Fort Worth

Fort Worth bishop says claims he or the diocese planted drugs at monastery are ‘false, baseless'

Diocese of Fort Worth says photos from a confidential informant inside an Arlington monastery may indicate drug use

NBC 5 News

Bishop Michael Olson says claims he or the Fort Worth Diocese planted drugs at an Arlington monastery amid an ongoing fight with the nuns who live there are "false and baseless." A lawyer representing the nuns says the anonymously-sourced photos are "without merit."

Olson released an eight-minute video on YouTube on Sunday, June 11, (embedded below) addressing the ongoing controversy between the diocese and The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Arlington.

The controversy began when the diocese said a nun at the monastery admitted to breaking her vow of chastity with a priest from another diocese. Since that time, the nuns have filed a lawsuit, claiming the Diocese of Fort Worth has abused its power and invaded their privacy by seizing and copying their electronic devices.

The bishop said Sunday he was told in April that Mother Teresa Agnes voluntarily admitted outside of confession that she had broken her vow of chastity and that the act was consensual. Olson said she repeatedly admitted to church officials she'd broken her vow and that he was present when she admitted it for a fifth time and that she freely identified to him the priest involved. Olson said the conversation with Teresa Agnes took place a day before she had a medical procedure and that she was clear and lucid and not under anesthesia and that claims to the contrary are false and untrue.

Following Mother Teresa Agens's admission, Olson said an investigation was launched which included an agreement to investigate the monastery's electronic devices.

"In fact, the electronics and phone were requested calmly and given freely by Mother Teresa Agnes for purposes of the internal inquiry into this matter that involved not only her but also as she alleges, a priest. Several days later canonical counsel for both the diocese and for Mother Theresa Agnes agreed on a framework to make a copy of the devices for the investigation. This was followed and the telephone and electronic devices were returned several weeks ago," Olson said.

Olson said claims that he or the diocese have further accessed Mother Teresa Agnes's phone accounts or are spying on the sisters and are privy to privileged communications between the sisters and their legal counsel are "baseless, ludicrous and not true."

The bishop also refuted claims that he or the diocese have covered up the alleged wrongdoing by the priest. He said the priest's superior and bishop have been notified of the allegation and that on the advice of the priest's own canonical counsel, he would neither confirm nor deny his involvement with the nun. Olson said the priest, whom he did not name publicly, is not currently assigned.

Olson then addressed photos released by the diocese on June 7 alleging drugs were present inside the Carmelite monastery. Olson said someone closely associated with the monastery came forward with information and evidence about illegal drug activity and the diocese shared that information with police.

"I want you to know that this evidence and information was immediately reported and turned over by the Diocese of Fort Worth to the Arlington Police Department which is responsible for investigating such matters in that jurisdiction," Olson said. "Claims that the Diocese of Fort Worth, or I as its bishop, planted these drugs are false and baseless."

Olson, lastly, reiterated that the matter with the nun is a pastoral and spiritual matter and called for the faithful to pray for a just, peaceful and merciful conclusion. He also asked for prayers for the nuns and novices in the monastery for their health and salvation.

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS LAUNCHED BY ARLINGTON POLICE

Last week the Arlington Police confirmed to NBC 5 they received a letter from a local law firm containing allegations of actions taken at the monastery and launched an investigation into the matter to determine if any crimes had occurred. Police said detectives were in the early stages of the investigation and didn't release anything further.

Matthew Bobo, the attorney representing the nuns, said of the investigation by police that, "no one -- not even a sitting Catholic bishop -- is above the law."

The diocese responded, telling NBC 5 that "attorney Bobo’s press release is 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."

"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 attached photographs were provided by a confidential informant within the monastery," the diocese said.

monastery photo
The Diocese of Fort Worth says a confidential informant inside the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas shared this photograph that alleges possible drug use inside the enclosure. (Diocese of Fort Worth)

Bobo responded on Thursday that the photos released by the diocese were a low-level public relations stunt that is attempting to deflect attention away from the criminal investigation.

"The absolutely ridiculous allegations by the diocese including anonymously-sourced photos that could have easily been staged and doctored by anyone, and from anywhere, are without merit," Bobo said.

LETTER TO THE CARMELITE AUXILIARY

On June 9, Bobo shared with NBC 5 a letter that appears to have been sent the day before from Olson to the president of the Carmelite auxiliary. In the letter, Olson said she was "complicit in their [the nuns'] rebellious disobedience" after she sent an email on May 15 to auxiliary members seeking donations to help cover the legal fees in the monastery's ongoing lawsuit against the diocese.

Olson said the letter undermined his pastoral office and enabled continued disobedience in the matter and asked that the request for donations be rescinded.

"I am respectfully asking you to rescind this invitation and to cease all efforts to raise funds for the pursuit of this lawsuit. I ask that you copy me on the email by which you rescind this invitation," Olson wrote. "Please know of my prayers for you and the Auxiliary and of my ongoing respect, love, and esteem for the sisters who suffer because of this situation brought about by their former prioress."

Olson did not address his letter to the auxiliary in his video message released on June 11.

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