Judge tosses nun's lawsuit against Fort Worth diocese; Arlington Police close investigation

District court judge sides with diocese and agrees civil court doesn't have jurisdiction over church dispute

NBC 5 News

Both the court battle and a criminal case involving a group of Arlington nuns and the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth is over.

Arlington Police told NBC 5 Friday afternoon that they did not find probable cause to pursue a criminal case after drug use was reported to be taking place inside the secluded monastery and after the nuns accused the diocese of stealing personal property.

Also on Friday, after hearing testimony earlier this week, District Court Judge Don Cosby ruled the civil court didn't have the jurisdiction to rule over a canonical dispute.

The diocese argued earlier this week that the lawsuit filed against them and Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson by the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Arlington, including the Rev. Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach, was a church matter and not for secular courts.

In their lawsuit, the nuns were seeking $1 million in damages after alleging the bishop and diocese overstepped their authority, defamed them, invaded their privacy and took Gerlach's phone and a laptop.

The diocese, meanwhile, said that was part of an investigation into Gerlach after it had been reported she violated her vow of chastity.

Matthew Bobo, who represents the nuns, said in a written statement Friday to our partners at The Dallas Morning News that “we are shocked, extremely disappointed and respectfully disagree” with the decision, and that he plans to appeal.

Leaving court Tuesday, Olson addressed the dispute with the nuns.

"I think it's a very sad matter," Olson said. "I don't think it should have ever gone to civil court. And it's just brought a lot of disunity and dissension here, and I just ask that everybody pray for everybody involved."

Olson said Tuesday the allegations are still under investigation within the church.

"I'm not picking on her. This came to me," Olson said. "It also involves, by her allegation, another priest. So, it's not just her."

The paper also reported that Gerlach was dismissed from the monastery on June 1, the same day the Vatican appointed the bishop as the pope's representative in the matter giving him responsibility for the monastery.

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