1973 Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops. But even if the Code did not first mention parish pastoral councils, the first mention did postdate Vatican II. The innovation put the emphasis on the pastor. He presides. He consults. He asks the council’s help in fostering pastoral activity. With this innovation, the Code recommended councils to which pastors could turn as they saw fit on virtually any matter facing the parish.

The idea of parish pastoral councils does not suffer from the ambiguities connected with apostolic councils. The language of Bishops 27 made it clear that pastoral councils do not make decisions on their own. Pastors consult them, but are not bound by their advice. In contrast, the language of Laity 26 about coordination was ambiguous. Some interpreted it to mean that parish councils, by coordinating lay associations and undertakings, are essentially coordinating the parish–and not under the pastor’s authority, but on their own. Canon 536 did not mention coordination, and so sidestepped that ambiguity altogether.

The affirmation of parish pastoral councils by canon 536 was an innovation in the doctrine of Vatican II, but a good and useful one. Experience had shown that the language of Laity 26 was fraught with ambiguity. By contrast, the pastoral council idea of Bishops 27 rightly emphasized the presidency of the pastor, clarified the consultative role of the council, and avoided the easily misinterpreted language about coordination. Parish pastoral councils had their genesis after Vatican II, and so were not its constant homogeneous intent. Experience, not the clear intent of the bishops of Vatican II, showed the relevance of the pastoral council idea to the parish.


Footnote 1
William Dalton, “Parish Councils or Parish Pastoral Councils?” Studia Canonica 22 (1988): 169-185. Orville Griese, “The New Code of Canon Law and Parish Councils,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review 85:4 (January, 1985): 47-53. John Keating, “Consultation in the Parish,” Origins 14:17 (October 11, 1984): 257, 259-266. Peter Kim Se-Mang, Parish Councils on Mission: Coresponsibility and Authority among Pastors and Parishioners (Kuala Lumpur: Benih Publisher, 1991). John A. Renken, “Pastoral Councils: Pastoral Planning and Dialogue among the People of God,” The Jurist 53 (1993): 132-154.

Footnote 2
This was the assertion of Ferdinand Klostermann, “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity,” in Herbert Vorgrimler, editor, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, translated by William Glen-Doepel, Hilda Graef, John Michael Jakubiak, and Simon and Erika Young (Freiburg in Breisgau: Herder; and Montreal: Palm Publishers, 1968), vol. III, p. 388. The assertion was repeated by Orville Griese, “The New Code,” pp. 47-8.

Footnote 3
Keating (p. 260), states that “Commentators on Vatican II are agreed that this reference [to Laity 26] really does not speak of parish councils” – despite the fact that an entire host of parish council writers cited Laity 26 as the warrant for such councils. Kim concedes this point, stating that Laity 26 was “frequently” cited as the basis of parish councils (p. 33) and that the Vatican II basis for parish councils was “popularly assumed” (p. 73). Griese (“The New Code,” p. 47) states that this was indeed a “popular assumption” but a mistaken one. He apologizes (in footnote 1) for making the mistake himself in an earlier article. See Orville Griese, “Pastor – Parish Council Collaboration,” The Priest 33:2 (February, 1977): 19-22, 24. Dalton (p. 171) and Renken (p. 148) agree that Vatican II did not call for parish “pastoral” councils, but insist that such councils harmonize with the intentions of Vatican II better than the parish councils which did emerge.

Footnote 4
These are the theories of, respectively, Griese (“The New Code,” p. 48), Keating (p. 259), Kim (pp. 73, 92) and Renken (p. 148).

Footnote 5
Keating, “Consultation in the Parish,” p. 26.

Footnote 6
Griese, “The New Code,” pp. 47-48.

Footnote 7
Dalton, “Parish Councils or Parish Pastoral Councils?” p. 17.

Footnote 8
“Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” (Lumen Gentium, November 21, 1964), no. 37, translated by Colman O’Neill, in The Documents of Vatican II, p. 395. Keating (p. 260) describes this passage as “relevant to the creation of parish councils,” more relevant even than Bishops 27, which introduced the term “pastoral councils.”

Footnote 9
Griese (“The New Code,” p. 48), states that “In a certain evolutionary process, however, and apparently in imitation of the diocesan pastoral council, parish pastoral councils came into being.”

Footnote 10
Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, “Circular Letter on ‘Pastoral Councils'” (January 25, 1973), paragraph no. 9, reprinted in James I. O’Connor, ed., The Canon Law Digest, vol. VII (Chicago: Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus, 1975), pp. 280-288, at pp. 287-88. The circular letter was also published in Origins 3:12 (9/15/73): 186-190.

Footnote 11
Renken (p. 138) states that the “circular letter expanded earlier documents and related, at least to some degree, the Church’s experience of pastoral councils.” Kim (p. 38) calls parish councils “a new ecclesial structure” but not a departure from Vatican II. “Such councils were not created [in the mid-seventies] as an afterthought to diocesan ones,” he writes, “but as a consequence of experiments validating their [the parish pastoral councils’] existence.”

Footnote 12
Renken (p. 148); Kim (p. 92) implies the same by stating that Laity 26 intended a coordinating (not a pastoral) council.

Footnote 13
Griese (“The New Code,” p. 52) states that “the prescriptions of the new Code of Canon Law… follow closely the concepts… from the documents of Vatican II.”

Footnote 14
Keating (p. 259) states that the Code is built on “20 years’ postconciliar experience and experiments.” Kim (p. 44) states that the Code “ends experimentation on ecclesial structural changes for a while, including parish councils.”

Footnote 15
Keating (p. 264). Griese (“The New Code,” p. 49), Dalton (p. 170), Kim (p. 46), and Renken (p. 153) also emphasize the consultative as opposed to legislative role of the pastoral council.

Footnote 16
Dalton (p. 172); Griese (“The New Code,” p. 48).

Footnote 17
Keating (p. 264), Griese (“The New Code,” pp. 51-2), Kim (p. 48).

Footnote 18
Klostermann, “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity,” in Vorgrimler, editor, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, vol. III, p. 388. See also Roch Pagé, The Diocesan Pastoral Council, translated by Bernard A. Prince (Paramus, NJ: Newman Press, 1970), pp. 20, 74.

Footnote 19
David O’Neill said that the call for councils in the Bishops’ Decree “has the proper vagueness of an embryo” (The Sharing Community (Dayton, Ohio: Pflaum, 1968), p. 18). Martin Work stated that diocesan pastoral councils are merely advisory bodies “to concern themselves with dialogue and planning, rather than with action, programming, servicing, and training” (Work, “DPCs and Substructures,” in National Council of Catholic Men, Diocesan Pastoral Council (Washington, D.C.: NCCM, 1970), p. 41).

Footnote 20
Kim states that the coordinating council, recommended in Laity 26, has the responsibility for the “development and coordination of parish ministries and apostolic groups” (p. 83).

Footnote 21
Pagé relates how the Preparatory Commission known as “De Episcopis” drafted a schema entitled “De Cura Animarum” (April, 1963). The schema included a proposal for a Diocesan Pastoral Council which would (among other things) ensure the coordination of the works of the apostolate, as well as a proposal for a Diocesan Coordinating Council, which would do the actual coordinating of the apostolate itself. In the spring of 1964, the Mixed Preparatory Commission known as “De Episcopis et Religiosis” prepared a text entitled “De pastorale episcoporum munere in ecclesia.” This text became the basis for the Bishops’ Decree. Pagé states that Bishops 27 was taken “almost entirely” from the passage in “De Cura Animarum” about coordinating councils. But the final text dropped the reference to the coordination of apostolic works, Pagé continues, “changing opera apostolatus to opera pastoralia” (p. 20). Doubtless the distinction between the two types of councils was deliberate. But the close connection between “pastoral” and “apostolic” councils suggests that the two functions were not considered incompatible.

Footnote 22
“Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity” (Ad Gentes Divinitus, 7 December 1965), translated by Redmond Fitzmaurice, in Vatican II, The Documents of Vatican II, edited by Austin P. Flannery (New York: Pillar Books, 1975). The decree states that bishops ought to establish a pastoral council “for better coordination” of missionary activity (no. 30). The decree predicates a task of the pastoral council a task, i.e., coordination, which Laity 26 assigns to apostolic councils. Renken suggests (p. 134) that the coordinating task would be done by diocesan pastoral councils only in mission lands.

Footnote 23
Sacred Congregation for Bishops, Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, (Ecclesiae imago, May 31, 1973), English translation prepared by the Benedictine monks of the Seminary of Christ the King in Mission, British Columbia (Ottawa: Canadian Catholic Conference, 1974). The Directory states that the optimum parish is one in which the laity “take part in the parish pastoral council and take charge of works of the apostolate proper to themselves” (no. 179). The “apostolate” was hitherto the concern of apostolic councils. Renken (footnote 30, p. 141) also notes that, in the preparation of the 1983 Code, Laity 26 was linked to parish pastoral councils. The coetus or discussion on April 19, 1980 of parish pastoral councils (published in Communicationes 13 (1981): 146) refers to Laity 26 as a source.

Footnote 24
For example, the following books cited no. 26 of the Laity Decree as the basis for parish councils: Robert C. Broderick, The Parish Council Handbook: A Handbook to Bring the Power of Renewal to Your Parish (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1968), p. 2; Bernard Lyons, Parish Councils: Renewing the Christian Community (Techny, Illinois: Divine Word Publication, 1967), p. 31; David P. O’Neill, The Sharing Community: Parish Councils and Their Meaning (Dayton: Pflaum Press, 1968), p. 18; The National Council of Catholic Men, Parish Councils: A Report on Principles, Purposes, Structures and Goals (Washington, D.C.: NCCM, 1968), p. 2; and Edward E. Ryan, How to Establish a Parish Council: A Step-by-Step Program for Setting Up Parish Councils (Chicago: Claretian Publications, 1968).

Footnote 25
Robert J. Ahlin, Parish Councils: A Theological and Canonical Foundation, Dissertation for the Degree of Licentiate in Canon Law (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America, 1982). Ahlin (pp. 78-79) does not discuss whether Laity 26 or Bishops 27 is the better font for parish councils, but speaks of “pastoral” councils on levels other than the diocesan, citing Laity 26 to amplify his discussion of Bishops 27. Joseph A. Pereira, The Juridical Status of the Parish Council, Dissertation for the Degree of Licentiate in Canon Law (Rome: Pontifical Urban University, 1982), also speaks of Laity 26 as a source for parish councils. According to the summary of Pereira’s dissertation by Peter Kim (p. 41), Pereira sees parish councils as coordinating apostolic, financial, or administrative matters (pp. 68f.). Mark S. Mealey, The Parish Pastoral Council in the United States of America: Applications of Canon 536, Doctor of Canon Law Dissertation (Ottawa: Saint Paul University, 1989), states that the “parish” council’s task parallels that of the diocesan pastoral council (p. 163). See also J. Calvo, commentary on c. 536 in E. Caparros, M. Thériault, J. Thorn (eds.), Code of Canon Law Annotated, a Latin-English edition of the Code of Canon Law and English-language translation of the 5th Spanish-language edition of the commentary prepared under the responsibility of the Instituto Martín de Azpilcueta (Navarra), “A collaboration of the Faculties of Canon Law of the University of Navarra in Spain and Saint Paul University in Canada” (Montréal, Wilson and Lafleur Limitée, 1993), where Laity 26 is cited as a reference to parish pastoral council (p. 394).

Footnote 26
Dalton, p. 172. Later in the same article, Dalton gives to “pastoral” councils the task of “apostolic” councils, namely, the coordination of pastoral activities. The pastoral council, says Dalton, “does not perform those pastoral activities itself but merely coordinates them” (p. 177).

Footnote 27
James H. Provost, “The Foundations and Structures for Shared Responsibility,” chapter I (pp. 5-10) of Mary P. Burke and Eugene F. Hemrick, Building the Local Church: Shared Responsibility in Diocesan Pastoral Councils (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1984). He states that “Vatican II presents two types of councils, which the United States experience has usually combined into one” (p. 7).

Footnote 28
Apostolicam Actuositatem 26 was not wholly ignored, however, in the development of c. 536. Renken notes that, in the preparation of the 1983 Code, Laity 26 was linked to parish pastoral councils (“Pastoral Councils,” p. 141, footnote 3). The coetus or discussion on April 19, 1980 of parish pastoral councils refers to Laity 26 as a source (Communicationes 13 (1981), p. 146).

The three proposals are those of Griese (“The New Code,” p. 48), Dalton (p. 177), and Kim (pp. 59, 83).

Footnote 30
“Parocho in administratione bonorum paroeciae adiutorio sint.” Code of Canon Law, Latin-English Edition, translation prepared under the auspices of the Canon Law Society of America (Washington, D.C.: Canon Law Society of America, 1983).

Footnote 31
Keating (p. 264), Griese (“The New Code,” p. 53), and Kim (p. 48). Renken (p. 150) opposes the preoccupation of pastoral councils with administration, but concedes that “We can imagine some single issue may involve both [finance and pastoral] councils.” Dalton (p. 174) wants parish councils to be more pastoral, but gives them the administrative task of coordinating parish activities.

Footnote 32
“Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 7 Dec. 1965), no. 7, translated by Archbishop Joseph Cunnane, of Tuam, and revised by Michael Mooney and Enda Lyons of St. Jarlath’s College, Tuam, Co. Galway; in Vatican II, The Documents of Vatican II, edited by Austin P. Flannery (New York: Pillar Books, 1975), p. 877. See also Paul VI, “Ecclesiae Sanctae I,” August 6, 1966, Apostolic Letter, written Motu Proprio, on the Implementation of the Decrees Christus Dominus, Presbyterorum Ordinis and Perfectae Caritatis, in The Documents of Vatican II, Austin P. Flannery, General Editor (New York: Pillar Books, 1975), no. 15, pp. 600.

Footnote 33
Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, “Circular Letter on ‘Pastoral Councils,'” paragraph no. 9, reprinted in O’Connor, ed., The Canon Law Digest, vol. VII, at pp. 287-88. The circular letter was also published in Origins 3:12 (9/15/73): 186-190.

Footnote 34
“Nothing, therefore, escapes the category of pastoral if it truly pertains to the church.” James H. Provost, “Canon Law and the Role of Consultation,” Origins 18:47 (May 4, 1989): 793, 795-799 (at p. 798). Sidney J. Marceaux, in his analysis of the 1973 Circular Letter Omnes Christifideles (The Pastoral Council, Doctor of Canon Law Dissertation (Rome: Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, 1980), concludes that its efforts to limit the competence of the pastoral council are superseded by Christus Dominus, which “carries a greater force of law” (p. 143). The same can be said about the efforts of those who would use canon 537 to limit the competence of councils.

Footnote 35
These are the contentions of Dalton (p. 172), Griese (“The New Code,” pp. 48-49), Keating (p. 261), Kim (pp. 63-6), and Renken (pp. 148-149).

Footnote 36
The reference suggests that Laity 26 in indeed a font for “parish” councils, and the world “pastoral” limits the council’s competence. “Dall’esame delle osservazioni generali si traggono le seguenti conclusioni: 1) È opportune parlare del Consiglio pastorale parrocchiale (Decr. Apostolicam actuositatem, nn. 1 e 26 e Direttorio per i Vescovi, no. 179)? Un Consultore suggerisce che venga chiamato «Consiglio parrocchiale», ma, secondo Mons. Segretario ed altri, sembra preferibile aggiungere l’aggetivo «pastorale» per circoscrivere la sua competenza, che non si estende al regime, all’amministrazione dei beni, ecc.” (19 April 1980, meeting of the Coetus studiorum de populo Dei, Communicationes 13 (1981), p. 146).

Footnote 37
A review of the drafts of the schema “De apostolatu laicorum” shows that the councils which were finally recommended were, in the draft of April 22, 1963, first called “centres” – centres for promoting the apostolate – and only became “councils” in the second draft of Aril 27, 1964. But whether called centres or councils, the intention for them remained constant: to promote the apostolate and possibly to coordinate autonomous lay associations and initiatives. For the pertinent texts, see Acta synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II, vol. III, pars. iv, 1974, p. 679; vol. III, pars iii, 1974, pp. 380-381; vol. IV, pars ii, 1977, p. 352.