Nuns Defy Vatican and Seek a Restraining Order Against Bishop

Source: Flickr/Joe Shlabotnik

Church politics are a constant that goes back millennia. The Catholic Church is not the first to have issues within its ranks and it certainly won’t be the last, and recent conflicts between several orders under its umbrella have drawn attention to the oldest Christian faith, yet again. 

A Restraining Order from Nuns

In Texas, nuns are seeking a restraining order against Bishop Michael Olson and other Catholic Church officials in a bid to stop the takeover of their monastery. Different orders of nuns and bishops claim their own property within the church, and an attempted takeover of this magnitude is highly unusual.

Source: Wikimedia/

The lawsuit, filed on Monday, asks for a temporary restraining order to be issued against Olson, the Diocese of Fort Worth, and the Association of Christ the King in the United States of America, according to WFAA. 

After a Vatican Decree

This comes after a Vatican decree last week, which said that Christ the King was being given full governance of the nuns, as well as the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas.

Source: Wikimedia/Phil Nash

The dispute between the nuns and the Bishop stems from the investigation into allegations that the Rev. Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach broke her vow of chastity, through phone conversations with a priest at another monastery. Gerlach was dismissed last year after the Vatican sided with Olson’s investigation, though she has denied the accusation.

Investigating Inappropriate Conduct

The investigation into inappropriate conduct on the part of Gerlach was far from the end of the story, though. The Reverend Mother and another nun filed a separate civil suit last year, alleging invasion of privacy, theft, defamation, and that the bishop was attempting to take over an independent organization with his investigation. 

Source: Wikimedia/Br. Christian Seno, OFM,

The civil suit was dismissed by a district judge, who stated – rightfully so – that the court did not have jurisdiction over the matter. The matter didn’t fade away, though, and in a statement from the weekend, the monastery said it “has suffered continued attack and abuse” from Olson “in an ugly attempt to seize control of our governance, finances, and life.”

A Statement from the Nuns

The statement added, “We pray that the Bishop of Fort Worth will repent of his abuse, apologize for it publicly as well as to us in person, and make due reparation to the Monastery. Until he does so, neither he nor his delegates are welcome on our property.”

Source: Wikimedia/Jonas Roux

In the application for the restraining order, Michael Bobo, the attorney for the nuns, alleged that Olson, the diocese, and the association are attempting to unlawfully take over the monastery “under the guise of some religious backdoor,” according to the WFAA. 

Further Arguments

The lawsuit further argues that the monastery is an independent Texas nonprofit corporation, managed by a board of directors. “Defendants attempted ‘takeover’ of the Corporation is unlawful, because, in order for them to have any governing power, they would have to be a member of the Board of Directors, which they are not, nor have the members of the Corporation voted to make any of the Defendants a member of the Board,” the lawsuit states.

Source: Wikimedia/Joe Ravi

It continues, “The Defendants are trying to utilize a religious back door to usurp the laws of the State of Texas to take over the management and assets of the Corporation.”

Requesting an Injunction from the Judge

The lawsuit asks for an order from the judge that would stop Olson, the diocese, or the association from being allowed on monastery property, as well as from acting on behalf of the monastery or having contact with the nuns, except through legal counsel. The monastery is also seeking at least $100,000 in monetary relief.

Source: Wikimedia/D0a5l0e6

Legal lawsuits are often thrown out when it comes to church matters, such as the restraining order from the former Reverend Mother. The Catholic church, with the exception of cases of enormous public scandal such as the Spotlight scandal, generally attempts to handle matters of this kind internally.

Public Church Issues

There are circumstances where the Church is unable to handle issues internally, though. A recent example is the scandal surrounding Pope Benedict XVI and his rule over the Catholic church, which ended in a hugely public media circus around the Catholic church and a pattern of sexual abuse of children on the part of priests.

Source: Wikimedia/Marek.69 (original) / Rundvald (retouches)

Benedict was accused of having a significant part in covering up these accusations, and he resigned in disgrace. The Church has moved on with the new Pope, who has been radically progressive for Catholic standards, but many people’s opinions of the church have been further tainted by the publicity that came out at the time of Benedict’s resignation. 

A Response from the Bishop

In Texas, the Bishop and the diocese appear to be attempting to prevent a similar issue from arising. A statement that was released on Saturday by the diocese said that the refusal of the nuns to accept the Vatican order is “sad and troubling.”

Source: Wikimedia/Adavyd

“The Holy See has acted in a way to promote and foster unity in Christ for the healing of the Arlington Carmel and of each of the nuns who are members of the community – not simply the former prioress and her former councilors,” the statement said. “This is an internal church matter that the former prioress continues to attempt to exploit in the civil court – in which it has no standing,” it concluded.

Further Church Actions Unclear

As of now, it’s unclear whether a judge will rule in favor of the former prioress of the Church. While it’s clear that she believes that she’s working in good faith to protect her former monastery, the wider laws of the church are clear.

Source: Wikimedia/Jebulon

Without evidence of the defamation that Gerlach has claimed, it’s likely that this case will be dismissed out of hand, left for the Church to deal with internally. While the public can debate on the validity of this method of handling issues, at the end of the day, the Church will operate as it always has: alone.

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Tori Bright

Written by Tori Bright

Tori specializes in biographical narratives and cultural analysis. Her articles often explore the intersections of gender and society, providing insightful commentary on modern social dynamics. Tori's latest project, a biography of a forgotten 20th-century feminist icon, showcases her meticulous research skills and commitment to uncovering hidden stories. Her engaging writing style and thorough investigation make her a sought-after voice in both literary circles and wider cultural discussions.

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