This past February the Diocese announced a plan to establish a Diocesan Pastoral Council. VOTF-LI has analyzed the plan and has raised some questions and made some recommendations. These have been communicated to the Committee appointed by the Bishop to design the Council.

The Letter follows. Below the letter you will find a link to the DRVC proposal as described in the LI Catholic.

Long Island Voice of the Faithful

P.O. Box 1007
Nesconset, NY 11767

May 9, 2005

Diocesan Pastoral Council
Working Committee
Diocese of Rockville Centre
Long Island, NY
Dear Members of the Working Committee:

We are pleased that Bishop Murphy has decided to create a Diocesan Pastoral Council as suggested by the priests of our diocese at the notable meeting in January of 2004.

LI VOTF strongly endorses the creation of this body. This council will be a fine example of the type of structural change LI VOTF has been advocating. As such, we believe that it is very important that this new council be truly representative so that Catholics can be assured that their voices are being heard.

Unfortunately, the formation and function of the council as described in the Long Island Catholic (Feb 16, 2005) raises some serious issues. Our concern is that the council, as it is currently envisioned, is not representative. Additionally, it appears to be very limited in its ability to present the concerns of the faithful to Bishop Murphy.

The selection process will not result in true representation of the faithful. To the contrary, it could easily be interpreted that the multi-tiered selection process is specifically designed to make sure that the council members who emerge from this process will conform to the desires of the local hierarchy and will not be a reflection of the views and concerns of the faithful as a whole.

Specifically, the current plan raises the following concerns:

Selection process:

  1. Potential members are selected by the pastor and a parish pastoral council member, not by the parish community.
  2. The deanery discernment process, followed by the working committee selection process, moves the faith community one step farther away from having input as to who will represent them.
  3. Bishop Murphy is given final say over who will represent the community.

Recommendation process:

The make-up and voting requirements of the council give the appearance of making it mathematically impossible for Bishop Murphy to hear the authentic and broadly held views of the faithful.

  1. The proposed council has 22 members.
  2. Six members can be appointed by Bishop Murphy.
  3. It takes an eighty percent (80%) vote by the council to even submit a recommendation to the Bishop. Therefore, even if all of the sixteen representative members voted together on a particular matter, the six appointed members could block the recommendation. (16/22 = 73%)

Term and meeting frequency:

  1. Six-year terms may hinder fresh perspectives.
  2. Quarterly meetings are not sufficient for the committee to learn to work well together or provide meaningful recommendations on a timely basis.

Some suggestions for your consideration:

  1. Nominees should arise from the community and be reviewed by the pastor and parish pastoral council to ensure that they are active, representative, members of the community.
  2. The parish community would then elect their representative from among the nominees.
  3. Appointed members should serve as non-voting members of the council. The purpose of the appointed members would be to advise the council and provide it with the information necessary to give meaningful recommendations to the bishop.
  4. The council should be charged with drafting and maintaining a charter consistent with its mission.
  5. The council should be encouraged to reach out to members of the faith community and thus provide an open avenue of two-way communication between the hierarchy and the faith community.
  6. Staggered terms could be two years with elected members coming from parishes on a rotating basis.
    The council should meet more frequently, preferably monthly.

The idea of a representative diocesan council is excellent. If done properly, the formation of this body would be a significant step in the right direction in meeting the mandates of Vatican II and restoring trust and healing to our diocese. Unfortunately, if not done properly, this could hinder the restoration of trust and deepen the wounds that need to be healed.

We would appreciate hearing from you regarding our concerns and recommendations.


Dan Bartley           Patricia Zirkel
Co-Chairs, Board of Directors

Addressees: Most Reverend John C. Dunne
  Most Reverend Paul H. Walsh, DD
  Most Reverend Emil A. Wcela, DD
  Msgr. Richard Bennett
  Rev. Nicholas Figliola
  Sr. Lauren Hanley, CSJ
  Msgr. Richard Kopinski
  Msgr. Vincent Rush
  Msgr. Peter Ryan

Note- The Council is described in the Long Island Catholic of February 16, 2005