Who is the bishop who wants the head of Catholic Charities Fort Worth to resign and why?

Fort Worth Star-Telegram [Fort Worth, TX]

April 20, 2022

By Brayden Garcia

Bishop Michael Olson of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth requested the resignation of the head of Catholic Charities Fort Worth earlier this month.

Olson, who’s served as bishop since 2014, called for the resignation of the chief executive officer, Christopher Plumlee, in a letter dated April 4. In the letter, Olson says he has a “sincere and deep lack of confidence” in Plumlee, stemming from an April 1 meeting about a women’s summit.

Plumlee told the Star-Telegram on Wednesday that stepping down would indicate that he’s done something wrong, which he hasn’t.

“I have no intention of resigning,” Plumlee said. “If I resigned, it would have intimated that I’ve done something that I should have resigned over. And I haven’t.”

This isn’t the first time the bishop has made headlines on personnel changes under his supervision. Here’s what we know about Bishop Michael Olson:


Olson, 55, was born in Park Ridge, Illinois, on June 29, 1966.

Raised in Des Plaines, Illinois, and attending St. Mary’s Parochial School, Olson graduated from Quigley Preparatory Seminary North in 1984, according to his biography. Olson would attend seminary school in the fall of 1984 and officially transfer to the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth in 1988 as a seminarian.

Olsen was ordained as a priest in 1994 and took over as the parochial vicar of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Bedford, Texas, that summer, staying until June 1997. From 1997 to 2001, Olson studied at the Center for Health Care Ethics in the Catholic Tradition at Saint Louis University.

He then lectured at the University of Saint Thomas School of Theology in Houston from 2001 to 2006. Next, Olsen served in the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth as the vicar general and pastor at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church from 2006 to 2008, according to his biography.

From 2008 to 2014, Olson served as the rector of Holy Trinity Seminary. Olson was then appointed by Pope Francis in November 2013 as bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth.

Olson was ordained by Pope Francis as the new bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth on Jan. 29, 2014.


Olson’s letter, which was provided anonymously to the Star-Telegram, requests that Plumlee step down from the role he started in September 2021.

Catholic Charities Fort Worth (CCFW) is the service arm of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, and focuses on poverty and related issues. The century-old organization operates three sub-organizations, which provide dental care, immigration services and transportation assistance.

Olson wrote that Plumlee said the bishop was not invited to attend or speak at the summit, and that Catholic social teaching could not be included in the summit’s agenda.

Olson’s letter indicates that the bishop believes Plumlee is contradicting Catholic social teaching, which is a broad set of doctrines centering on justice and human dignity. Olson also suggests in the letter that the issue was related to the roles of men and women in the church, which is a point of contention and has shifted in recent years. Last year, for instance, the pope announced that Vatican law would formally allow women to serve in an expanded set of roles, although women are still not permitted to serve as priests.

Olson wrote that he did not want Plumlee to apologize for his beliefs or the interaction. He wanted Plumlee to resign.

But Plumlee wrote in a return letter, also sent anonymously to the Star-Telegram, that the bishop’s understanding of their discussion was not correct.

Plumlee’s letter denied any conflict with Catholic teachings. Plumlee told the Star- Telegram that he has been working to expand the donor and volunteer base of Catholic Charities, including through the women’s summit that was planned for later this month. But when explaining this aim and the summit’s premise to Olson, Plumlee said, the conversation took a turn for the worse and was filled with misunderstandings.

“Things went completely sideways,” Plumlee said.

Plumlee closed his letter asking Olson to reconsider his request that Plumlee resign, writing that “yet another leadership change would prove deleterious” to Catholic Charities.


Since being appointed to the position in 2014, Olson has come under fire over personnel changes under his supervision.

In late 2018, a petition requesting an investigation by the Catholic Church into Olson received over 1,500 signatures. The petition claimed that Olson had operated against canon law on number occasions since stepping into the role and the departure of numerous priests.

Olson responded to the petition, saying he has been as transparent as possible in dealing with the departure of priests and other decisions affecting parishes under his supervision.

“People have a right to be critical,” Olson told the Star-Telegram in late 2018. “I don’t think people have a right to slander or be destructive or say untrue things.”

The Rev. Richard Kirkham filed a lawsuit against Olson in June 2019, exactly a year after the bishop asked Kirkham to resign because he had knowledge of a sexual affair between a priest and an employee of the Diocese of Dallas that he didn’t report.

The basis of the lawsuit included comments Olson made to parishioners as St. Martin de Porres and to the Star-Telegram in the days and weeks following Kirkham’s resignation. Kirkham and his attorney argued that the bishop implied that Kirkham’s removal was because he was dangerous to minors and the vulnerable.

In an August 2018 interview with the newspaper, Olson said his request for Kirkham to resign shows that he’s committed to maintaining a safe environment for minors, the vulnerable, members of the clergy and employees of the church. He later said that he was careful in how he worded his address so that people wouldn’t think the allegations had to do with a crime.

Olson acknowledged in the dismissal that he did not ask Kirkham to resign because of failure to report the sexual abuse of a child or that there were not any allegations of abuse against Kirkham.

Kirkham admitted in a Jan. 7, 2020, deposition that he recognized the relationship between the Dallas-area priest and a church employee as abuse against a vulnerable person and that he never planned to make an official report.

He left the diocese after writing that he was “reluctantly” resigning. He later retained an attorney and moved to rescind his resignation. Olson declined to reinstate the priest. Kirkham has appealed his resignation with the Vatican.

Kirkham dropped his lawsuit against Olson and the Diocese of Fort Worth in January 2020.


In the Roman Catholic Church, the bishop is the highest order of ordained ministry.

Bishops are in charge of pastoral cares for their diocese or particular church, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The pope of the Catholic Church appoints new bishops, who are sworn in when they receive confirmation from the pope.

Along with serving their particular dioceses, bishops act in council and guide other bishops within the Catholic Church.



Brayden Garcia is a service journalism reporter at the Star-Telegram. He gradated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2020, where he worked at the student newspaper, The Shorthorn. He previously worked at The Dallas Morning News covering education.