Texas Nuns Defy Vatican, Seek Restraining Order on Bishop

Nuns in Texas are seeking a restraining order against Bishop Michael Olson and other Catholic Church officials in a bid to stop a takeover of their monastery.

The lawsuit filed on Monday asks for a temporary restraining order to be issued against Olson, the Diocese of Fort Worth, and the Association of Christ the King in the United States of America, WFAA reported.

It came after a Vatican decree last week said Christ the King was being given full governance of the nuns and the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington.

The dispute stems from an investigation into allegations that the Rev. Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach had broken a vow of chastity through phone conversations with a priest at another monastery. Gerlach was dismissed last year after the Vatican sided with Olson’s investigation. She denied the accusation.

Stock photo of nun
A photo shows a nun holding rosary beads. Nuns at the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas, are seeking a restraining order against Bishop Michael Olson.


The Reverend Mother and another nun filed a separate civil suit last year, alleging invasion of privacy, theft, defamation, and that the bishop was attempting to take over an independent organization. This was dismissed by a district judge, who said the court did not have jurisdiction over the matter.

In a statement over the weekend, the monastery said it “has suffered continued attack and abuse” from Olson “in an ugly attempt to seize control of our governance, finances and life.”

It added: “We pray that the Bishop of Fort Worth will repent of his abuse, apologize for it publicly as well as to us in person, and make due reparation to the Monastery. Until he does so, neither he nor his delegates are welcome on our property.”

Newsweek has contacted the monastery and Bishop Michael Olson through the diocese for further comment via email.

In the application for the restraining order, Michael Bobo, an attorney for the nuns, alleges that Olson, the diocese and the association are attempting to unlawfully take over the monastery “under the guise of some religious backdoor,” according to WFAA.

The lawsuit argues that the monastery is an independent Texas nonprofit corporation managed by a board of directors.

“Defendants attempted ‘takeover’ of the Corporation is unlawful, because, in order for them to have any governing power, they would have to be a member of the Board of Directors, which they are not, nor have the members of the Corporation voted to make any of the Defendants a member of the Board,” the lawsuit states.

“The Defendants are trying to utilize a religious back door to usurp the laws of the State of Texas to take over the management and assets of the Corporation,” it says.

The lawsuit asks for an order that would stop Olson, the diocese or the association from being allowed on monastery property, as well as from acting on behalf of the monastery or having contact with the nuns except through legal counsel. The monastery is also seeking at least $100,000 in monetary relief.

In a statement on Saturday, the diocese said the refusal of the nuns to accept the Vatican order is “sad and troubling.”

“The Holy See has acted in a way to promote and foster unity in Christ for the healing of the Arlington Carmel and of each of the nuns who are members of the community—not simply the former prioress and her former councilors,” the statement said.

“This is an internal church matter that the former prioress continues to attempt to exploit in the civil court—in which it has no standing,” it said.