Bishop Michael Olson, Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, now under criminal investigation

A criminal investigation has been launched into the actions taken by Bishop Michael Olson against two nuns in Fort Worth in April. 

According to a release, the investigation is looking into the actions taken by Olson and those in the Fort Worth diocese under his control relating to the Discalced Carmelite Mother Superior and Nuns at the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington. 

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The Mother Superior and a sister from Carmelite nuns claim Olson abused his power and inflicted moral violence and psychological distress on the Mother Superior and the rest of the nuns in multiple visits to their monastery in late April in violation of both civil and Catholic canon law.

According to the release, Bishop Olson, together with Rev. Msgr. E. James Hart and the diocesan Chancellor Sandra Schrader-Farry, with a mere 30 minutes notice, informed the sisters that they were coming to visit the monastery on April 24. They showed up also with another unnamed forensic expert and demanded entrance into the monastery, over which the Bishop has no civil or canonical authority. 

Shortly after entering, Bishop Olson immediately demanded that Mother Superior Teresa Agnes Gerlach turn over her computer, iPad, and cellular phone to him without explanation.

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The release stated, there is nothing under Texas state law that gives a Bishop the authority to replace the authority of corporate directors and officers of a Texas non-profit corporation. 

Then over the next few days, the Bishop repeatedly demanded access to the monastery and reportedly told the Mother Superior the locations within the monastery of where she could eat, sit, talk to, whether she can use technology and whether and when she could leave the monastery, as well as other grievous and callous abuses of authority. 

Bishop Olson also threatened a nun of 25 years with dismissal from the order for a telephone call.

Officials said Pope Francis issued a Feb. 11, 2022, decree that prevented any authority by diocesan bishops to remove a nun from her monastery.

The Carmelite monastery belongs to the Order of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, a contemplative order first approved by the Catholic Church in 1562, with presence in Tarrant County since 1958. The Carmelite monastery is a contemplative order of pontifical right, with direct governance and oversight by the Pope. The monastery and plaintiffs are not under the governance nor control of Bishop Olson nor his predecessors.

"As regards their juridical condition, our monasteries, preserving spiritual unity with the entire order [Carmelite religious] have no other major superior above the Prioress, except for the Holy See," according to the rules and constitutions of the Carmelite order, the release stated. 

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Then without proper prior notice, Bishop Olson, Father Hart and Sandra Schrader-Farry interrogated other sisters of the order for several hours, and then demanded they be allowed to interrogate the other sisters the following day.

Following advice from legal counsel, the Carmelites then advised the Bishop and his representatives that they would allow further questioning only after being informed of the purpose, object, and scope of their interrogation.

That's when, according to the release, Bishop Olson reportedly "threw a juvenile and unseemly temper tantrum in an agitated voice" and advised that the monastery would be shut down and that he would allow no Mass for the sisters or laymen and then "slammed the door and left the monastery."

The Mother Superior and sister from Carmelite nuns are seeking $1 million in damages.


Numerous Texas law enforcement agencies are now involved in the investigation, including the Tarrant County Sheriff's Office. 

"We are thankful that these law enforcement agencies have decided to undertake this criminal investigation and are confident that the nuns will receive justice under the law of the State of Texas that they deserve," said Matthew Bobo, attorney representing the Carmelite nuns.

There is also a petition online calling for Bishop Olson to be removed.