Traditionis Custodes: Arkansas Bishop Limits Traditional Latin Mass Across State to Two Parishes Administered by FSSP

Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock announced the effects of the Pope Francis' motu proprio in his diocese which spans all of Arkansas on Friday, ending the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in three parishes.

Bishop Anthony Taylor
Bishop Anthony Taylor (photo: CNA file photo)

The celebration of Traditional Latin Mass in the Diocese of Little Rock, which covers the entirety of the state of Arkansas, will now be limited to two parishes administered by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), the bishop said Friday. 

“The public celebration of the Latin Mass in Arkansas is to occur only in the two personal parishes entrusted to the FSSP,” Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock wrote July 16. 

Taylor’s decision comes in response to a new motu proprio from Pope Francis entitled Traditionis custodes, released Friday and effective immediately, which states that it is each bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in his diocese.

Taylor said the new restrictions “do not apply” to two of the diocese' personal parishes, which are administered by the FSSP; however, the Traditional Latin Mass will cease to be celebrated in “regular parish churches” in the diocese.

Since the document’s release, other bishops have said that they will either do nothing and leave the Latin Mass schedule as-is in their dioceses, or that they will make a decision about what to do in response to the apostolic letter after prayerful reflection and study. 

For Bishop Taylor’s part, he explained that the FSSP “accepts the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform of Vatican II,” and thus will be permitted to continue offering the Latin Mass in the diocese. The FSSP administers the personal parishes of St. John the Baptist in Cabot and Our Lady of Sorrows in Springdale.

However, the three other diocesan parishes where the Latin Mass was regularly celebrated— Holy Redeemer Church in El Dorado, St. Michael Church in Cherokee Village, and St. Peter the Fisherman Church in Mountain Home— will no longer be allowed to publicly celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, Taylor said. 

Previously, Latin Mass was available in four of the diocese’s eight deaneries; this move means it is now available in just two. St. John the Baptist and Our Lady of Sorrows, the two FSSP parishes, are a three-hour drive from each other, according to Google Maps. 

Other parishes will not be designated for the Latin Mass, Taylor said, noting that the new document cautions him “not to establish any additional personal parishes for the celebration of the Latin Mass going forward.” 

Taylor explained that non-FSSP priests would be permitted to celebrate the Latin Mass in private, and that per Traditionis custodes, they must request permission from the bishop to do so. 

In the letter, Taylor noted that the Novus Ordo Mass may be celebrated in any language, including Latin. Hymns and other music in Latin is always permissible, but “elements of the traditional Latin Mass are not to be grafted on to the ‘Novus Ordo’ Mass, regardless of whether it is celebrated in Latin or the vernacular.”

It is unclear if this “element” includes the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, which was traditionally recited after Low Masses as part of the Leonine Prayers, but is sometimes said after Novus Ordo Masses. Pope Francis has promoted the St. Michael prayer throughout his papacy. 

The new document sets out the responsibilities of bishops whose dioceses already have one or more groups that offer Mass in the extraordinary form, mandating that bishops determine that these groups do not deny the validity of Vatican II and the Magisterium.

Bishops are instructed to “designate one or more locations where the faithful adherents of these groups may gather for the eucharistic celebration (not however in the parochial churches and without the erection of new personal parishes).

It also imposes new requirements for newly ordained priests wishing to celebrate the Extraordinary Form, and instructs bishops to verify that already-established parishes that celebrate the Extraordinary Form “are effective for their spiritual growth and to determine whether or not to retain them.” 

It further instructs bishops to “take care not to authorize the establishment of new groups” that celebrate the Extraordinary Form.

Oscar Wergeland, “Service in a German Village Church,” ca. 1880

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