A Catholic bishop in Texas has threatened to excommunicate a group of nuns after banishing him from their convent over his allegations that their mother superior had sex with a priest.
Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson issued his threat in a fiery statement Saturday, accusing Arlington’s Discalced Carmelite nuns of “public, scandalous and schismatic actions.”
It came a day after the nuns posted a long public statement banning Olson and his officials from their convent, Most Holy Trinity Monastery, and accusing the bishop of spreading “slander” about their prioress, Mother Superior Theresa Agnes Gerlach.
“No one who mistreats us, as the current Bishop of Fort Worth has done, has no right to our cooperation or obedience,” the nuns said, explicitly stating that they no longer recognize the authority of Olson.
The extraordinary row dates back to April, when the nuns claim Olson broke into their priory, interrogated the nuns and seized the phones and other devices they use to run the convent.
Bishop Olson, seen entering court in June, threatened to excommunicate the nuns, after they barred him from their convent over his allegations that their prioress had sex with a priest.
Mother Superior Teresa Agnes Gerlach (second from right) and her Carmelite nuns sued the Bishop of Fort Worth for libel after he accused her of breaking her vow of chastity.
The nuns have since filed a million-dollar lawsuit against Olson, which was later dismissed, and the bishop has publicly accused the chronically ill Gerlach of abusing cannabis and “violating his vow of chastity” with a priest – which she strongly denies.
The priest involved was identified last month as Father Philip G. Johnson of the Diocese of Raleigh, a Navy veteran and brain cancer survivor who first contacted Gerlach to seek prayers from his nuns. .
The Carmelites announced on their website that they would be on religious retreat until August 27 and could not immediately be reached for comment.
In their statement last week, the nuns accused Olson of “interference, intimidation, assault, private and public humiliation and unprecedented spiritual manipulation” and appeared to be anticipating the threat of excommunication.
“We can definitely expect a lot of counter talk, maybe even punishment, but we are not breaking communion with anyone,” the nuns said.
“We simply declare that the abuses to which we have been subjected are so grossly unjust and intolerably destructive of the calling to which we are dedicated before Almighty God, that in conscience we cannot cooperate with such abuses”, add- they.
In his statement, Olson said Gerlach could have incurred lataessentiaeor automatic excommunication “by his own schismatic actions”.
“The other nuns, depending on their complicity with Mother Teresa Agnès, could have publicly engaged in scandalous and schismatic actions” lataessentiae excommunication,” he wrote.
“Arlington Carmel remains closed to the public until Arlington Carmel publicly disavows the outrageous and schismatic actions of Mother Teresa Agnes,” Olson added.
Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson issued his threat in a fiery statement on Saturday, accusing Arlington’s Discalced Carmelite nuns of “public, scandalous and schismatic actions.”
On June 1, Bishop Olson (above) banished Gerlach from his order, the Discalced Carmelites, a day after receiving special powers from the Vatican to continue his investigation.
Gerlach, 43, has serious chronic health conditions that require her to use a wheelchair, a feeding tube and receive round-the-clock care from another nun.
Bishop Olson’s claims centered on Gerlcah’s phone and email communications with Father Philip G. Johnson (above) of the Diocese of Raleigh, a Navy veteran and brain cancer survivor.
This bitter controversy has already caught the attention of senior Vatican officials.
In June, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, which oversees religious orders, appointed Olson a “pontifical commissioner” in the matter, granting him “full power of government” over nuns.
But Archbishop Carlo Vigano, a former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States and a longtime critic of Pope Francis, issued a statement last week he backed the nuns and furiously lambasted church officials who supported Olson.
“The repeated abuses of power by those who hold ecclesiastical authority over religious communities – especially communities of contemplative women – are part of a subversive plan carried out by corrupt and heretical prelates whose aim is to deprive the Church of the graces caused by such consecrated souls. descend on Her,” the statement read.
“I invite everyone to support the courageous resistance of the Carmelite nuns of Arlington through prayer and material help,” he added.
The developments follow months of savage controversy in the saga, in which Olson accused Gerlach of “sexting” with a priest, before banishing her from the Carmelite order, which she joined shortly after graduating from college. high school 25 years ago.
The controversy has bitterly divided the Catholic community in Fort Worth, and supporters of the Carmelite nuns have launched a campaign petition for the removal of Bishop Olson for abuse of power, collecting more than 500 signatures.
Gerlach, 43, suffers from serious chronic health conditions that sometimes require him to use a wheelchair. She also uses a feeding tube and receives round-the-clock care from another nun, her lawyer previously told DailyMail.com.
Olson released in court a recording of her April 24 interview with Gerlach at Most Holy Trinity Monastery (above), the convent she ran in Arlington
In an audio recording played in court, she appears to admit to falling in love with a priest through long-distance communications – but she strongly denies breaking her vow of chastity under Church law.
Priest Johnson was only identified this week, and Olson said he refused to cooperate with the Diocese of Fort Worth’s investigation into the sexting allegations.
On June 1, Olson banished Gerlach from his order, the Discalced Carmelites, a day after receiving special powers from the Vatican to continue his investigation.
Olson said at the time that he found the nun “guilty of violating the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue and her vow of chastity with a priest outside the Diocese of Fort Worth,” but did not name the priest.
In the Catholic Church, the sixth commandment is “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and prohibits sexual relations outside of marriage. Catholic priests and nuns are prohibited from marrying and taking celibate vows of chastity.
No direct evidence of sexting emerged in court, but instead the diocese presented testimonies and tapes documenting Gerlach’s confession that she fell in love with a priest through long-distance communications.
Priest Johnson is currently assigned to the Diocese of Raleigh in North Carolina, which confirmed in a statement to DailyMail.com that his priestly powers are being restricted while the matter is under investigation.