Arlington nuns claim ‘hostile’ takeover, reject Vatican decree, bishop’s authority

The request by an association of Carmelite nuns to oversee a monastery in Arlington amounts to a “hostile takeover” and the Vatican allowed it without the knowledge or input from the sisters, the Arlington Carmel said Saturday.

In a statement published on their website, the nuns of the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity said that the president of the National Association of Christ the King, Mother Marie of the Incarnation, and anyone associated with her and Bishop Michael Olson of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth are not welcome on the monastery property.

Their statement comes two days after the Vatican informed the nuns that the association would direct day to day operations of the monastery while Olson would oversee other matters, including the election of the leadership. His authority remains intact.

In August 2023, the nuns rejected the bishop’s authority over his investigation into reports their prioress broke her chastity vow with a priest.

The nuns wrote that accepting the “takeover” would endanger the integrity of the monastery, threaten the vocations of individual nuns and the liturgical and spiritual life as well as the material assets of the monastery.

In response, the diocese said in a statement that the Holy See has acted toward healing the Arlington Carmel and the nuns in the community and not simply the former prioress and her former councilors.

“The most recent statement of the Arlington Carmel’s former leadership is sad and troubling because it manifests a skewed and selective misunderstanding of the nature of the Catholic Church and of the charism of the monastic life. It is a slap at the nuns who are their sisters in the Carmelite order,” the statement read. “It is an apparent rejection of the ministry of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.”

The sisters accused Olson of publishing the documents from the Vatican on the diocese’s website Thursday without notifying the monastery. The nuns said they received photo copies of two of the documents later in the day.

The nuns said they have not received a response to several “recourses” sent to the Vatican appealing decisions that Olson made when he was acting as pontifical commissary of the monastery. Olson dismissed the Rev. Mother Teresa Agnes from the order after he investigated reports that she violated her chastity vows with a priest. The nuns said that they received a letter from the Vatican in February promising the responses.

The nuns called the April 18 letters “perplexing” since the recourses are not usually preempted.

The statement also described how the nuns have wanted a Latin Mass, which they said Olson has opposed. Pope Francis has restricted the celebration of the Latin Mass.

The nuns also said they fully accept without reserve that Pope Francis is the Pope and enjoys full papal authority and that Olson is the legitimate, current Bishop of Fort Worth “with all of the authority that this office confers.”

But the nuns still reject Olson’s authority over them.

“in line with our own rights, for reasons of conscience, for the good of our souls and to protect the integrity of our life and vocations, in these extraordinary circumstances, we have had to withdraw our cooperation in respect of the unjust exercise of any authority over us by the current Bishop of Fort Worth. Let it be said clearly — to borrow a phrase that authority without integrity is no authority at all.”

The nuns said they are open to conversation with a higher authority to address their concerns.

“We are not ‘things’ to be traded or given away in back-room deals, but women vowed to the exclusive love and service of Almighty God, whose integrity is to be respected and protected for the good of their souls and for the good of the Church.”