The fight between Katy Perry and a group of elderly nuns over the purchase of a convent has entered new legal territory. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Bowick ruled yesterday that the nuns’ attempt to sell the property to a developer was “improper.” The action rescinded the deed currently held by the developer and potentially opened the sale to Perry.
Perry was trying to buy a Roman villa-style convent on a sprawling eight-acre estate atop a hill in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles, near Hollywood. Perry made a deal with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to buy the property for $14.5 million. The deal was derailed when it was found that the deed to the property had already been transferred to a local developer.
The convent in question has been home to the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary for more than forty years. The nuns had collectively purchased the convent at a discounted rate from a benefactor back then and say they were told by Archbishop Jose Gomez they could decide who they wanted to sell the property to when they decided to sell last year. Believing it was theirs to sell, the nuns made a conflicting deal with local businesswoman Dana Hollister for $15.5 million.
The archdiocese fought to stop the nuns’ sale, claiming that the Church has jurisdiction over the sale of the convent. It also claimed that it was protecting the sisters from a bad deal, as the deal with Hollister allowed her to take possession of the property for only $44,000 in cash with terms that do not require Hollister to make any payments whatsoever to the sisters for three years.
The nuns claimed that it was unfair to use canon law to decide the issue because civil laws should govern the sale. They also raised concerns that if the diocese completes the sale with Perry, they won’t see any financial benefit, which they were depending on to cover their living expenses. Judge Chalfant ruled that church law governs the sale of the convent, not civil law.
Now, there is another hearing set for Sept. 15 on whether Hollister will be able to retain possession of the convent. Hollister was already cleaning and restoring the convent, but stopped the project after she was sued by the archbishop. The judge ordered Hollister to pay $25,000 a month to support the nuns and denied representatives for Los Angeles’ Catholic archbishop or Perry access to the convent during the dispute. If subsequent rulings are in Katy Perry’s favor, her bid will then need to be approved by the Vatican.