Sunday, April 21, 2024

Regarding the Carmelite Sisters in Fort Worth, TX

(Edit: I meant to type Fort Worth, not Arlington. I am neither supporting nor opposing the decisions of the Sisters regarding their exchange with the diocese and Vatican. This situation seems very complex, and we are not meant to know all the nitty gritty details. But regardless, based on what we do know, what has been publicly disclosed from both sides, that is enough to defend the Sisters, since everyone is entitled to a good defense, and I generally trust the testimony of this community as a whole)

The tradition-minded Carmelite Sisters in Fort Worth, Texas are in the news.  They’ve released a statement on their website about the current situation between them and their bishop, Bishop Olson.  


They state that he has opposed in the past their desire to have the Traditional Latin Mass, and shown a pattern of extreme, unjust scrutiny of their community.  Since 2013 at least, traditional monasteries and convents, attached to one degree or another to our Catholic Tradition, as well as to the traditional cloistered vocation, have been methodically targeted because of those attachments.  

The story became dramatic when the Mother Superior was completely removed from religious life and reduced to the lay state, after 25 years of religious life at their convent. She was investigated for allegations of having sexual interactions with a priest over the phone and through video chat on a few occasions, which apparently she confessed to, while explaining mitigating circumstances.  

She has been recently very ill including having seizures, which she says she believes seriously affected her state of mind contributing to her sin.  She also took medical marijuana, legal in Texas, to try and help her symptoms.  When the diocese observed the medical marijuana at the convent, they notified the police as if she could be breaking the law. 

There has apparently been a long list of interventions by the diocese regarding the convent to address what they regarded as problems. The result is the convent is now under management by an outside Carmelite organization, which they are contesting to Rome. At present they are have restricted access to the Mass and the sacraments.  

What the Mother Superior did sexually was wrong. It makes sense to remove her from her position, especially considering her overall medical state.  But is it an act of justice, Your Excellency, in accord with her dignity as a human being, as a child of God, and her moral dignity over the years as a faithful Catholic and religious (in reference to Pope Francis’ recent document on human dignity), to strip her entirely of being a nun, after all these years, reduced to the lay state?  Does that punishment really fit the crime?

I do not know all the details, but by all appearances these nuns seem to be being persecuted by the diocese for being devout and traditional.  Recall the same pattern appeared in my own diocese by removing within months of the consecration of the new bishop two traditional religious communities that happened to be attached to the Traditional Latin Mass.  

These Sisters have rights.  They have a right to the traditional Mass and traditional sacraments, traditional doctrine, and traditional religious life.  If this new managing organization tries to push them away from Tradition into post-Vatican II modernism, which can be expected to happen unless stated otherwise, considering the pattern in the Church the last 50 years, how will they survive and maintain the integrity of their community?

The SSPX serves the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Have the Sisters reached out to them?  Has the bishop considered they could end up affiliated with the Society if he treats them extremely unjustly?  Does he really want an SSPX-affiliated convent in his diocese?  

Again, I don’t know all the details, as to how completely innocent the Sisters are in all of the exchanges, but as a Catholic man this angers me, making me want to defend these Sisters, hence this post.  Please call the diocese and respectfully voice your concerns, as I have.  You’ll end up talking to the bishop’s secretary, a very nice woman who will write down what you have to say and convey it to the bishop.