REQUEST FOR APOSTOLIC VISITATION/INVESTIGATION INTO THE FT. WORTH CATHOLIC DIOCESE

The Most Reverend Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio

Re:  Diocese of Fort Worth in Texas

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned parishioners of multiple parishes within the Diocese of Fort Worth, submit this petition for an apostolic visitation into the actions and behaviors of the Most Reverend Michael F. Olson, Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a bishop is meant to lead by example and "not as domineering over those in your charge…". The Church also teaches that a bishop "…should not refuse to listen to his subjects whose welfare he promotes as of his very own children…". Elsewhere, the Code of Canon Law obliges the bishop to service, solicitude and paternal care, among other things.  We, the undersigned, have experienced Bishop Olson's behavior as abusive of his office and divisive both among the faithful at large and within the clergy.  It is our understanding that such a visitation can only occur at the initiative of the Holy See through the Congregation for Bishops.  Accordingly, we humbly ask that you transmit this petition to the Congregation together with the documentation we have appended and together with other matters you have received from the faithful and clergy of the Diocese of Fort Worth for the consideration and response of the Congregation.

Since his ordination as our Bishop in January of 2014, Bishop Olson has operated against canon law on numerous occasions, has employed abusive language and vindictive actions against priests and the lay faithful in our diocese.  He has lied to several faithful laity. Bishop Olson's actions were documented by the Catholic Church, priests, and individuals throughout the diocese. Testimony is included in this petition or has been sent to you separately under the request of confidentiality.  His own behavior has impacted his ability to shepherd the local church to the extent that we believe him to be impeded.

We believe a visitation should, among other things, specifically focus on Bishop Olson's actions and behaviors in each of the areas listed below:

  •          Closing and subsequent planned demolition of San Mateo Catholic Church
  •          The precipitous removal of Rev Jeff Poirot from Holy Family Catholic Church, Fort Worth Texas
  •          Bishop Olson's personal relationship with Rev Paul Iverson
  •          Removal of Rev Richard Kirkham from St. Martin de Porres Parish, Prosper Texas
  •          The scandal caused by the Bishop's release to the newspaper of a private letter from one priest to a priest of another diocese in a manner that was redacted, incomplete, defamatory and fraudulent in the sense that the signature published was clearly not that of the author of the letter

Other actions by Bishop Olson have resulted in continued division, pain and disruption of the life of the faithful, including but not limited to the following:

  •          The sudden resignation of Rev Gary Picou, Pastor of St Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Keller Texas
  •          The sudden resignation of Rev Jeff Poirot, Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Wichita Falls, Texas
  •          Lack of due process and transparency in the removal of Rev Genaro Mayorga Reyes of All Saints Parish, Fort Worth Texas (November 2018)
  •          Verbal abuse to several diocesan priests in the Fort Worth Diocese
  •          Abusive and/or demeaning conduct towards parishioners whom he referred to as "merely sheep" or "nasty people"
  •          Unfair damage to the reputation of priests through his actions
  •          Lying to lay faithful on multiple occasions
  •          Angry speech towards lay faithful
  •          High turnover of Diocesan staff, especially those in direct contact with Bishop Olson
  •          Loss of seminarians in the Diocese due to poor morale and leadership
  •          Loss of donors to capital campaigns
  •          Loss of donors to weekly stewardship at multiple parishes
  •          Loss of lay volunteers in ministry at multiple parishes due to poor morale and division
  •          Refusing to grant audience to parishioner and leadership of parishes on items of concern

Bishop Olson's above behavior and actions demonstrate a disregard for the letter and spirit of ecclesiastical discipline as set forth in Canons 381-394.  Through his own actions, he reveals that he does not hold himself to the requirements of canon law.

Furthermore, Bishop Olson, in conducting diocesan business, has abused his office and power as bishop without any accountability. This is demonstrated through his actions of closing San Mateo Parish, the removal of Rev Richard Kirkham, and the removal of Rev Jeff Poirot from Holy Family. We believe that, for the sake of the Church's future in the Fort Worth diocese, this pattern must be reviewed.

We feel as if no one is listening to the laity of Fort Worth diocese. One of Pope Francis' recent homilies sums up why we are writing our request for an investigation.

So the Bishop is called to lead his flock by "walking in front of them, showing them the way, showing them the path; walking in their midst, to strengthen them in unity; walking behind them, to make sure no one gets left behind but especially, never to lose the scent of the People of God in order to find new roads. A Bishop who lives among his faithful has his ears open to listen to 'what the Spirit says to the churches' (Rev 2:7), and to the 'voice of the sheep', also through those diocesan institutions whose task it is to advise the Bishop, promoting a loyal and constructive dialogue.

That "loyal and constructive dialogue" is missing from the interactions between Bishop Olson and his priests and laity. Your office has received hundreds of letters and emails about incidents regarding Bishop Olson. The Catholic faithful are hereby requesting an apostolic visitation and full investigation into Bishop Olson's actions and behaviors and plead that he be held fully accountable for what we believe to be the misuse of his ordained office.

 

Respectfully and Humbly Submitted,

Laity of Fort Worth Catholic Diocese (signatures attached)

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