#BreakingNews a Judge Dismisses a Nun's Case Against Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth

In Texas, a Tarrant County Judge Don Cosby ruled on June 30, that his civil court does not have jurisdiction in the case of two nuns from the Carmelite monastery in Arlington who sued Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth. The defense team for Bishop Olson argued that that the case was a church matter and requested a plea to the jurisdiction to have it dismissed from civil court.

READ Background: Dismissed Prioress of Carmelite Nuns Admits to Misconduct in Audio Recording Played in Court - Link - 

The Arlington Police Department also released its decision to end an investigation into allegations of criminal offenses made by both the bishop and the nuns.

 Rev. Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach and Sister Francis Therese of the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington brought a $1 million lawsuit against Bishop Olson of Fortworth Diocese.

The nuns’ lawsuit said that Olson overstepped his authority and invaded their privacy by confiscating a cellphone and other electronic devices which he did as part of his investigation into whether she broke her vow of chastity with a priest from another diocese

The bishop made allegations of use of illegal drugs and abuse of prescription medicine by Gerlach, who suffers from a chronic medical condition that has kept her in a wheelchair and on a feeding tube with a  catheter.

“After considering the plea, the evidence admitted at the hearing on the plea, arguments of counsel and applicable law, the court is of the opinion that the plea should be and is hereby granted in its entirety,” Cosby ruled and dismissed the lawsuit.

“We are grateful for Judge Cosby’s ruling today in dismissing the nuns’ lawsuit. The decision vindicates our steadfast belief that this is a private Church matter that does not belong in the courts,” Olson said in a statement. “This matter will continue to proceed through an established canonical process.”

 Matthew Bobo, the attorney for the nuns, argued that the judge had jurisdiction in the matter due to personal property rights and other civil matters.

“We are shocked, extremely disappointed and respectfully disagree with Judge Cosby’s decision,” the nuns’ lawyer said in a statement. 

"We look forward to an appellate court reversing this decision.”

The judge heard testimony, including a 40-minute audio recording of Olson’s meeting with the former prioress from April. In the recording she  reveals that she had a relationship between and a priest, who was identified as a priest with Transalpine Redemptorists community near Billings, Montana.

The priest was identified by the Diocese of Raleigh as Father Philip Johnson, in North Carolina.

Father Jonathan Wallis, Vicar General of the Diocese of Fort Worth, said in testimony that he learned of the relationship between Gerlach and the priest last December, when Gerlach disclosed it to him in a private meeting (not confession).

Wallis testified that she repeated thiss to him on two other occasions, that she broke her vow of chastity.

In the audio recording, she acknowledged a relationship with a priest but argued under questioning by Olson that it was only “on the phone.”

She explains in the audio recording that was taking medication to control seizures, which affected her mind.

“I made a horrible mistake,” she said. “I was very confused. I was not in my right mind.”

Olson testified that his investigation determined that Gerlach was guilty of the allegations and he dismissed her from the Order of Discalced Carmelites. She has the right to appeal the ruling.

The bishop said he would not return the data, which the lawsuit requested, since it might be needed for further investigation, even of the priest, who has been uncooperative. Olson testified that he was not seeking to take control of the monastery’s property, which has been speculated as reason for the dispute.

Regarding the investigation by the police of the nuns (for illegal drug use) and the bishop (stealing property) they released: “Following a thorough and extensive review by (Arlington Police Department) detectives, and in consultation with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, we have determined probable cause does not exist to file criminal charges against any of the individuals involved,” the police department said in a statement. “The case is now considered closed.”

Sources: Fortworthbusiness.com and ABC