The physically disabled prioress of a Catholic convent in Texas is hitting back at a bishop’s allegation that she committed adultery with a priest, after she filed a $1 million lawsuit accusing the bishop of acting in an ‘unholy’ and ‘pure evil’ manner.
Speaking through her attorney, Reverend Mother Superior Teresa Agnes Gerlach vehemently rejected Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson’s bombshell claim that she admitted to ‘violating her vow of chastity with a priest’.
‘She’s never had sex with a priest,’ Gerlach’s attorney Michael Bobo told DailyMail.com in a phone interview this week. ‘I can absolutely, categorically deny that she’s ever had sex with a priest, and she’s never admitted to any such thing.’
Bobo suggested that there might be more to Olson’s recent threats to shut down Gerlach’s monastery than meet the eye, noting that the property in Arlington is owned by the Discalced Carmelite Nuns religious order rather than the diocese.
‘He could arguably have the monastery shut down, and then that piece of property, which is worth about $22 million, could become part of the diocese,’ the attorney said.
Diocese spokesman Pat Svacina denied Bobo’s claims in a statement to DailyMail.com, saying: ‘His accusations are false and unsupported.’
Reverend Mother Superior Teresa Agnes Gerlach denies Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson’s bombshell claim that she admitted to ‘violating her vow of chastity with a priest’
Olson lobbed the allegation in court filings and a statement claiming Gerlach ‘committed sins against the Sixth Commandment and violated her vow of chastity with a priest’
The saga first emerged in a lawsuit filed by Gerlach and her convent earlier this month in Tarrant Country Court, naming Bishop Olson and the Diocese of Fort Worth as defendants.
In the suit, Gerlach accused Olson of storming into the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity, which she oversees, interrogating her and the other sisters, and seizing the phones and computers they use to run the convent.
Gerlach, 45, has severe chronic health issues and is confined to a wheelchair, and has lived in religious seclusion at the all-female monastery for the past 25 years, her attorney said.
She was still under the influence of fentanyl from a surgical procedure when Olson entered the convent to grill her as part of his investigation, she said in a sworn affidavit. The lawsuit does not describe the nature of Olson’s purported investigation.
In response to the suit, the Diocese of Fort Worth issued a statement sharing allegations that Gerlach had ‘committed sins against the Sixth Commandment and violated her vow of chastity with a priest’ from outside the diocese.
The statement said that Olson was conducting a ‘ecclesiastical investigation into the report of the grave misconduct’ under church rules, also known as canon law.
In the Catholic Church, the Sixth Commandment is ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ and forbids sex outside of marriage. Catholic priests and nuns are forbidden to marry and take vows of celibate chastity.
In a court filing viewed by DailyMail.com, the diocese asked for the suit to be dismissed and alleged that Gerlach ‘has admitted to violating her vow of chastity, with a priest’.
Bobo slammed that assertion as false, saying that Gerlach has not made such an admission, and that she does not even know the specific allegation against her.
‘We don’t even know what the allegation is, and we’ve asked,’ said Bobo, adding that he had repeatedly asked the diocese: ‘Tell me what you think she did. What is the crime or the sin you think she committed? What led you to that belief?’
The diocese alleged that Gerlach admitted to breaching her vow of chastity, and asked for the court to dismiss the suit, arguing it lacked jurisdiction
Gerlach oversees the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity (above) in Arlington, Texas, which sits on roughly 72 acres owned by the Discalced Carmelite Nuns religious order
‘The bishop just decided to lob this bombshell out there, and for the life of us, we don’t even know what the specifics of the allegation are. But I can absolutely tell you, she’s never had sex with a priest,’ the attorney said.
‘They are the ones that put this allegation that she had sex with a priest out into the public forum, all of our filings prior to this never mentioned anything about that.’
Svacina, the diocese spokesman, did not respond when asked to comment on the specific nature of the sexual misconduct allegations against Gerlach.
Olson says he was investigating claims that Gerlach had ‘violated her vow of chastity with a priest’ from outside the diocese
In one of the only clues offered in court records, a letter from Olson to a sister at the monastery makes reference to a ‘canonical warning’ he issued to Gerlach apparently forbidding her from using cell phones.
‘Texting enables her sin,’ the April 28 letter states, quoting Olson’s own text message to a nun he had apparently tasked with monitoring Gerlach’s communications.
At the heart of Gerlach’s civil claim against Olson is the assertion that the local bishop has no authority over the Discalced Carmelite Nuns, which maintains the convent on a roughly 72-acre property.
‘We are not and have never been under the control of the Bishop of the local Diocese: we answer directly to the Pope,’ said Gerlach in the affidavit.
‘I was stunned when Bishop Olson for all intents and purposes forced himself onto our peaceful community,’ she added.
The lawsuit states that the Carmelite nuns ‘are a cloistered Order of women dedicated to a life of contemplative prayer’ who attend Mass each morning, and then gather seven times a day to chant the Liturgy of the Hours.
‘The rest of their day is focused on contemplative prayer, the silent loving person to person relationship with Jesus Christ, a living prayer for the benefit of others,’ the suit notes.
Mother Superior made the extraordinary allegations in a sworn affidavit earlier this month
According to the lawsuit, Olson first entered the convent on April 24, and brought an unidentified forensic technology specialist who confiscated Gerlach’s personal cellphone, iPad and laptop computer.
The suit notes that the devices were used to run the business of the monastery, and without them the nuns are unable to pay bills or operate financially.
Olson then spent two hours ‘interrogating’ Sister Francis Therese, who is Gerlach’s caregiver and has been at the convent for 46 years, according to the suit.
The suit alleges that Olson returned the following day, April 25, and grilled other Sisters for hours, and demanded to interrogate Gerlach as well when she returned from a surgical procedure.
‘Although I was in significant pain, under the influence of medications and feeling very weak I felt compelled to immediately acquiesce and was subjected to more interrogation,’ said Gerlach. ‘The Bishop knew I had just come back from the hospital and had a surgical procedure.’
The Mother Superior said that the nuns then retained legal counsel, and told the bishop that the others Sisters would only consent to questioning if they were informed of the purpose and scope of the interviews.
‘The Bishop threw a temper tantrum, and in an agitated and raised voice yelled that the Monastery was shut down, no Mass would be celebrated, he then slammed the door and left the Monastery, traumatizing the Sisters,’ Gerlach said in her affidavit.
The threat to withhold Mass is significant to the highly religious nuns, who typically celebrate the sacrament daily. In the Catholic church, only priests, who are under control of the bishop, can celebrate Mass or hear confessions.
Bobo said that for the past three weeks, priests had been dispatched to the monastery only on Sundays to celebrate a perfunctory Mass, but that they had not heard confessions.
Olson was ordained bishop and installed as the bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth in 2014
In response to the suit, the Diocese of Fort Worth issued a statement reporting allegations that Gerlach had ‘violated her vow of chastity with a priest’
Bobo told DailyMail.com that although Gerlach’s devices had been returned, the diocese retains a forensic copy of their hard drives, and demanded their return.
‘The stuff that was on that technology, has their private personal information, and has all the monastery’s financial information, but most importantly, it has their donor list,’ said Bobo.
‘And that is a list that the bishop has been trying to get his hands on since he became bishop,’ he added.
A May 11 letter included in court records shows that canon law advocates for both sides – who were both appointed by the bishop – stipulated that the diocese could retain the forensic images ‘only for the purposes of this ecclesiastical investigation,’ or any civil or canonical proceedings stemming from it.
In their response to the suit, the diocese argued that the court lacked jurisdiction, and asked for the case to be tossed out.
‘Ecclesiastical disputes such as this do not have a place in civil courts,’ attorneys for the diocese argued.
‘If there is a forum that should consider Plaintiffs’ complaints about Bishop Olson’s investigation, it is the Roman Catholic Church. It is, respectfully, not a civil court in Tarrant County, Texas,’ the filing added.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk