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How to Cover the Catholic Church

Presbyteral Council and College of Consultors

Each diocese has a

priests’ council

—called a

presbyteral council

in church

law—which serves as a consultative body to the bishop. About half the priests

on the council are elected by their fellow priests. In addition, some priests,

such as certain diocesan officials, may belong to the council automatically, and

some may be appointed by the bishop. The statutes of the council determine

whether or to what extent priests in religious orders residing in the diocese are

also represented. From among the members of the priests’ council the bishop

selects six to 12 priests to serve as the diocesan

college of consultors

. When the

diocesan bishop dies, retires or is transferred, if there is no auxiliary bishop,

the college of consultors is responsible for the governance of the diocese and

elects a diocesan administrator from among the priests of the diocese. On

certain matters the administrator must consult with the college. The priests’

council is automatically dissolved when a diocese is vacant, but the college of

consultors is not.

Pastoral Council

A consultative body to the bishop, a diocesan

pastoral council

is made up

mainly of laypeople but typically includes representatives of the diocese’s

clergy and religious as well. Church law says it is to be convened at least once

a year. It is automatically dissolved when the diocese is vacant.

Local Diocesan Directory

Most dioceses produce an annual directory of their diocesan offices and all

parishes, including staff personnel at the diocesan and parish level. A number

of dioceses have this information on an Internet site, but Internet savvy varies

widely from diocese to diocese. If you are new to covering religion, contact

your diocesan communications officer to find out what directory resources

the diocese has online or in print to help you do your job.


The priest who heads a parish is its


and is appointed by the diocesan

bishop. Sometimes between pastors a parish may be headed temporarily by an

administrator, also appointed by the bishop. In dioceses where there are insuf-

ficient priests to have a resident pastor in every parish, some parishes may be

administered by a deacon, sister, brother or layperson. In such cases a priest