A Catholic convent in Texas has filed a lawsuit accusing a bishop of storming the convent in violation of church law to accuse the physically disabled Mother Superior of having sex with a priest.
Reverend Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach, prioress of the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, filed the lawsuit against Bishop Michael Olson in Tarrant County Court.
The indictment alleges Olson stormed into the Carmelite convent in April, where the nuns spent most of their day in devotion and silent prayer, confiscating their cell phones and “interrogating” Gerlach about her alleged sexual affair with a priest.
Gerlach, who has serious health problems and uses a wheelchair, said Olsen even confronted her about it right after a surgical procedure that required general anesthesia while she was still under the influence of fentanyl.
“The level of emotional trauma and psychological distress this entire episode has caused me personally and the sisters is beyond comprehension,” Gerlach said in an affidavit. “We’ve never seen so much moral violence and adversity.”
Rev. Mother Superior Teresa Agnes Gerlach, Prioress of the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas, has filed a lawsuit against the local bishop
Bishop Michael Olson (left) of Fort Worth says he is investigating claims Gerlach ‘breached her vow of chastity with a priest’ from outside the diocese
While Gerlach’s medical issues are not specified in the lawsuit, KTVT reporter Jason Allen notes that the nun requires a central catheter, feeding tube, and IV for 10 to 10 hours a day, and that another sister acts as a full-time caregiver.
In response to the lawsuit, the Diocese of Fort Worth issued a statement citing allegations that Gerlach “breached her vow of chastity with a priest” from outside the diocese.
The statement said Olson was conducting a “church investigation into the report of the serious misconduct.”
In court documents, the diocese claimed Gerlach admitted to the sexual relationship and requested that the lawsuit be dropped.
For their part, the nuns cite canon law, saying the local bishop has no authority over the Order of the Carmelites, which maintains the monastery on a remote 72-hectare site.
“We are not and have never been under the control of the bishop of the local diocese: we are directly responsible to the pope,” Gerlach said in the affidavit.
“I was stunned when Bishop Olson intruded on our peaceful community for all intents and purposes,” she added.
According to the lawsuit, Olson first entered the monastery on April 24, bringing with him an unidentified forensic technology specialist who confiscated Gerlach’s personal cell phone, iPad, and laptop.
The suit notes that the devices were used to run the convent’s business, and without them the nuns are unable to pay bills or operate financially.
Mother Superior made the extraordinary allegations in an affidavit earlier this month
The lawsuit alleges that in April Olson stormed into the Carmelite convent in Arlington, seen above, where the nuns spend most of their day in devotion and silent prayer
Olsen reportedly confiscated the nun’s mobile phones, which they use to run the convent’s affairs, and “questioned” Gerlach about her alleged sexual affair with a priest
Olsen then spent two hours “interrogating” Sister Francis Therese, Gerlach’s caretaker and, according to the indictment, had been at the convent for 46 years.
The indictment alleges that Olson returned the next day, April 25, and stringed other sisters on for hours, demanding that Gerlach also be questioned when she returned from surgery.
“Although I was in a lot of pain, I was under the influence of drugs and I felt very weak, I felt compelled to immediately agree and was subjected to more questioning,” Gerlach said. “The bishop knew I had just come back from the hospital and had surgery.”
The Mother Superior says the nuns withdrew legal advice at the time and that the bishop “wrote a tantrum” when they told him the other sisters would only agree to be questioned if they were aware of the purpose and scope of the interviews.
In an “agitated and raised voice,” Olsen yelled that the convent was closed and said no mass would be said, then “slammed the door and left,” the lawsuit alleges.
“They are emotionally traumatized. They are afraid. They’re scared,” said lawyer Matthew Bobo, who represents the nuns KXAS TV.
In response to the lawsuit, the Diocese of Fort Worth issued a statement alleging that Gerlach “breached her vow of chastity with a priest”
The nuns cite canon law, saying the local bishop has no authority over the Order of the Carmelites, which maintains the monastery (above) on a remote 72-acre site
“They don’t leave the monastery unless they seek medical care. They pray seven times a day. Most of the time it’s in silence… It’s a very private, secluded, serene environment with very little interaction with the outside world,” the lawyer said.
“Even when parishioners attend mass, the nuns are separated from the parishioners,” Bobo noted. And for the very first time ever to have a bishop come in and issue mandates and command them to do things and threaten to ban their convent, threaten to kick them out of order, it’s extremely traumatizing and emotionally damaging to them.’
In a statement, the diocese said that despite Olsen’s alleged threats, priests continued to say Mass for the sisters at the Most Holy Trinity Convent on Sunday.
“Please pray for the sisters in the convent,” the statement added.