Bitter dispute between diocese and Carmelite nuns escalates amid allegations of drug use

Nun adds defamation claim

A bitter dispute between the Diocese of Fort Worth and a Carmelite monastery in Texas has reached new heights as charges and counter-charges of illegal activity, including drug use, have been made.

The latest salvo in this protracted legal and public relations battle came from the diocese itself on Wednesday.

The diocese released photographs purporting to show cannabis and marijuana products inside the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity.

Diocesan spokesman Pat Svacina stated in a press release that the diocese had “serious concerns” about the alleged use of marijuana and edibles at the monastery and had communicated with the Arlington Police Department.

However, the monastery’s attorney, Matthew Bobo, vehemently denied the allegations of drug use. Bob describes them as “absolutely ridiculous” and “without merit.”

The attorney stated that the accusations were part of a larger attempt to discredit the Carmelite nuns.

This dispute between the monastery and the diocese originated in April when Bishop Michael Olson (pictured in India) initiated a canonical investigation into an alleged sexual affair involving Reverend Mother Teresa Agnes of Jesus Crucified Gerlach, the monastery’s prioress, and an unnamed priest from outside the diocese.

While the diocese labelled the alleged misconduct as “grave,” the exact details of the affair have not been made public. On June 1, Bishop Olson issued a decree dismissing Gerlach from religious life.

In response, the monastery filed a civil lawsuit on May 3, seeking $1 million in damages. They challenged Olson’s authority to conduct the investigation, arguing that they were answerable only to the Vatican.

Moreover, during their investigation, the nuns accused the diocesan officials of abuse of power and criminal behaviour.

Criminal investigation launched

Just hours before the diocese released the controversial photos, the monastery’s attorney announced that the Arlington Police Department had initiated a criminal investigation into the actions of the diocese and Bishop Olson against the Carmelite Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity.

Tim Ciesco, a spokesman for the Arlington Police Department, confirmed that they had launched an investigation into Olson based on allegations raised in a letter received on May 31. Ciesco stated that detectives were still in the early stages of the investigation.

The diocese denies engaging in criminal activity during their investigation, labelling the accusations as an attempt to undermine the authority of Bishop Olson.

The diocese claimed that a confidential informant within the monastery supplied the controversial photos.

Diocesan spokesman Svacina asserted that the bishop is diligently working with law enforcement agencies to address the concerns raised by the photographs.

Amid this legal battle, Gerlach, who has been a nun at Holy Trinity Monastery for 25 years, is reportedly suffering from serious medical issues and is confined to a wheelchair.

The civil lawsuit filed by the monastery accuses Olson and the diocese of theft, defamation and abusing their power, resulting in moral violence and psychological distress for the nuns.

Both sides will present their arguments on June 23 at the civil hearing for this contentious case.

Meanwhile, Gerlach plans to appeal Bishop Olson’s decision to dismiss her from religious life.


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