In January 1997, the NCCB Committees on the Laity and on Pastoral Practices selected the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) to prepare and analyze questionnaires relating to the functioning of diocesan and eparchial pastoral councils (PCs)1 in the United States. A PC is a diocesan or eparchial consultative body recommended by the Code of Canon Law (CIC) and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (COEC). It is composed of clergy, religious, and especially lay members "whose responsibility 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." (CIC c.511; cf also COEC c.272)
The questionnaires were sent to diocesan bishops, eparchs, diocesan and eparchial pastoral council staff, pastoral council members, and senior diocesan and eparchial staff. Responses were collected from territorial archdioceses and dioceses as well as every archeparchy and eparchy in the U.S. The major findings which follow are based on the results compiled by CARA. The full report was reviewed and approved by the NCCB sponsoring committees.
Of the 190 archdioceses, dioceses, archeparchies, and eparchies in the U.S., 102 have a PC or similar body (44 percent are PCs, 5 percent are similar bodies). In addition, another 27 (14 percent) are currently planning to start a PC or similar body. On average, membership in these bodies consists of a bishop or eparch, four secular priests, a deacon, 26 lay members, and three religious, primarily women religious.
Research and Resources on Pastoral Councils and Consultative Bodies