by Max Brantley
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor announced Jan. 6 that Royce Thomas, a former priest for the Diocese of Little Rock, has been dismissed from the priesthood after a "history of professional misconduct as a priest."
The bishop released the following statement Jan. 6:
"It is my sad duty to announce that on Dec. 29, 2012, I received from the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome their decree imposing on (former) Msgr. Royce R. Thomas the ecclesiastical penalty of involuntary dismissal from the clerical state. This decree dispenses him from all the obligations connected with sacred ordination, including sacred celibacy, and deprives him of all ecclesiastical honors previously received and offices previously held. This ecclesiastical penalty was imposed due to a history of professional misconduct as a priest, and the decree stipulates that there is no further recourse to this supreme and final decision. I met with (now) Mr. Thomas on Jan. 6, 2013 as directed by the Congregation for the Clergy to inform him of this decree. While he remains a Catholic in good standing, the congregation also required me to inform him of the restrictions imposed on him by Rome regarding any future public ministry as a layman in the Church. Please keep him in your prayers."
This is the ecclesiastical conclusion of a church issue that became public, and a matter of great controversy, when it was reported in 2010 that Thomas had been removed as pastor of Our Lady of Holy Souls Catholic Church. Bishop Taylor was criticized by many parishioners about removal of the popular pastor and fielded questions on Facebook about the matter.