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Bishop of Little Rock

Responds to The Remnant

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor POSTED: 2/13/12
Bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas  

Bishop Anthony Taylor

Editor’s Note: We are pleased to give His Excellency Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, the opportunity to respond to our December 2011 article The Little Rock vs. the Big Rock As we noted in our personal communication with His Excellency earlier this month, there are admittedly two sides to every story, and the Bishop, being successor to the Apostles and prince of the Church, is certainly entitled to defend not only his side of the present controversy but also his own name and reputation as he sees fit. Guest columnist Ray Zürbeck, on the other hand, assures us that despite Bishop Taylor’s laudable efforts to put the matter to rest, there are still a number of unanswered questions that traditionalists in Arkansas would very much like to see addressed. Our intent in allowing this discussion to continue, therefore, is certainly not to unjustly criticize anyone, much less a Bishop of the Church, but rather to allow the two sides to hash this matter out a bit more and, hopefully, to facilitate greater understanding and thus increased availability of the traditional Latin Mass in Arkansas and beyond.  Many thanks to His Excellency for his comments and clarifications. MJM

Two weeks ago I received a copy of “The Little Rock vs. the Big Rock" by guest columnist Ray Zürbeck, published in the December 25, 2011 issue of The Remnant.  The man who sent it to me believed the interpretation given by Mr. Zürbeck to the events describes in that article and was very disturbed by the thought that what Mr. Zürbeck wrote might be true.  Mr. Zürbeck arrived at his interpretation of events in "The Little Rock vs. the Big Rock" without ever contacting me to discuss the matters about which he makes such inflammatory claims, so I have composed the following response which will show that the conspiracy he describes in does not in fact exist.

First, he recounts the experience of many Latin Mass people being "defriended" from my Facebook account and he interprets this to have some connection with the allegations received about this same time against Fr. Laurent Demets FSSP.  Indeed, he notes the coincidence that some "defriendings" occurred on the same day that the allegations were received—November 7, 2011.  The truth about the Facebook "defriendings" has to do with a problem I had with Facebook, not a problem with the Latin Mass community, as follows:  Facebook discovered that I had violated their policies regarding "friends," having about 8,500 "friends" most of whom I do not know personally, on two personal pages in order to evade their 5,000 friend limit—a Bishop Anthony Basil Taylor page and a Bishop Anthony B. Taylor page.  I had to change one of my personal pages to a "public person" page and restrict the remaining personal page to friends whom I know personally.  I was able to switch the first of these pages to the public person page with no difficulty but limiting the Bishop Anthony B. Taylor personal page to friends whom I know personally was a two-step process: sending a notice asking people to switch to my public person page and then "defriending" those people who I did not know personally after sending them that notice.  I began this task by sending "friends" on this second page who I do not know personally the following notice:


To all my Friends: Facebook requires me to change my personal page into a public figure page and so I need you to go to:!/pages/Bishop-Anthony-Basil-Taylor/191037844284052 and click the "like" button to continue to stay in contact with me. My homilies will no longer be posted here, instead they will be on my Facebook-mandated public figure page.

I sent this notice individually to about 1,500 people in late October and early to mid-November, 2011, at first to people who sent me messages during that time, and then one by one as I went down the list of "friends" on this second page in alphabetical order and about 500 of these made the switch.  Unfortunately, I only made it through the first part of the alphabet before Facebook froze my account again, saying that I was sending too many messages too quickly, many on the same day and so was abusing the system—leaving 2,895 not yet changed over "friends" in that account and I abandoned the effort.  It was tedious and time consuming to send this message to each person.  Since we are supposedly dealing with friends, Facebook alphabetizes by first names, not surnames.  Latin Mass people who sent me messages during late October and early to mid-November 2011, or who have first names in the first part of the alphabet apparently think I singled them out since they are not in communication with my other "friends" who also received this message asking them to switch over to my public person page.  I did not remove anyone from my list of friends without first sending them the message directing them to switch over to my public person page.  Also, I would like to invite anyone who is interested to join my “public person” page by going to Bishop Anthony Basil Taylor on Facebook.  I also wish to apologize for the offense given to people for not having explained more fully the reasons for having to ask them to switch to my “public person” page.

Second, Mr. Zürbeck calls into question my motives in two cases where allegations had been received regarding priests serving in Arkansas. Whenever I have to implement our safe environment and professional misconduct policies, there are inevitably those who—due to lack of information, some of which is confidential—cannot believe that the allegations are true or disagree with the ecclesiastical and civil procedures that I must follow in handling such cases.  Ever since the Dallas Charter was adopted by the USCCB, bishops are required to suspend from ministry any priest against whom a credible allegation is lodged, pending the outcome of the ecclesiastical and civil investigations, and to announce publicly the allegation received in order to invite other possible victims or others who may have information to come forward.   It is not true that these steps are taken for vindictive reasons.  Indeed, in the sad cases referred to in the article, both Fr. Brad Barber and Fr. Laurent Demets acknowledged their guilt.  Fr. Demets' offense was far less serious than that of Fr. Barber, which was so grave as to make it very unlikely that he could ever return to priestly ministry.

--Fr. Barber is a priest of the diocese of Corpus Christi, TX and the bishop of that diocese has the responsibility of determining Fr. Barber's future in the priesthood.


--In the case of Fr. Laurent Demets FSSP, the civil investigation of the state of Arkansas was limited by the degree to which the victim and witnesses were willing to cooperate, and therefore concluded that "because the allegations were not supported by a preponderance of the evidence, the allegation has been determined unsubstantiated" for purposes of civil law. The diocesan investigation reached the opposite conclusion because Fr. Demets admitted having slapped the child, so the allegation was "substantiated" for purposes of ecclesiastical law.

By the way, Fr. Demets seems still not to understand—or at a minimum, does not accept—the misconduct policies of the Church in the United States, about which he apparently still feels no remorse about violating.  His response to me on February 2, 2012 upon learning of the final disposition of his case was as follows:

This is very well interesting, but I respectfully remind you that all this story was about.... a slap, which would make all this story very funny if it would not be ridiculous.  What you call misconduct was a correction of a priest (a father) toward one of his young parishioners.  The person you call a victim was a rude adolescent who needed a correction and who happened to act better after.  As we say in French, a good slap is often better than a long speech.  That's it!  A little bit of common good sense would certainly not hurt anyone and would certainly be more charitable than this whole farce.  May the light of Our Lord that shines among all the Nations bring more clarity and charity in the Church on this day of the Purification.

Third: Out of these facts and other incidents involving routine clergy transfers and a young priest who needed professional help, Mr. Züreck weaves a conspiracy to "snuff out" Latin Masses in the Diocese of Little Rock.  This is probably why he fails to mention that through my initiative  we now have Mass in the Extraordinary Form in Northwest Arkansas.  I sent Fr. Greg Hart to receive training during the summer of 2010 and he has been offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form for over a year now in Tontitown, AR.  Moreover, when I was informed by the FSSP that Fr. Demets would not be returning to Arkansas even in the event of an expected positive outcome of the investigations, nor would they be replacing him with another FSSP priest in Cherokee Village and Mountain Home, I took the initiative to ask another priest of the Diocese of Little Rock to prepare himself to take on this apostolate.  He is presently in training under Fr. Charles Ryan FSSP and my hope is to be able to assign him in June to serve the Latin Mass apostolate in Cherokee Village and Mountain Home, AR.  His ministry there will be only on weekends because he has another assignment in Little Rock during the week.  And by the way, Mr. Zürbeck also fails to note that I myself celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation in Latin in the Extraordinary Form at St. Patrick parish in North Little Rock last year.

In any event, my purpose here is not to defend myself point by point against the allegations of Mr. Zürbeck, but simply to indicate that there is no conspiracy in Arkansas against the Latin Mass and that there are in fact honorable reasons why I was forced to take each of the steps to which he ascribes such unworthy motives. I am responsible for protecting the flock entrusted to my care and for implementing the safe environment policies of the Church.


I do ask the readers of The Remnant to pray for me as I deal with difficult situations that arise in the life of the Church and to pray for all who are suffering the consequences of the failures of some of our priests.  The man who wrote me about the article "The Little Rock vs. the Big Rock" concluded his letter as follows: "All of us who profess the Catholic faith have received direct orders from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with his words, 'I give you a new commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.' (John 13:34).  He made absolutely no exception to this whatsoever for any bishop."  I agree with this wholeheartedly, and I might add, he also made no exception for guest columnists who publish articles in The Remnant.

Sincerely in Christ Jesus,


+Anthony B. Taylor

Bishop of Little Rock

February 2, 2012

Ray Zürbeck Responds to Bishop Taylor

“Secrets are dangerous and the truth usually gets out anyway, and if we haven't been sufficiently transparent, people will begin to smell a cover-up.” 


...Bishop Anthony Taylor, 15 August 2009,

“Christ’s forgiveness is available to all those who sin”

I read Bishop Taylor’s response to my article with some mixed emotions.  While it was refreshing to be assured by a prelate that “there is no conspiracy in Arkansas against the Latin Mass,” I began to smell a cover-up about halfway through.  By the end of his response it was clear that he’s digging himself deeper into the hole.   

Beginning with a long description of his Facebook page: I’m sure he’s correct, and I admit to being old, cranky, and not very savvy when it comes to technology. But whatever occurred with his Facebook account, some basic facts require further attention:

-       One of the first things Bishop Taylor did when he arrived in Arkansas was to discontinue a newly-founded Latin Mass community in Berryville.  This was post Summorum Pontificum.

-       After leaving the people of Northwest Arkansas without a Latin Mass, Bishop Taylor publicly replied negatively to requests from the faithful that it be restored.  Since his Facebook page is a “public page” we can consider his letter to the petitioners to be a public refusal. 

-       Shortly after that, a young priest who began offering the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at odd hours during the week was admonished several times and then finally sent to St. Luke Institute.  Since his return he no longer offers Mass in the Extraordinary Form. 

These are facts that cannot be ignored.  There are too many people involved for the Bishop to deny it, and he doesn’t even attempt to in his response. His response seems misleading on several other points:

-       Bishop Taylor states in his response: “Ever since the Dallas Charter was adopted by the USCCB, bishops are required to suspend from ministry any priest against whom a credible allegation is lodged, pending the outcome of the ecclesiastical and civil investigations, and to announce publicly the allegation received in order to invite other possible victims or others who may have information to come forward.”  This is not true.  To quote from the January issue of the Una Voce Arkansas Ozarks newsletter, “Nowhere in the Dallas Charter or in subsequent documents from the USCCB are bishops required to send out press releases to all surrounding media outlets the minute they receive a complaint about a priest and before it can even be investigated by a proper authority.” 


-        In his response, Bishop Taylor states the following: “Indeed, in the sad cases referred to in the article, both Fr. Brad Barber and Fr. Laurent Demets acknowledged their guilt.”   On the contrary, Father Brad Barber has never acknowledged guilt.  I will say nothing further on this case, which is still open, other than that the Bishop acted without taking into consideration the possibility of innocence.  And Father Barber continues to insist on his innocence.


-       Bishop Taylor claims to have taken the initiative to ask a priest, Father Greg Hart, to begin offering the Mass in Northwest Arkansas.  Then he takes me to task for not having mentioned this in my article.  Well, I did not mention this in my article because it was not relevant.  This was not Bishop Taylor’s initiative;  it was the initiative of the people who are now attending the Mass in Tontitown.  And it was not something Bishop Taylor instituted willingly; it was under obedience, after numerous lay people took the initiative and wrote to Rome.  Bishop Taylor is to be commended for his obedience, and applauded for not going into schism over this, but to claim to have taken the initiative is laughable, to say the least. Are we expected to believe that he publicly refused these petitioners, and then suddenly, on his own initiative, sent Father Hart to study the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and then set up a permanent Latin Mass presence in Tontitown? 

-        Bishop Taylor also claims to have taken the initiative for finding a priest to send to the former FSSP apostolates in Mountain Home and Cherokee Village.  He seems to chide me for not mentioning this in the article.  First of all, I knew nothing about this “initiative” at the time I wrote this article.  Second, this is not an “initiative,” this is simply a bishop fulfilling his responsibilities.  Summorum Pontificum states that wherever a stable group of people desiring to worship in the Extraordinary Form exists, the bishop is “strongly requested to satisfy their wishes.”  Obviously there are such stable groups in both Cherokee Village and Mountain Home.  The question is: Why is Bishop Taylor taking over six months to do something about it? 


-        Bishop Taylor claims that a priest is training to prepare himself for this apostolate (Cherokee Village and Mountain Home).  In fact there’s no need for training.  There are already several capable priests in the diocese, such as the young priest who used to offer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass prior to being sent to the Saint Luke Institute. 

On each of these points His Excellency’s response is less than accurate.  It seems that Bishop Taylor would like a public image, at least among Remnant subscribers, in which he is carefully guarding his flock, teaching and instructing the Catholic Faith, and beyond critique.  He is claiming to take “initiatives” that are really nothing more than the bare minimum that was required by Ecclesia Dei, prior to Summorum Pontificum.  But up until now, his actions seem to indicate that he really never quite accepted Summorum Pontificum: for example, it appears that he has been forbidding diocesan priests to offer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass unless he himself specifically “authorizes” it.  Is this true, Your Excellency?

Bishop Taylor states in his response:  “…. there are in fact honorable reasons why I was forced to take each of the steps to which he ascribes such unworthy motives.”  Why are traditional Catholics in Arkansas seeing a hidden motive, then?  Well, the answer is simple:  People find it odd that within the Diocese of Little Rock it seems that something weird happens to any diocesan priest who, on his own initiative, begins offering a Latin Mass.

Has Bishop Taylor finally accepted Summorum Pontificum?  We shall soon see.  Currently he is being petitioned from several locations within the state of Arkansas in which there is no Latin Mass.  How will he respond?   We are watching to see what “initiatives” he will take.  Summorum Pontificum states clearly: 


Art. 2. In Masses celebrated without the people, each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962, or the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and may do so on any day with the exception of the Easter Triduum. For such celebrations, with either one Missal or the other, the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his Ordinary.

Art. 4. Celebrations of Mass as mentioned above in art. 2 may - observing all the norms of law - also be attended by faithful who, of their own free will, ask to be admitted.

This means that any priest in the Diocese of Little Rock can begin offering the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and Bishop Taylor can do nothing to prevent it.  Some pastor could even replace an existing English or Spanish Mass with a Latin Mass if he sees the need to do so.  We’re all watching now—so Bishop Taylor cannot transfer him, send him to St. Luke’s, or jump to conclusions about accusations that have been made against the priest. 

If Bishop Taylor can’t find a priest to satisfy the requests coming from one of these groups of petitioners, how will he handle it?  We find the answer in Summorum Pontificum:

Art. 8. A bishop who, desirous of satisfying such requests, but who for various reasons is unable to do so, may refer the problem to the Commission "Ecclesia Dei" to obtain counsel and assistance.

Bishop Taylor is expected to embrace Summorum Pontificum.  Nothing else matters if he won’t fall in line on something so basic and so fundamental as complying with the Pope’s expressed will.  Does he understand the consequences of not doing so?  Most likely, like others his age, he’s recovering from a seminary formation in which he became convinced that the Latin Mass is something evil.  We pray this isn’t the case.  There’s important work to be done, and our bishop has many commendable qualities.  Readers of The Remnant share Bishop Taylor’s concern over government intrusion into prohibited areas, for example, and we’re grateful for his laudatory statement in his January 25 letter addressing the failure of the Department of Health and Human Services to respect religious rights: “we cannot-we will not-comply with this unjust law…”

Amen, Your Excellency! This sounds like the call to civil disobedience that we expect to hear from our bishops under such circumstances.  We share Bishop Taylor’s concern for the poor and the immigrants, and we yearn to see in our lifetime a Catholic America under the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  We hope that if not us or our children, then our grandchildren will see this.  We pray that Bishop Taylor will begin to see the traditional Catholics in his flock as his most loyal followers, and give them the spiritual nourishment they’re requesting from him.

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