Empirical portrait

DPC LogoSmallPastoral Councils: An Empirical Portrait

By Mark F. Fischer

(Unpublished essay written in 1996)

One day, Gesine Laufenberg, the energetic and shrewd chairwoman of Oakland’s first Diocesan Pastoral Council, visited the chancery office. Gesine was a homemaker with teenage children who worked as a volunteer in her parish and community. She had been selected DPC chairwoman by the other council members at the meeting in May of 1985. The twenty members, chosen some five months earlier at a diocesan convention, had recognized her intelligence, vivacity, and common sense. She graciously accepted their invitation to serve, and this visit to the chancery was her first initiative as chairwoman.

After some initial pleasantries, she raised the question she had come to ask. “Is our way of organizing pastoral councils,” she said, “the same as other dioceses in the United States?” Gesine’s question put me on the spot. I had not been Director of the DPC Office for long, and I wanted to appear knowledgeable and efficient. But at that time my knowledge of pastoral councils was quite slim. Gesine was asking a factual question, and I did not have the facts.

Her question, however, was more than a factual one. It was also a question of norms. She wanted to know whether what we were doing in Oakland was the way consultation ought to be done. To answer such a question, one would have to compare the Oakland method with that of other dioceses, and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each. I wanted to answer, but I could not.

So I did what any bureaucrat would do: I promised to look into the matter. And by the time I had a satisfactory answer, Gesine’s tenure as chairwoman was long over. But I am grateful for her question. It prompted a look beyond the practices of Oakland and a search for a national perspective. Without Gesine’s question, I would not have studied councils from a comparative point of view — or have written this essay.

The Number of Councils and Support for Them

The effort to sketch an empirical portrait of pastoral councils in Catholic parishes is hampered by the sheer size of the question and by the lack of resources with a national scope. To describe parish councils nationwide is a daunting task. It means asking about thousands of councils in more than 21,000 parishes and missions in 174 U.S. dioceses.

In order to provide a national and comprehensive description of U.S. councils, I have developed a three-part method. The first part is an examination of published literature. Some doctoral dissertations about parish councils have been written, and there is important information about councils in the 1984-1987 “Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life.”1 These resources do in fact describe parish councils as national phenomena. But the bases for the dissertations are not national samples, and the Notre Dame Study is only partly about councils. Most other books and articles do not describe councils in empirical terms. A study of them reveals individual experiences, rather than a synthesis of councils nationwide. Such a study is of limited usefulness in drafting the empirical portrait, and will not figure prominently in this chapter.

The second part of my empirical method is a comparison of guidelines for councils written by dioceses throughout the country. Most dioceses publish such guidelines, and a comparison of them yields important data. Collating this data will be the foremost labor of this chapter. Apart from this, no effort has ever been made specifically and comprehensively to describe U.S. councils in empirical terms.

The third part is an actual survey of U.S. dioceses regarding the number of parish councils and the support for them, and with this part we shall begin. In 1994 and 1995, I sent questionnaires to dioceses throughout the country, asking them how many parish pastoral councils they have and the degree to which the diocese supports them. The survey confirmed the estimate of the number of councils reported in the Notre Dame Study, which concluded that three-fourths of U.S. parishes have parish councils.2 My figure, based on responses from 98 out of 174 dioceses, is about 78.62%.3

The survey also provides four ways to measure the support of bishops for pastoral councils, namely, (1) the publication of diocesan guidelines, (2) the existence of a diocesan mandate for councils, (3) the presence of a diocesan pastoral council, and (4) the number of diocesan employees engaged in the council ministry. Let us begin with the publication of guidelines. Eighty-eight out of 98 dioceses surveyed have published guidelines for pastoral councils. This number indicates the interest of U.S. bishops in governing them. Doubtless guidelines, in and of themselves, do not “govern.” But the fact that 89.8% of dioceses have developed them suggests the importance to bishops of guiding a relatively new and imperfectly understood parish structure.

A second sign of support is the mandate for councils. In 81 out of 98 dioceses, the bishop has “mandated” councils in every parish. This means he has formally obligated pastors, following canon 536 of the Code of Canon Law, to establish councils. Establishing a council is no easy task for a pastor who has not been trained to do so. The insistence by bishops in 82.7% of dioceses surveyed that pastors create councils, even against occasional resistance, signifies the bishops’ conviction that pastoral councils benefit parishes.

A third sign of support is the existence of a pastoral council on the diocesan level. In 61 out of 98 dioceses, bishops have established Diocesan or Archdiocesan Pastoral Councils. Such councils advise the bishop, just as parish councils advise pastors. If bishops in 62.2% of respondent dioceses see the value of councils for themselves, they will likely promote them among the pastors.

A fourth sign of episcopal support is the presence on the chancery staff of people who promote and assist councils. The chancery staffs in 64 out of 98 dioceses include one or more persons who devote at least a part of their time to the establishment and aid of councils. In these dioceses, one can calculate the percent of time an official spends on pastoral councils. An average of these percentages yields a full-time equivalent figure of .38. In other words, bishops who employ support staff for councils dedicate about 38% of an official’s time to the council ministry. This is a relatively small figure, but it shows that bishops give to councils more than moral support.

The results of my survey do not directly answer the question with which I started, namely, the question of whether consultation in the Diocese of Oakland was conducted in a way to similar to that in other U.S. dioceses. The survey reveals nothing about the purposes of such consultation, nothing about those who are consulted, nothing about the structure of consultation. But it does suggest that the Diocese of Oakland in the mid-1980s supported consultation in a way comparable to many other dioceses. Oakland guidelines for parish pastoral councils were being written, councils were at least officially mandated, Bishop John S. Cummins seriously consulted a Diocesan Pastoral Council, and there were people on the chancery staff whose job description included support for parish councils. This, and the number of councils nationwide, is part of the empirical picture. It does not describe, however, the actual life of parish councils. To uncover the dimensions of this life in other dioceses, one must look at their own documentation: at guidelines they publish for parish councils.

The Five Dimensions of U.S. Councils

Every pastoral council in every Catholic parish has, to judge from diocesan guidelines, the following dimensions:

  • an express purpose,
  • a committee structure,
  • a process of consultation,
  • an understanding of council leadership, and
  • a method of selecting council members.

A synthesis of these five dimensions, drawn from a comparison of diocesan guidelines, will give the reader an idea of council life. This is not the life of an ideal council envisioned by an expert or diocese, but the life of councils in their diocese-to-diocese diversity.

I first began comparing diocesan guidelines for parish councils in 1990.4 By looking at thirteen guidelines, one chosen from each of the thirteen regions of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, I began to see just how diverse the recommendations for pastoral councils really are. Five years later, I duplicated the 1990 study, using more recent guidelines from different dioceses in the thirteen regions (see Table One, below).

As we shall see, the 1995 study of thirteen guidelines lays out numerous features of council life. Some of these features can be easily measured, such as the number of council members, their term of office, and the frequency of their meetings. When we compare these features to those measured in the 1990

survey, some minor differences appear. For example, in the 1990 survey, the average recommended size for pastoral councils was 16 members; in 1995, the average is 11 members. This could indicate that smaller size councils are becoming more common. Another difference is that six out of thirteen guidelines in 1995 recommend that councils have “staggered” elections. This means that at no point is there a complete turnover in council membership. Instead, a portion of the council changes each year. This feature was not noted in 1990. But in 1995, it is obvious and significant. We will touch on its significance below when we treat the selection of council members.

The easily-measured features of pastoral councils, such as the number of members, the term of office, and the frequency of meetings, are a mere prelude, however, to the five dimensions of councils, dimensions much more difficult to measure. These dimensions reveal how councils understand their role and exercise it, how lay members relate to pastor and parish, and how pastors consult their councils. The five dimensions offer more, however, than a composite picture. They also define areas of disagreement. These disagreements expose a lack of consensus in specific areas of the council ministry. By following the five dimensions, readers will see not only how diocesan guidelines expect councils to be, but will discover the disputed questions in council theory.

First Dimension: The Purpose of Councils

The popular literature about councils expresses their purpose in diverse ways, and diocesan guidelines differ on council purpose as well. Guidelines describe the purpose of councils in terms of their spiritual growth, their symbolic role, their communicative function, and their administrative task. But the task most often assigned by diocesan guidelines to parish councils is pastoral planning. Pastoral planning is a broad term. It starts with a statement of the parish’s mission, includes an assessment of parish ministry, defines goals, and recommends objectives for meeting the goals. In the 1995 survey, three dioceses emphasize planning as a major council task, and eight list it as one of several council tasks.5 It is not the only council purpose, to be sure, but it is the one mentioned most often.

The guidelines for the Archdioceses of Philadelphia, Detroit, and Seattle most clearly describe the pastoral planning which councils are meant to do. Each of the three calls for the development of a parish mission statement, a pastoral plan with goals and objectives, and a process for evaluating accomplishments and for refining the mission.6 Other guidelines treat planning in a more abbreviated manner, but still refer to it as a major task.7 Planning is so prevalent that only two of the diocesan guidelines surveyed avoid the word “planning” to describe what councils do, and even these may be construed as advocates of “planning” councils.8

Apart from planning, guidelines assign to pastoral councils purposes which can be described as spiritual, communicative, and administrative. Spiritual purposes include the interior growth of the council as a whole.9 From this point of view, the purpose of the pastoral council is to be prayerful and discerning. Such purposes tell us more about how the council should mature than about what it is to do, I believe, but they are commonly expressed. Another “spiritual” purpose of the council is to symbolize parish unity.10 This means that councils are to signify the parish’s oneness in the Body of Christ. Symbolizing the unity of a parish is an attractive role for the pastoral council, provided that the parish is indeed united. But councils become symbols, I would note, depending on what they do. Directing councils to symbolize unity is not specific enough to be an explicit purpose.

More specific council purposes, apart from pastoral planning, include communication and administration. Councils serve as instruments of communication when they share information with parishioners.11 Many guidelines suggest that councils are meant not only to help the pastor formulate policies, but to broadcast those policies as well. In addition, guidelines assign to councils a wide variety of administrative purposes. Councils are to coordinate parish activities and committees,12 according to several guidelines, and to implement parish policies as well.13 The purpose of councils does not stop with communication, and apparently extends to management and implementation. This is problematic, as we shall see, but many guidelines imply it or state it directly.

The spiritual, communicative, and administrative purposes suggest that the scope of pastoral councils in U.S. parishes is far broader than pastoral planning. But there is a growing consensus that pastoral planning is the major council task. No such consensus exists about the council’s spiritual, communicative, and administrative purposes. Pastoral planning is recommended by more guidelines than any other purpose.

One of the advantages of the term “planning” is that it harmonizes well with the consultative nature of councils. Planning suggests a vision for the future–a vision which may or may not be realized. Making a plan with a council does not oblige the pastor to follow the plan. He is “consulting” the council about the future. The council is not directing him.14 Guidelines from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia make an explicit link between pastoral planning and the consultative nature of councils. They state that the pastoral council “develops and recommends” plans.15 The key word is “recommends”; planning councils do not legislate.

The trouble with councils which plan future directions is that they may seem powerless. They recommend but have no juridical power to ensure that their recommendations will be accepted. Without this juridical power, council members may wrongly conclude that they are, in the words of Robert Howes, a “think tank with no clout and no consequence.”16 For that reason and for others, diocesan guidelines frequently augment the planning role with a variety of others. Foremost among these roles is the council’s governance of a committee structure.

Second Dimension: The Committee Structure

Despite the jest that committee meetings are to the twentieth century what hair shirts were to the medievals, most diocesan guidelines for parish councils recommend the establishment of a structure of standing committees. It is apparently irrelevant that no Vatican document on pastoral councils so much as mentions committees. My survey of thirteen guidelines reveals that three dioceses mandate a full-blown system of standing committees or commissions, six dioceses recommend a specific committee structure, and three merely allow the establishment of committees, according to the needs of the parish. Only the Sacramento guidelines fail to mention parish committees. Parishioners complain about committees and commissions, recalling the weary hours they spend on them; but such committees are among the most common ways of sharing responsibility and promoting involvement in the parish.

A glance at the names of the committees reveals the relative importance of various parish ministries. If the frequency with which diocesan guidelines recommend committees is any indication, then education, social justice, and liturgical life are the most important parish concerns. Guidelines recommend or mandate the establishment of committees to promote these concerns more than the establishment of other committees. This does not mean that pastoral councils spend most of their time on parish education, social justice, or the liturgy. But the number of times that guidelines recommend such committees indicates the conviction that they are fundamental council concerns.

The rather bald directive to establish committees does not reveal much about how committees are governed. But when we define the relation of the council to its committees, a strong executive role for the council begins to emerge. Nine out of thirteen guidelines state that the council “coordinates” its committees. The meaning of coordination is not always clear, but in many cases it means that the council directs them.17 Councils make policy which the committees implement. The Green Bay guidelines make the point explicit: “The function of the council is policy making,” they state; “The function of a committee is policy implementation.”18 This seems to contradict canon law, which gives councils a consultative voice. Implementing policy is more than giving advice. Four guidelines try to avoid this contradiction by either stating that the council “cooperates with” its committees (rather than coordinating them) or by ignoring the relation between councils and committees altogether. Here it is clearly the pastor, not the council, who retains the executive function.19 In councils which “coordinate” a structure of committees, the locus of the executive function is ambiguous.

The ambiguity grows when we examine whether committees implement, plan, or recommend. Seven out of thirteen guidelines give committees, not the pastor, the executive task of “implementing.” The committees are described as the “working arms,” “working bodies,” or “working groups” of the council.20 In many cases, the pastor’s supervision of committee work is unspecified. To be sure, several guidelines back away from a view of committees as implementers.21 Some say that “parish” committees, not committees of the council, implement “parish” policies. This implies that the pastor has accepted the recommendations of the council, and has asked the committees to implement the recommendations, presumably under his own direction.22 But these refinements are either presupposed or neglected in many guidelines. They confusingly suggest that councils have an executive role, directing the “working arms” of committees, implementing through them the policies which the council itself makes.

It is easy to understand, however, the reason for confusion about the executive role. Many guidelines recommend a committee structure coordinated by councils–a structure which gives councils an executive or directorial function–because such a structure has two advantages. First, it enables dioceses to have a say in the topics which councils address. Education, social justice, and liturgy emerge as the top candidates for council attention. By insisting on a certain number of committees in specific areas, the diocese compels attention to these areas. Secondly, a large committee structure offers opportunities for involvement. The more parish committees, the more parishioners can participate. In sum, establishing a committee structure ensures that there will be parish conversation in specific areas, orderly lay participation, and the hoped-for emergence of consensus.

By contrast, my own Diocese of Oakland never recommended a system of standing committees for parishes, and all Diocesan Pastoral Council committees were ad hoc. In this respect, I would have had to tell Gesine Laufenberg that Oakland policy departed from the mainstream. It did not give to standing committees an oversight role. But Oakland was not a complete anomaly. The fact that three other dioceses do not recommend a system of standing committees, that a fourth diocese does not allow the council to coordinate or direct committees, and that two other dioceses give to council committees a “planning” (but not an implementing) role, suggests a certain ambivalence toward council committees as “working arms.” I believe this ambivalence stems from the official description of councils as “consultative” bodies, not executive bodies. This leads to the next empirical dimension of council life: the consultative dimension.

Third Dimension: Consultation

Every official Vatican document on pastoral councils states that they are “consultative” bodies, yet the meaning of consultation remains obscure.23 Part of this obscurity is due to the scant treatment of consultation in the official documents. They urge consultation but do not define it. Although popular and scholarly literature has treated consultation more thoroughly, it still remains a problematic area.24 The problem is not that little has been written, but rather that writers do not agree. This disagreement is apparent in our survey of thirteen guidelines. Some describe consultation as if the recommendation of a council makes little claim on a pastor. These tend to emphasize that the council “recommends” decisions. Others describe consultation as if councils, in concert with pastors, make and implement

decisions themselves. These suggest that the council actually “executes” decisions.

The Sacramento and Denver guidelines exemplify the one extreme. They state that the council advises the pastor, and they add–in identical language–that the council “is not a policy-making, decree-issuing, statute-formulating body.” It has no juridical power.25 To be sure, the pastor is obliged to listen to the council. Both guidelines cite canon 127 §2 to this effect. The canon describes what should happen when Church law requires that a religious superior seek the consent or the counsel of certain persons–a requirement which does not directly apply to pastoral councils.26 The moral obligation to listen is not an obligation to obey. When a bishop mandates councils, a pastor must establish one and listen to it, but he need not heed it.

The Nashville and Green Bay guidelines, however, explicitly state that the pastoral council “makes” policy.27 The understanding implicit in the guidelines is that, among pastors and councilors, a consensus exists. Indeed, both guidelines treat the subject of consensus at some length, defining it as “intellectual agreement” (Nashville) or “group acceptance based on at least general agreement” (Green Bay). In light of these definitions, a council can be said to “make policy” when it is of one mind with the pastor. The Nashville guidelines emphasize the unity of pastor and council to such a degree that they speak of pastors “delegating authority” to the council “with the same trust that the bishop shows” to the pastors.28 These guidelines imply that consultation gives a certain authority to councils. Such authority stems from the trust of the pastor who consults.

Between those for whom consultation denotes policy making and those for whom consultation excludes policy making lies a region difficult to chart. Some guidelines fail to treat consultation at any length. They acknowledge only that consultation gives a council the limited authority or leadership of a group to whom a pastor regularly turns for advice.29 A second group of guidelines emphasizes the importance of a sensitive group process in order to build consensus. Such a process includes prayer, avoids parliamentary procedure, and aims for a spiritual discernment.30 In a third group of guidelines, the pastor’s pivotal role as “ratifier” of council decisions takes center stage. These portray the pastor as one with a nose for consensus. When he detects it, he “ratifies” council decisions as decisions of the parish.31 After looking at these three groups of guidelines, one can say this: being consulted by a pastor does at least confer the limited authority of regular contact. Moreover, that authority can grow when the pastor accepts the job of developing a group process and seeking consensus. In these three groups, the pastoral council is neither the policy maker nor the occasional adviser. It is, rather, the sage counselor, the discerner, the consensus builder.

The consultative dimension, in short, is the central dimension in pastoral councils and a most difficult one to grasp. It can mean both that the pastor need not receive the council’s advice, and also that the duty of the pastor is to seek unanimity with the council. Doubtless, this diversity of opinion about consultation is nothing new; my survey of thirteen guidelines in 1990 found a similarly broad spectrum of opinion.32 But when we consider how consultation varies in meaning, we can surmise that council procedures, indeed the very climate of councils in the U.S., must vary as well. Some councils are close to the pastor, some are distant; some feel powerful, others feel powerless; some are sophisticated in their group process, others are not. But all are “consultative” in the many meanings of that word: all have to do with the exchange of opinions to inform and persuade. Moreover, we have seen how the meaning of consultation pertains in a special way to the pastor, who may shape the council’s advice or ignore it. This suggests another important dimension of council life, the dimension of leadership.

Fourth Dimension: Leadership

When we consider leadership in the council we mean more than what the pastor does. The council itself, for example, has a leadership role in the parish. Councils exemplify Christian leadership in general, parish leadership in particular, and leadership shared with that of the pastor.33 One can dispute whether the council’s “leadership of the parish” is compatible with its consultative nature. But one thing is clear: many speak of councils as if they are indeed such leaders.34

Leadership even more fittingly describes the role of the lay chairperson. The chairperson is the one who actually conducts the meetings of many councils and serves as moderator. If a leader is one who influences others to willingly achieve a task, then the lay chairperson deserves to be called a leader as much as does the pastor. But let us begin with the pastor, for he is the one who consults the council, the chairperson included.

Pastors are described as the “presider” over the council in eleven out of thirteen guidelines surveyed.35 The guidelines typically do not define “presider” or “president” except to say that canon 536 gives the pastor this role36 –and even the Code of Canon Law, we may note, does not define it. Presiding over the council, however, is not a mystery. One can infer what presiding means by examining the way guidelines describe the behavior of the pastor. He presides in

the way that he shows concern for the council’s task or product, and in the way he fosters relationships in the council and its group process.37 Let us begin with the pastor’s behavior in relation to the council’s task. Guidelines differ in describing this behavior. Some guidelines bluntly suggest that the pastor takes the helm in seeking advice. He sets the agenda, he consults, he receives proposals, he decides.38 The Ogdensburg and Philadelphia guidelines even make the pastor the chairman of the council.39 In these guidelines, the pastor has a clear and forceful leadership role.

Other guidelines, however, weaken the pastor’s role in helping the council achieve its task. In these others, the pastor presides by ratifying the council’s decisions, by participating, and by listening.40 He may chair the meeting or he may not.41 He may help determine the agenda with the executive committee, but he does not set it by himself.42 In these guidelines, the pastor’s leadership of the council task is rather anemic. There is an apparent ambiguity in diocesan guidelines about the strength with which the pastor ought to lead the council in accomplishing its task.

So much for task-centered behavior. What about the pastor’s leadership in fostering good relations with the council? Here the guidelines are less ambiguous. In most guidelines, the pastor is typically the consensus-builder, the spiritual leader, and the creator of trust.43 He fosters a sense of community in the council by serving, that is, by helping the council achieve its ends.44 A pastor reading these descriptions of his role may not be absolutely certain how to build consensus or community. But no one is telling him not to try. “Presiding” means behaving as a servant, a trusted friend, and a spiritual leader. In these ways the pastor shows concern for council relationships and group process.

When we turn from the pastor to leadership by the lay chairperson, we see something different. Diocesan guidelines emphasize the chairperson’s task-related work more than they do the work of developing relationships. Chairpersons are most commonly described as facilitators. They communicate, organize, coordinate, and help the council evaluate itself.45 In two guidelines, the council chairperson is even directed to appoint the chairpersons of parish standing committees.46 The council chairperson’s main goal is to help the council achieve its task.

What about developing good relations in the council? Here guidelines suggest that the chairperson has a much-reduced role. Five out of thirteen guidelines do not even mention that the chairperson has relationship-building duties. In the other eight guidelines, the lay chairperson is described as one who shows a concern for relationships by creating a climate of prayer, by motivating council members, and by developing consensus.47 In these cases, the chairperson occasionally duplicates the work of the pastor. But this kind of work is assigned to the chairperson less frequently than it is to the pastor. The guidelines give him, not the chairperson, the task of spiritual leadership. The chairperson is more commonly the facilitator of the council task than the builder of council relationships.

Indeed, the responsibility for the council task is as much the chairperson’s as it is the pastor’s. This creates opportunities for conflict between the two.48 The guidelines recommend a number of strategies to minimize the conflict. One is to stress consensus decision-making and discourage a formal parliamentary procedure.49 “Conflicts between the pastor and the Parish Pastoral Council will rarely arise,” state the Nashville guidelines, “if the pastor actively participates in the process of consensus decision-making.” Another response, found in three guidelines, is the institution of formal conciliation or appeal procedures in the case of pastor-council conflict.50 A third is to emphasize a climate of prayer and the establishment of trust. In general, however, the assumption about conflict is that the pastor, as the canonical leader of the parish, will prevail. Since councils are consultative, authors of many guidelines apparently assume that there should be no conflict. Because the pastor is not obligated to accept the council’s advice, no one should be offended when he rejects it.

In summary, we can say that leadership in the pastoral council belongs primarily to the pastor. It also belongs to the council as a whole, and especially to the lay chairperson. The three exercise leadership to varying degrees. Guidelines focus more attention on leadership in the council, the leadership of pastor and chairperson, than they focus on the council’s leadership of the parish. The council leads the parish, one can say, only to the extent that its advice is accepted and implemented by the pastor. It leads when it and the pastor are of one mind. The chairperson helps the council develop recommendations that persuade the pastor. He or she is even more clearly a leader, the one who enables councilors to agree. The pastor is a leader in the strongest sense. He leads by convoking the council, asking its advice, and drawing conclusions based on that advice. Ultimately his goal is to employ good advice so that he might lead the parish better.

This was patently the case in the Diocese of Oakland. Gesine Laufenberg, the DPC Chairwoman, was a more visible leader than the bishop. She chaired the meetings, coordinated the committees, and maintained telephone contact with members. Bishop Cummins, however, remained the dominant leader. Although his visible role was relatively limited, he was the pastor. He was the one to receive the results of the whole consultative process.

Leadership by pastors and chairpersons differs in the way each shows concern for the council’s task and for council relationships. The guidelines suggest that task leadership by the pastor is ambiguous. Some guidelines have him driving the task forcefully; others have him step back so that the chairperson can drive the task. By contrast, the pastor’s leadership in developing relations of prayer and trust among council members is unambiguous. He is to be a “spiritual” leader. On this, the guidelines agree. Pastors may be strong or weak leaders of the task, but their lead in developing relationships must be consistent.

The chairperson, by contrast, is given relatively little to do in the way of developing relationships among council members. Chairpersons are far more task-oriented than they are focused on relations. This raises but begs the question: who is really in charge of helping the council achieve its task? The fact that the same verbs are used to describe what the pastor and the chairperson do–namely, communicate, preside, facilitate, shape the agenda, and develop consensus–suggests that there is a considerable overlapping of roles. Although most guidelines discuss these two forms of leadership separately, they do not always clarify where the chairperson’s job ends and the pastor’s begins. When the line between consultor and the consulted becomes indistinct, problems arise.

Fifth Dimension: Selection

The final dimension in our empirical portrait is that of council selection. The quality of the advice received by a pastor depends on the quality of the council. Selecting the council in a way that ensures quality is crucial to parish and pastor alike. Diocesan guidelines describe both the means and the criteria for council selection. Comparing these guidelines suggests how most councils are chosen. It also raises questions about the differences from diocese to diocese.

Most council members are elected. Nine out of thirteen guidelines call for elections as the primary means of choosing councilors. Another three guidelines make election of councilors an option, the alternative being a non-voting discernment process. Only one guideline says nothing about elections, leaving the process for councilor selection entirely in the pastor’s hands. There is an apparent consensus in the United States that elections are the best way to choose council members.

But elections are not the only way. The appointment of council members by the pastor, in addition to elections, is allowed or mandated in ten out of thirteen guidelines. Of these ten, five call for appointed members to achieve a specific purpose, namely, to make the council representative, diverse, or balanced.51 This is evidently a response to canon 512 §2. It states that pastoral council members on the diocesan level should be selected so that “the entire portion of the people of God which constitutes the diocese is truly reflected.” The five guidelines which emphasize demographic representation have apparently applied the norms for diocesan councils to parish councils. Pastors appoint council members, the guidelines suggest, because elected councilors do not always reflect the parish’s demographic profile.

In addition to election and appointment, people join the pastoral council on account of their office. Nine out of thirteen guidelines specify ex officio membership. This includes parish clergy apart from the pastor (in eight dioceses), trustees where state law requires them (in four dioceses), and a representative of the finance council (in three dioceses). Members of the parish staff are required or permitted to be councilors in eight dioceses, although their membership is qualified as “a resource” to the council or as non-voting membership in three dioceses.52 By virtue of their offices, parish priests, trustees, finance experts, and lay staff are often council members, along with those elected and appointed.

Quite remarkably, three guidelines recommend a process of discernment as an alternative to at-large elections.53 This process typically includes a meeting or series of meetings to inform people about the mission of the council, a nomination by oneself or by others, and an individual or corporate discernment of one’s suitability for council membership. Even more remarkably, two of the three guidelines suggest that, at the conclusion of the discernment, final selection is made by the drawing of lots. The third guideline offers the option of lots or a ballot. They assume that, after a thorough discernment, any of the remaining nominees would be qualified. A drawing by lots is a Biblically-sanctioned method of leaving the final selection to chance.

The importance of the discernment process lies in the incorporation of a thorough reflection. Those who enter such a discernment process are forced to clarify their own understanding of and their aptitude for council ministry. Moreover, others are involved as well in understanding the ministry and gauging the nominees’s suitedness for it. Guidelines recommending this discernment contrast it with the occasional superficiality of elections, in which those nominated may be ignorant of the council ministry and unknown to the parishioners who vote. When a parish discerns the call of council nominees, nominees are more aware of what the call means and better known by parishioners involved in the discernment.

If parishioners know the council nominees then they can make more informed choices, whether by election or by discernment. Parishioners choose parish council members according to a number of criteria. A comparison of diocesan guidelines for councils reveals what the criteria are.

For example, the most common critierion for selecting council members is that they are representative. Twelve out of thirteen guidelines state that council members should represent the parish. In nine cases, the guidelines refer to demographic representation. The makeup of the parish council, they say, should mirror the demographic profile of the parish: sex, race, ethnicity, culture, and age.54 Demographic representation is so important that, when at-large elections do not achieve it, five guidelines provide for appointment by the pastor of council members to redress imbalances in the council roster, as we have already seen.55 Representation of a demographic profile is not the only kind of representation, but it is the most common.

Demographic representation, however, says nothing about the councilor as an individual. One can “represent” a race, culture, sex, or age group and still be an incompetent council member. For this reason, nine guidelines suggest that council members should have certain moral qualities or dispositions.56 A smaller number of guidelines find certain gifts or talents desireable in a councilor. For example, the most common “moral” quality is Church membership. Seven guidelines want councilors to be Catholics “in good standing,” Baptized, Confirmed, and registered. A few guidelines speak of dispositions in addition to moral qualities. They state that council members should be involved, willing, active, alive and open. These dispositions cannot be classified as special gifts or talents in any but a theological sense. They indicate, rather, a person’s moral fiber–not skill or expertise.

Skill and expertise in council members are required by comparatively few guidelines. Four state that council members should be informed, knowledgeable, experienced, and understanding.57 These are “skills,” but only in a general sense. Two other guidelines speak of “pastoral expertise” or “competence,” and are no more precise than that.58 Council membership is apparently for generalists. One might expect higher qualifications in councils whose potential members enter into a process of discernment. But even where discernment is recommended, the emphasis is more on the “process” skills of listening, cooperation, creativity and spirituality than on the “product” skills of technical knowledge or ability.59 Council membership apparently makes more demands on morality and disposition, the guidelines suggest, than it does on knowledge or talent.

This can be a problem, given the heavy technical demands made on councils. We saw earlier that the purpose of many councils includes administrative tasks. These include the supervision, in some cases, of a system of standing committees, committees which implement the decisions of the council. Indeed, one of the reasons given for staggering the terms of council members is to ensure that the council will always have veteran members to monitor the standing committees. Is this, however, necessarily right? Giving councils such weighty administrative responsibilty, without insisting that council members have the needed supervisorial or managerial skills, seems unwise and unfair. It would be more consistent to require such skills of potential councilors, or to relax the demand that councils manage the implementation of parish policy.

In most cases, however, councils are not given weighty managerial responsibilities. That is why parish elections, based on general moral and dispositional criteria, have proven satisfactory. The main purpose of councils is to enable pastors to consult their people. That is why achieving a “representative” council, a council that reflects what parishioners think, is the primary criterion for council selection, according to diocesan guidelines. No guidelines call for councilors who are professional managers. That is because most pastors do not expect council members to fulfill a demanding managerial role.

One Diocese Out of Many

Our review of the number of councils, of the support for them, and of the five dimensions of council life, adds up to an empirical portrait of pastoral councils in the United States. The portrait enables me to answer the question of Gesine Laufenberg, chairwoman of Oakland’s first Diocesan Pastoral Council. She asked whether pastoral councils in Oakland were like those in other U.S. dioceses.

We saw, first of all, that three-quarters of U.S. parishes have pastoral councils, and that 61% of dioceses have diocesan pastoral councils. Bishop Cummins’ support for parish councils in the 1980s was comparable to that of most other bishops who have their own DPCs. His diocese published council guidelines, encouraged pastors to start and maintain councils, and employed staff members who worked with pastoral councils. In terms of support, Oakland was in the mainstream.

Gesine Laufenberg also wanted to know about pastoral councils throughout the nation. The most widely-advocated purpose for councils is pastoral planning, we saw, and with this purpose Oakland’s DPC and council guidelines were in full accord. The DPC was clearly a “planning” council in that it developed with the bishop a mission statement, general goals, and specific objectives. But DPC members were certain that they were not themselves implementers of the pastoral plan. That was for the diocesan staff.

The sharp distinction in Oakland between planning and implementing becomes blurry, however, when compared to some guidelines for pastoral councils published by other U.S. dioceses. Several of these assign to parish councils the task of managing a system of standing committees, and even overseeing the implementation by committees of parish council policies. Many parish councils nationwide not only help pastors develop pastoral plans, but execute the plans themselves. Compared to these cases, the Oakland experience stands in sharp contrast. Oakland DPC committees were ad hoc and not standing committees. Once they submitted their plans, they disbanded. Supervision of new policies was left to the diocesan staff.

Did the Oakland DPC “make policy” or was it “strictly consultative”? This question is hard to answer. On the one hand, the council was strictly consultative in that the members had no illusion that the bishop was obligated to take their advice. They were elected at a diocesan convention, but given no legal powers. They controlled no diocesan departments and held no chancery purse strings. The DPC advised the bishop, but did not direct him.

On the other hand, however, the DPC members were confident that the bishop was listening. He had invested considerable diocesan resources in an extensive convention and consultation. The conventioneers who elected the DPC members over two weekends had given the council a specific direction and considerable moral authority. The bishop eventually implemented many of the council’s recommendations. In that sense, the council can be said, with the bishop, to have “made” diocesan policy. The ambiguity in Oakland between making policy and being strictly consultative is widespread, if one can judge from guidelines for councils published by U.S. dioceses. But it is a healthy ambiguity, I believe, and one that should not go away.

Was there also ambiguity, in Oakland, about leadership of the council by the bishop and the chairwoman? In actual practice, none whatsoever. Bishop Cummins preferred to take a hands-off approach to the DPC. He left the actual planning of the agenda to the chairwoman, other council officers, and diocesan staff members who knew his mind–and knew the areas in which he sought advice. The chairwoman ran the meetings and he listened, asking occasional questions and making comments. This management style worked well, precisely because council meetings grappled with the questions most important to him. But such a style is nowhere spelled out in diocesan guidelines for parish councils. My hunch is that, in most parishes, pastors and those who chair the meetings work out their own leadership styles. Such styles are different in each parish, and successful to the extent that the pastor receives advice which he considers pertinent.

Members of Oakland’s DPC were elected, as I said, at a diocesan convention. In that sense they fit the profile of councilor selection seen in diocesan guidelines. But the Oakland election took place at the end of a convention which lasted two weekends. Members were elected by those who had had prolonged contact with them, watched their styles of deliberation, and knew what they stood for. They were elected, yes, but in a manner that allowed for reflection and discernment. To that degree, the practice in Oakland was atypical, and more akin to those dioceses which recommend discernment in the selection of councilors. There is nothing anonymous in discernment, and there was no anonymity in the Oakland DPC elections.

To sum up, the practice in Oakland was similar to that recommended for parish councils throughout the U.S., but in many ways it was better. It was free of the ambiguity between planning and administration which is common in U.S. councils. DPC committees never got bogged down in having to direct or monitor the implementation of diocesan policy. Consultation was ambiguous, but the ambiguity was a happy one. The DPC, while strictly consultative, nevertheless made policy with a bishop who affirmed its recommendations and directed it wisely. He led the council, but did so by relying on the DPC chairwoman and the diocesan staff. And he relied on the DPC with confidence, knowing that the council members had been elected by people who knew them well and recognized accurately their gifts. Oakland’s process of consultation accorded well with diocesan guidelines throughout the U.S., and in some cases exceeded the ideal.

This is what I would have liked to say to Gesine Laufenberg, when she asked me how the practice in Oakland would stand up to nation-wide standards. She died in 1992, having contributed much to the success of the Oakland consultations. Her questions prompted my search for a nation-wide perspective on pastoral councils, and her practice as chairwoman gave me insight into how lay leadership in a council should be exercised.

Comparing other dioceses’ guidelines for pastoral councils gives us more, however, than an answer to Gesine’s question. It also reveals areas of disagreement. There are apparent disagreements among dioceses about each of the five council dimensions:

  1. The purpose of councils. Are they to plan or to make policy and coordinate committees?
  2. Committee structure. Are council committees ad hoc groups which perform a task and then disband, or are they standing structures which implement council policy?
  3. Consultation. Do councils recommend plans for solving pastoral problems, or do they make plans and implement them through committees?
  4. Leadership. Does the pastor lead by building relationships, and the lay chairperson lead by facilitating the task? Or is leadership exercised in other and more complicated ways?
  5. Selection. Is representation the most important criterion for council membership, or are there more important criteria which election and discernment try to identify?

These are some of the areas on which published guidelines do not agree. It will be our task to shed light on these issues and attempt to resolve them.

Table One
(Arch)diocesan Guidelines for Parish Pastoral Councils
Listed in the Order of the Thirteen Regions of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops
1. Archdiocese of Hartford, Parish Council Guidelines 1988, prepared by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, with a letter by Archbishop John F. Whealon (Hartford: Archdiocese of Hartford, 1988), 13 pp.

2. Diocese of Ogdensburg, Diocesan Guidelines for Parish Councils and Trustees, with a letter by Bishop Stanislaus J. Brzana, issued by the bishop “after extensive consultation with the Council of Priests and the Diocesan Pastoral Council” (Ogdensburg: Office of the Bishop, 1991), 1 page letter, 17 pages of guidelines, 4 pages of appendixes.

3. Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Rationale, Principles and Guidelines for Parish Pastoral Councils, with a letter by Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua (Philadelphia: Office of the Cardinal, 1992), 7 pages.

4. Archdiocese of Baltimore, The Ministry of Shared Responsibility: Serving as Parish Council in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Revised Edition, produced by the Division of Collegial Services, with a letter by Archbishop William D. Borders (Baltimore: Office of the Archbishop, 1988), 47 pages.

5. Diocese of Nashville, Handbook: Parish Pastoral Councils, produced by the Ministry Formation Services Team, with a letter by Bishop James D. Niedergeses (Nashville: Ministry Formation Services, 1989), 75 pages.

6. Archdiocese of Detroit, Parish Pastoral Council Guidelines and Handbook, a revision of the 1979 Directives and Guidelines by the 13-member Parish Pastoral Council Guidelines Committee, James Kiefer, chairman (Detroit: Office of the Archbishop, 1991). Guidelines: 37 pages; Handbook: 62 pages; plus a 10-page Glossary and Acknowledgements.

7. Diocese of Green Bay, Norms for Parish Pastoral Councils, with a letter from Bishop Adam J. Maida (Green Bay: Diocese of Green Bay, 1986). 10 pages, together with a 33-page “Commentary and Resources” by Rev. Larry Canavera and Sr. Luanne Smits, SSND, of Parish Pastoral Council Services; and 51 pages of “Appendixes.”

8. Diocese of Bismarck, Parish Pastoral Councils: The Call and the Ministry, produced by the Ad Hoc Committee on PPC Guidelines of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, with a letter from Bishop John F. Kinney (Bismarck: Diocese of Bismarck, 1989 [?]), 55 pages.

9. Diocese of Salina, Guidelines for Parish Pastoral Councils, unsigned but written by Rev. Kenneth Lohrmeyer and approved by Bishop George K. Fitzsimons (Salina: Office of the Bishop, 1993), 14 pages.

10. Diocese of Fort Worth, Handbook for Consultative Bodies, produced by the Office of Parish Planning Stewardship, Mary Raley, Director (Fort Worth: Office of Parish Planning and Stewardship, 1995), 11 pages of “Guidelines” and 48 pages of “Practical Suggestions.”

11. Diocese of Sacramento, Consultation in the Parish: Guidelines for Parish Councils, with a letter from Bishop Francis A. Quinn (Sacramento: The Chancery, 1985), 2-page letter, 6 pages of “Guidelines,” 1 page of “Acknowledgements,” and a 2-page “Appendix on Parish Finance Councils.”

12. Archdiocese of Seattle, Guidelines for Parish Consultative Structures, prepared by the Planning and Research Office, Dennis O’Leary, Director (Seattle: Archdiocese of Seattle, 1988), 58 pages.

13. Archdiocese of Denver, Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Finance Council Norms, prepared by a committee of the Presbyteral Council chaired by Rev. Leonard Alimena, with a letter by Archbishop J. Francis Stafford (Denver: Archdiocese of Denver, 1988), 2-page letter and 11 pages of “Norms.”


1. Dissertations include Peter Kim Se-Mang, Parish Councils on Mission: Coresponsibility and Authority among Pastors and Parishioners (Kuala Lumpur: Benih Publisher, 1991) and David F. Wall, Parish Councils in the Catholic Church: Participation and Satisfaction of Members, unpublished Ph.D. [sociology] Dissertation (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1978). The Notre Dame Study is the work of David Leege and Joseph Gremillion, Editors, Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life, Reports 1-10, (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame, 1984-1987).

2. David C. Leege, “Parish Life Among the Leaders” (December, 1986), in Leege and Gremillion, editors, The Notre Dame Study, report no. 9, p. 6.

3. Mark F. Fischer, “Parish Pastoral Councils: How Many Are There? How Do Bishops Support Them?” in Ruth Doyle and Robert Schmitz, editors, Parish Laity and Ministry (Indianapolis: The Lilly Endowment, Inc., forthcoming).

4. Mark F. Fischer, “Parish Pastoral Councils: Purpose, Scope, Consultation,” Center Papers no. 4 (New York: National Pastoral Life Center, 1990). Guidelines were studied from the following episcopal regions and (Arch)dioceses: (1) Boston, (2) New York, (3) Harrisburg, (4) Raleigh, (5) Louisville, (6) Cleveland, (7) Milwaukee, (8) Fargo, (9) Omaha, (10) Brownsville, (11) San Bernardino, (12) Portland, and (3) Cheyenne.

5. The Notre Dame Study reports that, although most pastors call the work of their councils “planning,” nevertheless only two-thirds of staff mambers call it that. Staff members say that their councils are “informing” and “reflecting.” Leege, Report no. 9, p. 6; see Castelli and Gremillion, pp. 104-105.

6. Philadelphia (p. 5), Detroit (“Guidelines,” p. 14 and “Handbook,” pp. 30, 40-44); Seattle guidelines, p. 24.

7. Baltimore treats planning as one of many council tasks, but publishes a separate planning manual. See Constance Gilder, The Ministry of Pastoral Planning: A Planning Guide for Parishes in the Archdiocese of Baltimore (Archdiocese of Baltimore: Division of Planning and Council Services, 1993). Philadelphia emphasizes planning and also publishes a separate planning manual. See Robert J. Miller, On the Way to Renewal: A Parish Self-Study Guide, 2 volumes (Archdiocese of Philadelphia: Office for Research and Planning, Robert J. Miller, Director, 1991). A third example of such a manual, not from the 1995 survey, is David Baldwin and Richard McGourty, Tomorrow’s Parish: Choosing Your Future, 2 volumes (Chicago: Archdiocese of Chicago, 1994).

8. In Bismarck, councils are to clarify the parish’s mission (p. 36); and in Denver, councils are to advise the pastor on the development of priorities (p. 8)–both of which are “planning” tasks.

9. For example, the Hartford guidelines state that the primary task of a pastoral council is “to develop itself into a praying, unified Christian community” (p. 4), the Baltimore guidelines state that councils are “to listen to where the Spirit is leading” (p. 6), and councils in the Archdiocese of Detroit are to “be sensitive to the movement of the Spirit” (“Guidelines,” p. 11).

10. The Ogdensburg guidelines state that the council “assists in developing a spiritual unity” (p. 8); the Salina guidelines refer to the pastoral council as “an energizing, coordinating and unifying organism” (p. 2); and the Seattle guidelines state that councils are to be “a sign and witness of unity” (p. 37).

11. The Nashville guidelines say that councils “act as a line of communication to and from the people” (p. 8); and the Seattle guidelines state that the council’s third purpose (after forming community and planning) is “to promote communication” (p. 39).

12. The Green Bay guidelines state that five standing committees are “accountable to the council” (“Norms”, p. 6); the Fort Worth guidelines state that, although councils are to focus on long-range planning, nevertheless councils in rural parishes “will also serve as the group responsible for getting things done (administrative work)” (“Guidelines,” p. 4).

13. The Ogdensburg guidelines state that the pastoral council “participates in identifying and organizing the apostolic activities” of the parish (p. 8); in Bismarck, councils utilize committees to “implement their decisions” (p. 41).

14. In order to make this explicit, the Seattle guidelines distinguish between “developmental” and “implementational” planning. Developmental planning is the task of the council, and it includes setting direction and strategizing. Implementational planning is administrative and has to do with parish operations. It is reserved to the pastor, to the the parish staff, and to committees under their direction (Seattle guidelines, pp. 21-22).

15. Philadelphia guidelines, p. 4.

16. Robert G. Howes, Creating an Effective Parish Pastoral Council (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1991), p. 51. Howes offers a number of prescriptions to avoid the malaise of powerlessness.

17. The guidelines of Baltimore (p. 21), Green Bay (“Norms,” p. 6), and Seattle (p. 46) state that the committees are “accountable” to the council.

18. Green Bay, “Commentary and Resources,” p. 23. The clearly executive function given to the council, however, is contradicted in the first section of the Green Bay guidelines. There one reads that it is the pastor who is “in charge of implementation” (Green Bay, “Norms,” p. 5). The same ambiguity can be seen in the Detroit guidelines. There one reads that the council sets goals and the commissions set objectives, implementing them with the help of the parish staff (Detroit, “Guidelines,” pp. 11, 14, 19-21; “Handbook,” p. 40). But then one reads that commissions implement objectives under the “oversight” of the pastor (“Handbook,” p. 13).

19. The Denver guidelines state that committees implement policy, but they implement “parish” policies, i.e., recommendations of the council which have been accepted by the pastor.

20. Salina, p. 9; Nashville, p. 10; Detroit, “Guidelines,” p. 19.

21. Four guidelines describe the committee role as “planning,” “planning and implementing,” or “recommending.”

22. This is envisioned in the Baltimore guidelines, which state that “the parish council recommends these goals to the pastor, who assigns them to staff and/or committees” for implementation (p. 19).

23. There is a brief commentary on consultation in the Congregation for the Clergy’s 1973 “Private Letter.” It states that a bishop who consults his diocesan pastoral council “should greatly esteem its propositions and suggestions,” but nevertheless he preserves his own “freedom and authority” to disagree. Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, “Pastoral Councils . . . Private,” in James I. O’Connor, Editor, The Canon Law Digest (Chicago: Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus, 1975), vol. VII, p 281. Also published as “Patterns in Local Pastoral Councils,” Origins 3:12 (Sept. 13, 1973): 186-190.

24. See, for example, the works by Bernard Bligh, John Keating, and James H. Provost.

25. Sacramento guidelines, p. 3. Denver guidelines, p. 4. The Philadelphia guidelines make a similar point in softer language: “The Parish Pastoral Council is solely a consultative body with the role of advising and assisting the Pastor” (Philadelphia, “Principles,” p. 4). The Sacramento and Denver language is taken from John Keating (Bishop of Arlington), “Consultation in the Parish,” Origins 14:17 (October 11, 1984): 264.

26. Canon 536 states that a bishop may mandate parish pastoral councils, and in that sense he obligates the pastor to consult. But the law does not state how pastors are to consult councils, or define the matters or actions about which they must seek counsel.

27. Nashville guidelines, p. 32; Green Bay guidelines, “Commentary and Resources,” p. 23. The Green Bay guidelines, however, are not univocal about the council making policy. They elsewhere state that the council offers “recomendations” and “assists in setting policies” rather than making them directly (“Norms,” p. 5). At another point, they note that the pastor is the real decision maker (“Commentary and Resources,” p. 29).

28. Nashville guidelines, p. 4. The Green Bay guidelines, however, are not so sanguine. “Norm V” states that the acts of the council “are given as recommendations to the pastor” (“Norms,” p. 3). “Norm VI states that the pastor will ordinarily affirm a council’s recommendations “if he is one with his people and active in the deliberative process” (“Norms,” p. 4). This condition, needless to say, is not always met.

29. Thus Hartford councils both “advise” pastors and “give direction” to the parish (p. 4). Bismarck councils have “consultative authority” (p. 37) subject to the pastor’s “veto” (p. 40). Fort Worth Councils have both a “consultative” and a “leadership” role (“Guidelines,” pp. 2, 5).

30. See the Ogdensburg guidelines on prayer (p. 5), the Baltimore guidelines on shared wisdom rather than Robert’s Rules (p. 23), and the Seattle guidelines on discernment (pp. 33-35). The Nashville guidelines include ten pages of council liturgies, the Bismarck guidelines include twelve pages.

31. The Detroit guidelines speak of the pastor as one who, for the sake of consensus, grants or withholds ratification (“Guidelines,” pp. 13-14); the Salina guidelines also link ratification and consensus (pp. 8-9). The guidelines of Nashville (p. 7) and of Bismarck (p. 40) also give pastors the task of ratification and the right to veto, but this legal approach is seen by them as an exception.

32. One major difference between the two surveys is that, in 1990, few of the guidelines surveyed talked about seeking consensus; in the 1995 survey, seven out of thirteen use the term. See Fischer, “Parish Pastoral Councils,” esp. Figure 4 (p. 5) and Figure 7 (p. 8).

33. Hartford (p. 5), Ogdensburg (p. 8), Detroit (“Guidelines,” p. 15), and Bismarck (p. 18-19).

34. The Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life speaks of “governance” by the council, describes one council whose committees actually “run” the parish, and speaks of the “hard decisions” which councils make. Leege, Report no. 9, pp. 2 (governance), 7 (running the parish), and 14 (making hard decisions).

35. The exceptions are the Archdiocese of Hartford, whose guidelines describe the pastor as “leader” and “supervisor” (p. 5); and the Diocese of Nashville, whose guidelines describe the pastor as one who delegates authority to the council (p. 4) and ratifies its decisions (p. 7).

36. The distinction between task and relationship behavior in leaders is a commonplace in the managerial literature. See Robert R. Blake and Jane S. Mouton, The Managerial Grid (Houston: Gulf Publishing, 1964).

37. The distinction between task and relationship behavior in leaders is a commonplace in the managerial literature. See Robert R. Blake and Jane S. Mouton, The Managerial Grid (Houston: Gulf Publishing, 1964).

38. On setting the agenda, see the guidelines of Philadelphia (p. 4) and Sacramento (p. 5). On consulting, see Hartford (p. 5) and Denver (p. 5). On receiving proposals, see Philadelphia (p. 4) and Baltimore (p. 19). On deciding, see Detroit (“Guidelines,” p. 13) and Green Bay (“Commentary and Resources,” p. 29).

39. These guidelines are also an anomaly in that they allow the lay vice chairperson to “preside” in the pastor’s absence (Ogdensburg, p. 10; Philadelphia, p. 7). Presiding (as distinct from chairing) is a pastor’s role, and these guidelines envision a council that may meet in the pastor’s absence.

40. On ratifying, see Nashville (p. 7), Detroit (“Guidelines, p. 14), Bismarck (p. 40), and Salina (p. 15). On participating, see Detroit (“Guidelines,” p. 13), Green Bay (“Norms,” p. 9), and Bismarck (p. 40). On listening, see Bismarck (p. 40), Sacramento (p. 5), and Seattle (p. 42).

41. Pastors may chair councils in Green Bay (“Commentary and Resources,” p. 10), Bismarck (p. 40), Fort Worth (“Guidelines,” p. 2), and Seattle (p. 19).

42. On helping the executive committee prepare the agenda, see Baltimore (p. 22), Detroit (“Guidelines,” p. 17), Green Bay (“Norms,” p. 6), Salina (p. 6), Fort Worth (“Guidelines,” p. 3), and Seattle (p. 42).

43. On consensus-building, see Ogdensburg (p. 4), Philadelphia (p. 5), Nashville (p. 7), Seattle (pp. 13-14), and Denver (p. 9). On spiritual leadership, see Hartford (p. 5), Baltimore (p. 29), and Salina (p. 2). On creating trust, see Philadelphia (p. 5), Salina (p. 8), and Fort Worth (“Guidelines,” p. 3).

43. On building community, see Bismarck (p. 40) and Fort Worth (“Guidelines,” p. 3). On serving, see Detroit (“Guidelines,” p. 13) and Seattle (pp. 13-14).

44. On building community, see Bismarck (p. 40) and Fort Worth (“Guidelines,” p. 3). On serving, see Detroit (“Guidelines,” p. 13) and Seattle (pp. 13-14).

45. Hartford (p. 8), Baltimore (pp. 41-42), Detroit (“Handbook,” pp. 45-46), Green Bay (“Commentary and Resources,” p. 10), Salina (p. 6), Fort Worth (“Practical Suggetions,” pp. 13, 22), and Seattle (p. 43).

46. Baltimore (p. 42) and Bismarck (p. 48).

47. On prayer, see Hartford (p. 8), Detroit (“Handbook,” pp. 45-6), and Green Bay (“Commentary and Resources,” p. 10). On motivation, see Detroit (“Handbook,” pp. 45-6) and Salina (p. 6). On developing consensus, see Baltimore (p. 35), Detroit (“Handbook,” pp. 45-6), and Fort Worth (“Practical Suggestions,” p. 37).