Hearing postponed after Fort Worth bishop’s attorney says evidence supports actions

Fort Worth Star-Telegram [Fort Worth, TX]

June 23, 2023

By Elizabeth Campbell

What we know about the The Fort Worth Catholic Diocese’s dispute with a Carmelite nun

Arlington police have begun investigating a dispute between the Fort Worth Catholic Diocese and a reverend mother who says she was wrongly accused of “sexual misconduct” with a priest.

The diocese, meanwhile, told the Star-Telegram it has alerted police of “serious concerns” of marijuana and edibles inside the Arlington monastery of Carmelite nuns. The Fort Worth bishop says the nun admitted to the “transgression” of breaking her chastity vow with a priest during interviews with the vicar general of the Fort Worth Catholic Diocese and another sister from her order over several days in April.

A hearing scheduled Friday in a lawsuit filed by Carmelite nuns against Bishop Michael Olson and the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth was postponed to 9 a.m. Tuesday.

An attorney who represents Olson said there is evidence to present showing that Olson’s actions in his investigation of the Reverend Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach were appropriate.

The hearing is scheduled for the 67th District Court, in the Tom Vandergriff Civil Courts Building, 100 N. Calhoun St.

Gerlach, 43, and Sister Francis Therese are suing Olson and the diocese for $1 million. The suit alleges defamation, invasion of privacy and theft of information from electronic devices.

Olson has dismissed Gerlach from the order because of her “grave misconduct.” He has said an investigation authorized by the Vatican determined that Gerlach broke her chastity vow with a priest and that she admitted she did so during multiple interviews. Gerlach oversaw cloistered nuns at the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington.

Meanwhile, a petition posted late Thursday from the Laity In Unity Foundation is calling for Olson’s removal.

The petition includes a letter to the Most Rev. Christophe Pierre, who is the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States. The letter requests an apostolic visit and an investigation into Olson’s actions at the monastery.

The diocese declined to comment on the petition and the letter to Pierre.

“Bishop Michael F Olson has operated against canon law on numerous occasions, has employed abusive language and conducted vindictive actions against priests, nuns and the lay faithful in our diocese,” the petition states.

In addition to his handling of the investigation at the monastery, the letter cites several Olson decisions that have not been popular with some in the diocese: the closing of San Mateo Catholic Church in Fort Worth, the removal and resignations of priests and the resignation of the executive director of Catholic Charities.