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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Answer: According to Deacon Bo McAllister, former chancellor for canonical affairs, "The office of pastor is an ecclesiastical office which can only be filled by a priest appointed, installed or confirmed by the diocesan bishop." In the United States priests hold the office either for a term of six years, which can renewed, or for an indefinite period of time. They cannot be freely removed until the end of their terms or "with just cause."
"The pastor exercises pastoral care over the community (parish) committed to him under the authority of the diocesan bishop in whose ministry of Christ he has been called to share," McAllister said. "The pastor carries out the functions of teaching, sanctifying and governing with the cooperation of other priests (associate pastors), deacons and with the assistance of lay members of the Christian faithful. Canon law defines and describes the responsibilities and authority of the pastor within his parish and canon law obliges the pastor to reside near the church."
The parish administrator is also an ecclesiastical office, but there is no term of office and the administrator can be freely removed by the diocesan bishop at any time. The parish administrator is bound by the same duties and possesses the same rights as a pastor unless the diocesan bishop establishes otherwise. Thus the primary distinction between the two offices is that the pastor has tenure, but the parish administrator does not. The diocesan bishop cannot limit the rights and duties conferred upon the office of pastor, but he can for a parish administrator.