From a reader…
With priest assignments currently being announced, I am curious about the difference between a Pastor and a Parochial Administrator. If a Pastor is reassigned to another parish as an Administrator, is that a lateral or a lesser assignment?
GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE: Fr. T. Ferguson
In short, on a practical level, there is little difference. The main difference between a pastor and a parochial administrator is that a pastor has stability of office – he is appointed, ideally for life, (canon 522) but by concession in the United States, he may be appointed for a six-year term (http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-
Theoretically, at least, a pastor cannot be removed from the parish prior to the expiry of his term if he does not want to. There are provisions in the law for removing or transferring a pastor (cc. 1740-1752). Practically, this process is rarely used and other, praeter legem processes are used to remove or transfer a pastor (threats, cajoling, intimidation, badgering, enticement).
A parish administrator (c. 540) does not have stability of office – he is often appointed for a period of time, but his appointment can be revoked or altered at any time by the bishop.
It was long customary for a priest to receive his first parish as administrator. Then, if things seemed to work and there were no problems, after a year, he would be made pastor.
Other reasons for appointing an administrator rather than a pastor may be that another priest is in line to be made pastor but is not quite ready yet (off studying at school, engaged in another ministry, on a sabbatical), or the bishop has some other assignment in mind for the priest being named administrator (“I’m appointing you as administrator of St. Eleutherius for a year because in twelve months, after he celebrates his jubilee, Msgr. Bilious will be retiring and I want you as pastor of St. Alphege of the Country Club.”).
There are frequently labyrinthine internal politics at work that would confuse the Spatharokandidatos of the court of Constantine Copronymos, and are probably best left unexamined.