Matt C. Abbott
Bishop, nuns locked in bitter public feud
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By Matt C. Abbott
June 13, 2023

A bitter feud that began weeks ago between the bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth and a Carmelite monastery has reached a fever pitch. Lawyers, a lawsuit, and even law enforcement are now involved in the matter.

For background, see this article at The Pillar. CBS News has covered the story as well; as have other mainstream media outlets.

The latest: Bishop Michael Olson has released a video statement defending his actions and offering more apparent details for his decision to dismiss the Reverend Mother Teresa Agnes (Gerlach) of Jesus Crucified from the Order of Discalced Carmelites.

Matthew Bobo, attorney for the Carmelite Nuns of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas, released the following statement in response to Olson’s video statement:

    Bishop Olson recently renewed his egregious attack upon the Reverend Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach, and indeed all the cloistered nuns of the Discalced Carmelite Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas.

    The fact that this Shepherd and Pastor of the flock of 1 million Catholics in Fort Worth feels obligated to defame the Reverend Mother publicly yet again with alleged sins that she confessed to another priest—but not in the sacrament of Penance he alleges—is beyond pale!

    With unheard of audacity, Bishop Michael Olson – a man who has a doctorate in Moral Theology – made numerous unverified allegations of entirely unknown, uncertain, and unverifiable accusations of alleged sins committed by a nun. He did this after admitting in his own writing that the core of the matter concerned fell within the confidentiality due to the Seal of the Sacrament of Penance and spiritual counseling.

    The public revelation by a Catholic Diocesan Bishop of alleged sins against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue allegedly confessed sacramentally by a female religious is a most heinous and grave crime reserved to the Vatican for adjudication, specifically the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (cfr. Art. 4, §1, 5° of SST 2021).

    For the Very Reverend Jonathan C. Wallis, Vicar General of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Director of Seminarian Formation for the Diocese of Fort Worth, Chaplain and Director of the Newman Center at Texas Christian University, to have breached the trust and confidences of a female religious – and then have him be enabled in the commission of his unspeakable conduct by his own Diocesan Bishop Michael Olson of the Diocese of Fort Worth, not only demands answers, but most of all, justice.

    The true victims in this sordid affair are Reverend Teresa Agnes Gerlach and the nuns of the monastery.

    In addition to the Bishop’s public revelation about the potential violation of the confidentiality of the internal extra-sacramental forum and spiritual direction, Bishop Olson has still not answered the following essential and pertinent questions:

    • What is the specific allegation of the Mother Superior? A violation of the sixth commandment could mean many different specific things, but the Bishop has again publicly defamed Mother Superior without providing specific details. What is the alleged sin?

    • The allegation of the use of illegal drugs in the monastery is preposterous. Also, since the Vatican dicastery has since given Bishop Olson full authority over the monastery and the canonical case (which he did NOT have prior to their letter, which may indeed be null and void since it did not name the correct monastery nor have a correct date), wouldn’t the Arlington police be investigating him as the Superior?

    We are more than happy to cooperate with Arlington law enforcement if they deem the allegations to have merit.

    • Bishop Olson released his defamatory and salacious and violation of Mother Superior’s alleged confession to the entire world first by publishing it on the diocesan website. Bishop Olson, in fact, began the media attention.

    • The nuns want the information that he stole back from him. He obtained the information in a bullying and overbearing, but more importantly, illegal manner. Regardless of the fact that he returned their phones and laptops, he still has personal, private and confidential information to which he has no right.

    Finally, we too, as the Bishop stated in his video, request prayers from all Catholics and people of goodwill, for a peaceful, and especially—just—resolution to the illegal activities by the Bishop and his cohorts.

______________________

On a related note, in 2020, Christine Niles of Church Militant released a report about Olson titled “Unfit for Office.”

© Matt C. Abbott

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media, and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)

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