FORT WORTH (TX)
CBS News [New York NY]
May 19, 2023
By Jason Allen
Arlington TX – A Catholic bishop took actions of “pure evil” according to a lawsuit filed against him by a small order of nuns in Arlington.
The suit says Bishop Michael Olson of the Fort Worth Diocese seized computers and a phone from the Discalced Carmelite Nuns, interrogated the sisters and claimed the monastery was shut down.
He has stopped priests from performing daily mass at the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity and barred as many as 50 to 60 parishioners from regular attendance. The dispute, which started April 24, has caused emotional trauma and psychological distress, according to an affidavit from Reverend Mother Teresa Agnes.
This week, the Diocese of Fort Worth posted a statement on its website, saying the Reverend Mother had “violated her vow of chastity with a priest from outside the Diocese of Fort Worth.”
A spokesman for the Diocese had no further comment when asked about the lawsuit. Attorneys for the Diocese filed a response to the lawsuit Thursday, saying the Mother had admitted to the violation. It asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed, arguing that in order to make any determination the civil court would have to entangle itself in issues of church doctrine and jurisdiction.
Fort Worth attorney Michael Bobo, who is representing the nuns, described it as “extraordinary” for them to feel the need to file the suit. While he believes church law is clear that the nuns answer directly to the Vatican, and not the local bishop, he said they are fighting to get their way of life back in the meantime.
“Let them have confession,” he said. “Let them do their daily contemplative prayer. They’re not hurting anybody. And then let the canonical process work itself out.”
The Carmelite Nuns were established on a wooded acreage in Arlington in 1958. They do not leave except for medical care, and spend their days in prayer and labor on the grounds.
The arrival of Olson at the monastery April 24, with just 30 minutes notice according to the suit, was highly unusual, Bobo said. The suit says the Bishop came with three other people, demanding the Mother Agnes turn over her computer, iPad and phone.
An affidavit from Mother Agnes says Olson demanded to return the next day and questioned four sisters for several hours. Currently in very poor health, and connected to a feeding tube, Mother Agnes says she had a surgical procedure that day, and was under anesthesia, and pain medication including fentanyl. However, she wrote Olson wanted to interrogate her after she returned from the hospital.
The nuns then sought legal counsel, the suit says, which Olson rejected, appointing his own choice for their representation.
With their phone seized, and needing to conduct regular business, the sisters purchased a new one the next day, only to receive a letter from Olson that he knew a phone had been purchased, and that someone had been using it for text messages.
The letter details a series of text messages between Olson and a Sister in the monastery, saying he would not allow Mother Agnes to even message the Sisters, because “Texting enables her son (sic) *sin.”
The computers and phone were returned to the nuns this week, Bobo said, under an agreement procured by the canonical attorney appointed by Olson, Michael Podhajsky.
That agreement, which Bobo said was made without consulting with the nuns, first allowed the Diocese to obtain mirror images of the data and content of the devices. The agreement says the forensic images will be used “for the purposes of this ecclesiastical investigation.”
Jason, a Southern California native, came to North Texas after working as a reporter for four years in Orlando. He received his bachelor’s degree in communication arts from Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, and then began his career as a producer/reporter at Primary Focus. Jason went on to work as a reporter/anchor at KTWO-TV in Casper, Wyoming, and later as a reporter at WBAY-TV in Green Bay, Wisconsin