This series of teaching editorials focuses on consultation in the Church and the role of boards and councils on the parish and diocesan level.
I hope you found this series of articles helpful to your understanding of how governance in the church operates. This final teaching editorial will provide perspectives on how consultative councils and committees serve the church at the archdiocesan level.
While the archbishop and pastors have primary responsibility for leadership within the faith community, they rely on the knowledge, experience and expertise of boards and councils to assist them, both in parishes and within the organizational structure of the archdiocese. The archdiocese is blessed by talented and generous volunteers serving on dozens of committees that guide the work of archdiocesan agencies. For example, The Record has an Editorial Board and the Office of Catholic Schools has a Schools Consultative Council. The Office of Youth and Young Adults has a Youth Advisory Board, and the Office of Multicultural Ministry has a variety of councils representing various ethnic groups within the archdiocese. These boards focus on assisting agency staff and helping to set the vision and direction for a particular area of ministry.
Other boards and councils assist the archbishop more directly because of the duties and agenda they are assigned. These include the Catholic Charities Board of Directors, the Development Council, the Deacon Council and the Priest Personnel Board.
Through the Code of Canon Law, the Universal Church provides instruction about the governance of each diocese. The code identifies three councils whose work affects the entire diocese, though you may be unfamiliar with their roles.
Priests’ Council: Canon law directs that “a presbyteral council is to be established in each diocese that is, a body of priests who are to be like a senate of the bishop, representing the presbyterate; this council is to aid the bishop in the governance of the diocese” (c. 495).
In this archdiocese, the Priests’ Council meets eight times per year. The agenda each year is developed at an annual overnight meeting, where topics for consideration are determined by their significance to the priests themselves or the archdiocese as a whole. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz brings additional matters to the council when he desires or when canon law requires consultation with the council before he makes or enacts a decision. The archbishop consults the Priests’ Council on issues related to priests, parish life, administrative policies, assessments and budgets, the opening or closing of a parish and other similar matters.
Particular to our archdiocese is the organization of parishes and priests into regions, which meet regularly for support, collaboration and the election of members to the council. At these regional meetings, all priests in the diocese are invited to discuss topics raised by the Priests’ Council.
Pastoral Council: Canon law (c. 511) recommends that a “pastoral council is to be established whose responsibility it is to investigate under the authority of the bishop all those things which pertain to pastoral works, to ponder them and to propose practical conclusions about them.”
In this archdiocese, the Pastoral Council of the Archdiocese (PCAL) is an assembly of parish council chairpersons. They meet with the archbishop twice a year. At this meeting, the archbishop reports about developments in the archdiocese, particularly those that directly affect parishes. As the chancellor, I also provide an administrative report. At each meeting, we bring one or more topics to the council for discussion, and we gather feedback as an advisory voice for the archbishop.
The PCAL meeting agenda often employs the use of a critical question to focus the members on a key issue of concern to the local church. Past topics have included strategic planning, diocesan communications, parish evangelization, Catholic education and church finances. The meeting in April will address the topic of youth and the church, reflecting on the upcoming synod called by Pope Francis.
Finance Council: “In each diocese a Finance Council is to be established by the bishop” (c. 492). The Finance Council ensures that there is a budget prepared for the governance of the archdiocese, and it regularly review receipts and expenses. The Council assists the archbishop and the chief financial officer with matters related to care of the “temporal goods” of the church. The archbishop is required to seek the Finance Council’s input on matters of budgets, assessments, investments, loans, property and some legal matters.
In this archdiocese, the Finance Council meets quarterly as a full board with one meeting focusing on budgets and another meeting on the annual audit. Members of the council meet more regularly through its two committees: the loan committee, which reviews parish loan requests, and the investment committee, which monitors the investment of archdiocesan funds.
In the first article in this series, Archbishop Kurtz emphasized the value of listening and the necessity of effective consultation. I share his views of the important role of consultation in our work in ministry. I thank all the women and men serving on our boards, councils and committees who contribute time and skills as they guide the good work of our parishes and our entire archdiocese.
Dr. Brian B. Reynolds
Chancellor and Chief Administrative Officer, Archdiocese of Louisville