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Fort Worth bishop releases video speaking out on bitter dispute with Arlington nuns


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    ARLINGTON, Texas (KTVT) — A Catholic bishop defended his investigation into nuns in an Arlington monastery Sunday, calling it a delicate church matter.

In an eight-minute video the Fort Worth Diocese posted on YouTube, Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson went into more detail about what he said were multiple admissions by the mother superior of breaking her vow of chastity.

He also revealed more details about the priest in the alleged incident, saying he had informed the priest’s superiors, but that he was unaware of any further investigation into the man.

Before the video, the bishop had only provided written statements and letters about his investigation into Reverend Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach at the monastery, which sparked a lawsuit against him.

Matthew Bobo, the Fort Worth attorney representing Gerlach and the Discalced Carmelite Nuns, referred to the video as the latest defamatory comments about his clients. In a statement, he said it was another instance of Olson going public with accusations without providing evidence of what she had done to warrant dismissal from the monastery.

Gerlach, who requires a feeding tube and full-time care, sued Olson and the diocese last month, describing his actions as “pure evil” when he cut off mass and confession for the nuns and interrogated them over allegations about her alleged sin.

In the video, Olson said Gerlach first admitted to a vicar, another priest and fellow nun Sister Francis Theres that she had violated her vow, making admissions on four different days.

He said the admissions were outside of confession, and that she admitted it a fifth time to him and freely gave him the name of the priest involved.

“She was clear and lucid and had normal use of her physical and mental faculties at that time,” Olson said. “Claims to the contrary are false and baseless and untrue.”

The lawsuit described the encounter differently, saying Olson forced himself into the community with hours of interrogations, throwing a tantrum when informed the sisters would only answer more questions when told what the purpose of questioning was.

Olson does not mention in the video any church attorneys being present or available to Gerlach at the time. He also does not explain why he first made the alleged broken vow public in a statement on the diocese website.

The diocese has never named the priest allegedly involved, but Olson denied covering up any wrongdoing by the man.

He said he contacted the priest’s immediate superior and bishop, and asked that he be available for the investigation.

Olson continued to say he was told that under the advice of counsel, the priest would not participate, and would not confirm or deny anything happened. He also said the priest is not currently assigned anywhere.

The bishop denied that his investigation is because he or the diocese desire the wooded acreage the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity is located on in South Arlington, or their list of financial donors.

He also addressed returning the computers and phone he took from the monastery, but did not say anything about copying and keeping the data from the devices under an agreement he worked out with a church attorney he assigned to the nuns. He did not discuss his rejection of their own choices for representation.

Olson did speak, though, about pictures the diocese sent to media Wednesday of tables covered in what appears to be drug paraphernalia that he alleged are at the monastery. He said individuals “closely associated with the monastery” came to him with the evidence, and that it was immediately turned over and reported to Arlington police.

Police made no mention of drugs when investigators visited the nuns last week, Bobo said. Police said they visited the monastery at the request of a third-party who thought the bishop’s actions were worth looking into.

On Sunday, Bobo also began accepting donations directly for the nuns. The action came after Olson sent out a letter Friday, telling supporters of the nuns they were complicit in their disobedience if they donated to cover costs of their legal fight.

In addition to the civil lawsuit in Tarrant County, the nuns have expenses associated with canonical attorneys working on their behalf for the church investigation.

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