Arlington police probe ongoing dispute between nuns and Fort Worth diocese
Arlington police are investigating whether any criminal offenses have occurred in an ongoing feud between members of the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity and the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth.
A statement from the Arlington Police Department confirmed they had received a letter from a local law firm on May 31 making allegations about activity at the monastery.
The diocese, led by Bishop Michael Olson, alleged in a statement Wednesday the Arlington monastery contains marijuana paraphernalia. A spokesperson provided pictures of the supposed paraphernalia, which he wrote were taken by a "confidential informant" within the monastery.
"The photograph speaks for itself and raises serious questions that the Bishop is tirelessly working to address with law enforcement and in private in accordance with canonical norms and within his authority as Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth and as Pontifical Commissary," the diocese's statement reads.
Police say detectives are still in the early stages of their investigation.
It's the latest development in a weeks-long dispute between the religious entities. The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Fort Worth are suing Olson for allegedly visiting their grounds with only minutes notice on April 24, seizing Rev. Mother Teresa Gerlach's phone, computer and iPad and accessing personal information off of them.
The diocese released a statement saying it launched its own investigation that day into reports of Gerlach violating her vow of chastity with a priest from outside the diocese. The statement specifically cites it as a violation of the sixth commandment, which can mean committing adultery or violating sworn celibacy.
Olson and the diocese later announced that through their investigation, they found Gerlach guilty of violating her vow of chastity and dismissed her June 1, giving her 30 days to appeal the decision. The diocese also closed mass to the public due to the pending litigation.
"Bishop Olson is in the process of arranging regular Confessions for the nuns," the statement reads. "Please pray for the sisters of the Monastery and for Bishop Olson."
Gerlach is in "extremely poor physical health," according to an affidavit from May 3. The court document states she uses a wheelchair, a catheter, a feeding tube and an IV drip.
Matthew Bobo, the attorney representing Gerlach and the monastery, said she and her fellow nuns deny all allegations made by Olson and the diocese.
"It's pretty typical, it's his M.O., you know," Bobo said. "He just throws a picture out there and says, 'I've got this confidential informant,' but he doesn't ever provide any proof or backup as to where it came."
While the diocese writes that Olson is the Pope's representative in the issue, Bobo said Olson doesn't have the religious power to dismiss nuns from their duties because the monastery answers solely to the Vatican.
Bobo said the nuns have done interviews with law enforcement as part of the investigation. He also said the accusations made by Olson and the diocese have "emotionally traumatized" the nuns.
"That said, they're very strong, dedicated, spiritual women," Bobo said. "They have faith in God. They have faith in their prayer that these trials and tribulations will pass, and they are confident in their righteousness and what the ultimate outcome will be."
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