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Police investigate Texas bishop’s actions in nun scrutiny as diocese alleges monastery marijuana use

Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, delivers remarks at St. Sophia Ukrainian Catholic Church in The Colony, Texas, March 6, 2022, during a prayer service for peace in Ukraine. (CNS photo/Juan Guajardo, North Texas Catholic)

Police in Arlington, Texas, are investigating the actions Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth has taken in his inquiry into sexual misconduct allegations against a Carmelite nun. The diocese responded by claiming it too contacted the police alleging “serious concerns” over marijuana use at the monastery.

The Arlington Police Department announced its criminal investigation June 7, attributing it to concerns raised in a May 31 letter to the police from a local law firm.

“In response, the department has launched an investigation to determine whether any criminal offenses have occurred, which is standard anytime a criminal complaint is made. Detectives are in the early stages of the investigation,” the police department said in a June 7 statement.

According to a June 7 statement from Matthew Bobo, the attorney representing Reverend Mother Teresa Agnes of Jesus Crucified Gerlach and her fellow Discalced Carmelite sisters at the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, the law enforcement investigation involves multiple agencies.

“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,” Bobo said. “No one — not even a sitting Catholic bishop — is above the law.”

His statement included several questions he believes should be considered, including, “What is the real motivation for Bishop Olson’s ongoing persecution of a nun who has grave medical issues and is bound to a wheelchair?”

“The Holy See needs to urgently show the Catholic faithful and the world that it takes abuse of power and oppression committed against women and vulnerable female religious seriously,” Bobo said.

A June 7 statement from the Diocese of Fort Worth called Bobo’s statement “yet another transparent attempt to spread baseless and outrageous accusations regarding Bishop Olson’s legitimate investigation of the Carmelite Monastery.”

“Attorney Bobo’s unilateral press releases are all designed to attempt to embarrass Bishop Olson and undermine his authority,” it said. “Bishop Olson and the Diocese have taken the approach that this is an internal matter and should not be played out in the press.”

The statement said “neither the Bishop nor anyone at the Diocese have been involved in any criminal activity regarding the Monastery.”

“To be clear, however, the Diocese initiated and is in communication with the Arlington Police Department regarding serious concerns it has regarding the use of marijuana and edibles at the monastery, along with other issues that the Diocese will address at another time and in a proper forum,” the statement said.

The diocese included with its emailed statement two photos “provided by a confidential informant within the monastery” that appear to show tables strewn with products containing cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol(THC). THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that provides its associated “high,” whereas CBD does not cause a “high,” with proponents claiming it has potential health benefits, such as pain management.

OSV News cannot confirm the authenticity of the photos, which lacked location information in their metadata.

“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 said.

Bobo’s spokesperson declined to comment on the THC use implication.

The recreational use of marijuana is illegal in Texas. However, under a Texas provision, some doctors are permitted to prescribe low doses of THC for specific medical conditions.

Bishop Olson launched an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct with a priest leveled against 43-year-old Mother Teresa Agnes, which she denies. As part of that investigation, the bishop and three others visited the monastery and seized the sisters’ electronic communications devices in late April. The nuns filed a civil lawsuit against the bishop May 3, alleging that he did not have the authority to take their property. On May 16, the bishop responded to the suit in a statement, making the misconduct allegation public.

On May 31, the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, a department of the Holy See, named Bishop Olson the monastery’s commissary, effectively giving him governance over the sisters.

On June 1, Bishop Olson announced he had completed the investigation, found Mother Teresa Agnes guilty of the charges, and dismissed her from the Order of Discalced Carmelites. She responded June 2 with a defamation claim against the bishop and is appealing her dismissal to the dicastery.