CV NEWS FEED // Two new pieces of evidence in the ongoing feud between a bishop and a Carmelite monastery surfaced on the social media site X on Tuesday, claiming to prove the innocence of a superior accused of sexual wrongdoing and accusing the bishop of conducting an investigation in an abusive and corrupt manner.
Earlier this year, Mother Teresa Gerlach, superior of the Most Holy Trinity Monastery in Arlington, Texas, was accused by Bishop Michael Olson of the Diocese of Fort Worth of violating her vow of chastity and the sixth commandment. The accusations have set off a bitter feud between the monastery and the diocese.
Former apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, wrote a scathing declaration on behalf of the monastery. In it, Archbishop Vigano says that he received a copy of a letter sent by Gerlach’s doctor to the current apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christoper Pierre.
Vigano says that the letter proves that Gerlach was physically unfit to perform the alleged sexual activity and that she was under the influence of prescribed medication when Bishop Olson made his April 24 visit to the convent. Vigano accuses the bishop of violating the Code of Canon Law and coercing a confession from Gerlach, among other things.
“We have witnessed a crescendo of aggression, verbal violence, abuse of power, institutional cover-up, intimidation, and outrages carried out against a religious community that is firmly determined to return to Tradition. The targeted victim of this vile operation is the Mother Prioress, Teresa Agnes of Jesus Crucified, who has been publicly defamed in defiance of every legal and moral principle, contrary to justice, truth, and charity,” said Vigano.
Vigano has not responded to CatholicVote’s request for comment.
Vigano said that the letter, from Dr. Robert E. McMichael, a doctor of neurology at Methodist Health System in Mansfield, Texas, showed that Olson was on a personal vindictive quest against the monastery.
“The list of tests, interventions, treatments, drugs, secondary effects, and relapses demonstrates how it was impossible for her to physically commit the crimes of which she is accused and how her “confessions” under the influence of drugs are not to be considered reliable. The text of the letter, as you can read, leaves no room for any misunderstandings,” said Vigano.
Catholic author, Deacon Nick Donnelly who has been a strong supporter of the convent, posted a summary of the April 24 visit to his X page on behalf of the convent. The post claims that during the April 24 visit, Mother Gerlach and another nun were extremely distressed during the ordeal and alleged that they were subject to continued harassment by Olson.
“The man (Olson) did his hit job on Rev. Mother in record time,” said the statement. “He got her so-called ‘admission of guilt’ in record time without showing the least pastoral concern or mercy. It is absolutely deplorable.”
Vigano detailed how Bishop Olson violated trust and abused his power when he had Mother Gerlach confined to the infirmary without access to a cell phone, and did not allow her to have communication with the sisters or outside clergy.
“I would like to point out that this is a classic case of canonical persecution: the fumus persecutionis emerges in its evidence in a series of unprecedented crimes perpetrated by Bishop Olson against Mother Teresa Agnes and the Carmel of Arlington,” said Vigano.
The Diocese of Fort Worth did not respond to CatholicVote’s request for comment.
The letter comes three days after the convent released a statement on its website saying that it no longer recognizes Olson’s ecclesial authority over the convent.
“The Prioress, Mother Teresa Agnes, and the Chapter of the Carmel of the Most Holy Trinity of Arlington reiterate that they do not recognize the authority of Bishop Olson over their monastery, and they refuse to accept any interference by him as Pontifical Commissary, an office conferred on him with contempt for canonical norms and procedures,” read the statement.
This statement, and a prior August 19 statement that the convent issued saying they do not recognize Olson’s apostolic authority, are considered by canon law to be actions that place the sisters in schism. The Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, issued a statement saying that Mother Gerlach may have incurred latae sententiae excommunication.
Vigano’s statement called into question Olson’s appointment as pontifical commissary, saying that the appointment was made in “bad faith”.
“Further consider how the choice made by the Dicastery for Religious to appoint Olson as Commissary was completely aberrant, because Olson was personally and directly involved in the dispute from the very beginning. This appointment reveals the bad faith of the Prefect, Cardinal Braz de Aviz, and the Secretary, Archbishop Carballo,” said Vigano.
The Diocese has not officially declared that Gerlach or the sisters are excommunicated. Diocese spokespersons have said that they will consult the Vatican for further instructions.
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