Sunday 21 April 2024

Nuns complain about "hostile takeover" of their convent

The Carmelite nuns of Arlington reject the intervention of the order's dicastery in the dispute over their former superior. 

The transfer of leadership to the Carmelite Association, to which the convent in Texas belongs, is a "hostile takeover" of their community, according to a statement published statement published on the Carmelite website on Saturday

The diocese of Fort Worth had previously issued a published a decree from the dicastery of the orderin which the diocesan bishop Michael Olson was relieved of his duties as papal representative over the convent and the leadership was transferred to the association of Carmelite convents.

According to the published documents, the "Christ the King" Association, which includes the Arlington Carmel and five other monasteries that celebrate the pre-conciliar liturgy, had requested this measure from the dicastery for religious orders. 

Olson supported this request. 

The Arlington Carmelites explained that there was no question of accepting this measure. 

"Accepting this would jeopardise the integrity of our monastery as a community and threaten the vocations of individual nuns, our liturgical and spiritual life and the material goods of the monastery," the statement reads. 

For this reason, neither the president of the association, Mother Marie of the Incarnation, nor representatives sent by her are welcome in the convent.

Appeals lodged with the Vatican have not yet been answered

In their statement, the nuns reiterated the accusations against Bishop Olson that they had previously made: The bishop had unlawfully attempted to seize the convent and its property. To this end, he had accused the former prioress of breaking her vow of chastity and tried to substantiate these accusations with unauthorised measures, including a search of the Carmel. 

The bishop had cut the sisters off from the sacraments and tried to sow discord in the community. 

The Vatican had supported Olson's actions and appointed him papal representative with authority over the convent. 

The sisters renewed their criticism of this step. With Olson, the fox had been made the gardener ("putting the fox in charge of the hen house").

The sisters lodged a complaint with the Vatican against Olson's actions, which included dismissing the then prioress, Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach, from the order. 

According to the statement issued on Saturday, the convent has so far only received an acknowledgement of receipt from the order's dicastery, announcing a response to the appeal. 

The publication of the decrees by the bishop on Thursday took the sisters by surprise. 

They were grateful that the Holy See was concerned about the spiritual well-being of the community and wanted to make every effort to achieve this. 

"However, we believe that 'every effort' could and should include an active and ongoing dialogue with ourselves, and we are surprised and disappointed that these documents were published without such a dialogue."

No schism, but authority of the bishop rejected

The Carmelites expressly emphasised that they accept the authority of the Pope and the diocesan bishop. 

In August, they had already rejected the rejected the accusation of a schism

"But in accordance with our own rights, for reasons of conscience, for the good of our souls and to protect the integrity of our lives and vocations, in these extraordinary circumstances we have had to suspend our collaboration with regard to the unjust exercise of any authority over us by the current Bishop of Fort Worth." 

Authority without integrity is no authority at all: "Anyone who knows the workings of our diocese will understand only too well the reality we face."

The dispute over the convent and its superior has been smouldering for months. 

The superior is said to have admitted a breach of her vow of chastity, whereupon the bishop had the Carmel searched to secure evidence. 

The dispute came to light in mid-May last year after the sisters the sisters turned to the public to discuss a lawsuitto inform the public about a lawsuit against the search and seizure in their convent. 

In July the state court seized dismissed the complaintthe police launched an investigation based on a a complaint from the diocese about alleged drug abuse in the monastery. in the convent. 

Olson maintained the allegations against the superior despite the nuns' protests continued to maintain

The Discalced Carmelites are a religious order under papal law and are therefore not subject to the diocesan bishop. 

In June, the Vatican appointed Olson as Papal Delegate.