Catholic pastors consult pastoral councils in order to be better leaders. Bishops and priests ask their councilors to investigate some aspect of the church, reflect on it, and recommend their conclusions. In brief, the work of the Pastoral Council is pastoral planning.
Canon Law provides for the formation of Parish Pastoral Councils in Canon 536 #1. “In every parish of the diocese, a Pastoral Council shall be established, if the diocesan Bishop, after consulting with the Council of Presbyters, so decides. The pastor presides over the Pastoral Council. The Council is composed of members of the congregation together with those of the parish staff who have pastoral care by reason of their office. The Council assists in promoting pastoral action in the parish.”
Although the Council is not a body which makes binding decisions, the recommendations of the Council are to be taken seriously when grounded in prayer, discernment and communal wisdom.
The pastor presides over the Parish Pastoral Council. The pastor is responsible for the final approval of Council recommendations concerning pastoral planning, programs, and services for the parish, as well as for their implementation. While the pastor is not obliged to follow the recommendations of the Council, it is understood that he ought to do so unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise. If there is such a reason, the pastor should share this with the Council.