A legal firework has been set off in Los Feliz, California, after a group of elderly nuns sold their former convent to a local businesswoman against the wishes of the Los Angeles archdiocese – all to prevent the property being bought by the pop megastar, Katy Perry.
The hilltop property in question, built on an eight-acre estate in 1927 with a panoramic view of Los Angeles, has been empty since 2011, when the five surviving Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary were relocated to nearby retirement homes.
The following year, Ms Perry expressed an interest in making the building her home and, according to the Los Angeles Times, recently agreed a $14.5m (£9.2m) sale with the archdiocese. The sisters, however, argue that the property is theirs to sell – and they don’t want it to be bought by the singer.
When they first learned the identity of their prospective buyer, the nuns were unaware of Ms Perry’s oeuvre, which includes tracks such as “By the Grace of God” and “I Kissed a Girl”. So they turned to the internet. “I found her videos,” Sister Rita Callanan told the paper. “I wasn’t happy with any of it.”
Ms Perry, the daughter of two born-again Pentecostal pastors, reportedly met with the nuns in May to plead her case. According to the sisters’ accounts, she told them she wanted to live at the estate with her mother and grandmother.
The 30-year-old star, whose first release was a gospel LP, showed the nuns “a ‘Jesus’ tattoo on her wrist area” and performed a rendition of the gospel hymn, “Oh, Happy Day”. But to no avail: Sister Rita had already seen Ms Perry’s spectacular Super Bowl half-time show, and had been unimpressed.
And so, two weeks ago – and without the approval of the archdiocese – the nuns sold the property to restaurateur and bar owner Dana Hollister. Ms Hollister is currently turning a church in nearby Silver Lake into a boutique hotel, and is thought to have similar plans for the convent.
The sisters of Immaculate Heart first bought the estate in 1972 from a Catholic philanthropist who offered them a hefty discount. The archdiocese, led by LA Archbishop José Gomez, agrees that the proceeds should go towards the care of the five surviving nuns, all aged between 77 and 88.
Ms Hollister, who has apparently moved in to the former convent already, offered $15.5m (£9.85m) for the property including a $100,000 cash deposit. Perry’s offer of $14.5m included $10m in cash. The nuns said they preferred Ms Hollister’s offer in large part because she planned to keep the convent as a public space, rather than a private home.
But the archdiocese has nonetheless sued to stop the sale to Ms Hollister, describing the deal as an “unauthorised action”. In the lawsuit, due for its first hearing on 9 July, the archdiocese claims the Immaculate Heart of Mary Institute ultimately falls under the Pope’s jurisdiction.
Archbishop Gomez says the nuns thus had no right to make the deal independently, and he has papers signed by three of the five sisters giving him the power to sell the property on their behalf.
Sister Rita, who is 77, and Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, 86, claim their fellow nuns signed the documents under duress.
Sister Catherine, who acts as the order’s chief financial officer, told ABC7 news: “We have control of our property, it’s ours. The archdiocese is not taking care of us, we’ve been taking care of ourselves.”Reuse content