FORT WORTH, Texas — After being bestowed authority to investigate the head nun of an Arlington monastery, a Fort Worth bishop has dismissed that nun following the conclusion of an investigation into her reportedly breaking her vow of chastity.
A statement from the Diocese of Fort Worth said Reverend Mother Teresa Agnes of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns monastery was dismissed, having violated the Sixth Commandment of the Ten Commandments and breaking her vow of chastity with a priest from outside of Fort Worth.
The statement added that Agnes has 30 days to appeal her dismissal with the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of the Apostolic Life.
Matthew Bobo, the lawyer representing the monastery, called Olson's decision "absolutely unjust and unconscionable in the light of moral, canonical and natural law."
"Mother Superior will be appealing this immoral and unjust decision that is not subject to canonical action," Bobo said in a statement. "In addition, the civil lawsuit will continue full speed ahead."
Pope Francis had issued a statement Wednesday appointing Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson as his representative over an Arlington monastery he is investigating.
"As Pontifical Commissary, Bishop Olson is the Pope’s representative in this matter," a statement from the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth states. "In doing so, the Dicastery recognized and acknowledged that Bishop Olson has been, and continues to be, entrusted with full governing responsibility for the Monastery."
The decree comes in response to a challenge of Olson's authority to investigate what the Diocese called "admitted-to" violations of the Sixth Commandment, and the vow of chastity by Agnes.
Following Olson's commencement of an investigation into Agnes, the monastery filed a lawsuit challenging his authority over them.
The nuns sought for a temporary restraining order keeping Olson from his investigation into the monastery, as well as a declaratory judgment defining the legal relationship between the two parties.
The Vatican decree authoritatively rejects their appeal -- at least in the non-secular realm.
The lawsuit filed by the nuns detailed a litany of allegations against Olson.
"Defendant Michael Olson is the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth and he and his agents are abusing their power, inflicting moral violence and psychological distress on the Plaintiff’s and the Sisters by undertaking an illegal, unholy, unwarranted, explicit, and systematic assault upon the sanctity and autonomy of the Plaintiff’s and the Sisters," the suit read.
The suit argued, as its own autonomous religious institution, the monastery was not under the control of Olson or the Diocese of Fort Worth.
"The Monastery belongs to the Order of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, a contemplative order of pontifical right established in the late 16th Century," the suit detailed.
The suit also claimed Olson told Agnes' primary caregiver that she was prevented from speaking to her, either directly or through an intermediary, despite her health needs. Agnes reportedly lives with a PICC line, wears a feeding tube 24 hours a day, and is hooked to an IV drip 10 hours a day.
Furthermore, due to Olson taking Agnes' technology, the suit stated that the monastery was unable to pay its bills or operate financially, as all of the log-in information was located on her devices.
"This insane amount of abuse has created tremendous emotional trauma and psychological distress on the Plaintiffs and the Sisters and is directly affecting the Reverend Mother’s physical health," the suit stated. "These actions are beyond the pale of decency, have no basis in law, are unconscionable and unheard actions for a Bishop."
Pontifical right, the suit said, is a term given to religious institutions created or approved by The Pope. These institutions depend exclusively on the Pope in matters of discipline and internal governance -- and not on representatives such as Olson.
"This is critically important because the Monastery and the Plaintiffs are not under the control of Defendants and instead any internal governance must be reserved exclusively to the Pope," the suit argued.
Wednesday's decree from Pope Francis reaffirms Olson's authority over the monastery in the eyes of the church and allows Olson to act in lieu of the Pope as his representative in the matter.
Reached for comment on that decision, Matthew Bobo said the decree issued is restricted to only the governing function of the Catholic Church. He said it has no authority over the law of Texas whatsoever, and that it should not affect the civil lawsuit filed by the monastery.
"The unjust, illegal and immoral actions taken by Bishop Michael Olson in this matter have been explicitly outlined in the past few weeks, and the decree issued by the Catholic Church from Vatican City changes none of the facts of the case," Bobo said in a statement. "We will continue to press on representing the sisters according to the law of the State of Texas, for which Bishop Michael Olson is subject to."
Bobo also raised issued with the decree itself, in that the case number and year in the top left-hand corner were neither correct nor associated with the case, in that the sister's monastery was incorrectly referred to as the Monastery of Saint Joseph of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns, and in that the nuns' canon lawyer has not received the decree, which is required by canon law.
"All of these grave errors raise the issue of the validity of this decree," Bobo concluded in the statement.