Reports outline possible models for pastoral councils in Australia

The National Centre for Pastoral Research has published a pair of reports on pastoral councils, as part of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s response to a review of Church governance.

Each of the reports – one into diocesan pastoral councils, the other into parish pastoral councils – draws on Church documents on such bodies, the writings of recent Popes and research in Australia and overseas, before offering various models for how councils could operate.

The report on diocesan pastoral councils utilises the findings of Damian Gleeson’s 2021 report on the history of such entities in Australia.

The report on parish pastoral councils also considers the views of Mass attenders and parish leaders in Australia.

“These reports have both emerged as part of the Church’s response to the important document The Light from the Southern Cross: Promoting Co-Responsible Governance in the Catholic Church in Australia,” said National Centre for Pastoral Research director Trudy Dantis.

“Through the Royal Commission, the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia and now the global Synod on Synodality, we have seen issues of governance and shared leadership emerge as key themes.

“For parishes and dioceses, these reports provide insights into how they might consider the establishment of councils or the refinement of existing structures to serve their local communities.”

The reports assess important considerations for councils like membership, terms of office, meeting frequency and decision-making.

“What our research found was that there is definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach for a pastoral council, be it in a diocese or a parish,” Dr Dantis said.

“The reports propose seven models for determining structure, membership and purpose, for example, each of which might be well suited to a particular parish or diocese but less so for another.

“Decision-makers may want to select enabling elements from various models to create a structure better suited to their context.”

Dr Dantis said the two reports were written with the intention they be read in conjunction with one another.

The reports can be accessed on the National Centre for Pastoral Research website: