Texas bishop dismisses nun accused of breaking vow of chastity with priest

A nun accused of breaking her vow of chastity with a priest from outside the Diocese of Fort Worth was removed Thursday from the Discalced Carmelite Order. The Rev. Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach has 30 days to appeal the decision, according to a dismissal decree from the diocese.
She supervised the cloistered nuns at Arlington’s Holy Trinity Monastery. The diocese declined to comment or give details about the priest. Gerlach’s attorney, Matthew Bobo, has said the allegations are not true.

Gerlach and another nun, Sister Francis Therese, filed a $1 million lawsuit in Tarrant County against Olson and the diocese. They accuse the bishop of abuse of power and overstepping his authority after initiating the investigation. In a statement Thursday night, Bobo called Olson’s action “absolutely unjust and unconscionable in light of moral, canonical and natural law.” He said Gerlach would appeal the decision and that the lawsuit would continue. “During this month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we ask all the lay faithful to pray for reparation for the pierced heart of our Lord for the Reverend Mother Teresa of Jesus Crucified,” he said. “Her sufferings as a true propitiatory victim will be lifted up by Our Crucified and Risen Lord!”

The nuns have lived on 72 wooded acres near South Bowen Road and West Sublett Road since 1958. The Sisters of Carmel are withdrawn from the world and spend much of the day in silent prayer. The order has been in existence since 1562. Gerlach has been a member of the monastery for 25 years. The diocese said it launched an investigation after receiving a report in April that Gerlach violated her vow of chastity with a priest. Olson suspended daily Masses, except on Sundays, during the investigation.

On Thursday, the diocese said daily Mass would resume beginning June 7. The bishop is also arranging regular confessions for the nuns. Because of the lawsuit, the diocese said the Masses would be closed to the lay faithful.

Olson arrived at the monastery on April 24 and “demanded” the reverend mother turn over her laptop, iPad and cell phone, and told Gerlach and Sister Francis Therese that they could not handle administrative duties at the monastery, according to the lawsuit. The bishop violated the reverend mother’s civil and canonical rights by telling her where she could sit and eat, according to the lawsuit. She was not allowed in her private bedroom, even though she needs constant medical care.
She has a feeding tube and uses her iPad to communicate. On Wednesday, the Vatican issued a decree granting Olson the authority to govern the monastery.

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