“Where can I find documentation regarding pastoral councils and their status when there is no longer a pastor in the parish? I know that there is little in canon law. We have not put anything in our working draft of pastoral council guidelines – but I have seen in those of other dioceses that “no pastor = no parish pastoral council.
Mark F. Fischer replied:
You ask whether pastoral councils go out of existence when the pastor changes? In 1973, the Congregation for the Clergy published a Circular Letter to the bishops of the world. It has the distinction of being the only Vatican document entirely devoted to pastoral councils, which in 1973 were mainly envisioned at the diocesan level. It said, “When a See is vacant, the pastoral council ceases. However, nothing prevents the Ordinary, if the case warrants it, during the vacancy of the See, to call upon the members of the council for their advice” (no. 11). This point of view was reinforced in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. “When the see is vacant the pastoral council ceases to exist” (Canon 513, §2). In 2004, this teaching was repeated in the Congregation for Bishops’ “Directory on the Pastoral Office of Bishops” (Apostolorum successores). So the Diocese of Camden would have some precedent for telling present parish pastoral council members that, in the diocese’s view, the PPC ceases to be a “pastoral” council when the pastor leaves. Some people, however, may not regard the Vatican documents about the diocesan pastoral council as pertaining to the parish pastoral council. There are very few references in Vatican documents to parish pastoral councils. My point of view is that the PPC is a “pastoral” council at the parish level, just as the DPC is a “pastoral” council at the diocesan level. But one could conceivably argue that the rules for diocesan councils do not apply to parish councils.