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Sunday, July 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Archbishop Seeks Court’s Blessing in Convent Case

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A legal wrangle to determine whether the Los Angeles Archbishop can allow pop star Katy Perry to buy a Los Feliz convent for $14.5 million entered a new phase this week when the archbishop asked a judge to rule once and for all that the archdiocese is in charge of the property.

Ever since sisters Rita Callanan and Catherine Holzman tried to block the sale, Los Angeles Archdiocese has maintained that it controls and manages the Waverly Drive convent through its officers and directors, including Archbishop Jose Gomez.

The nuns say they have the power to decide who gets to buy the 8-acre property after they negotiated a $10 million deal with developer Dana Hollister.

Perry wants to use the convent as her home; Hollister planned to turn the Roman villa into a boutique hotel.

The archdiocese says that in June 2015 it appointed Archbishop Jose Gomez and Bishop Joseph Brennan as directors and officers of The California Institute of the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"There is no serious question regarding the archbishop's control of the institute," the archbishop said in the 11-page Tuesday filing in Superior Court.

A Vatican decree filed in a related lawsuit confirmed that the archbishop controls the property and says he has governing authority over the institute.

"Through the dicastery, the Pontiff consistently has placed comprehensive authority over the governance and administration of the institute in the Archbishop and has confirmed the lack of any such authority by any of the IHM Sisters. These decisions, relating to a religious organization's governance of its internal affairs, are binding on the courts," the archbishop's attorneys wrote in their Oct. 25 filing.

Three other sisters are part of the institute. The archbishop says the remaining nuns oppose the two sisters' attempts to block the sale to Perry - whose public image they find offensive - and "hijack the institute."

"Prompt resolution of this petition is necessary because respondents continue improperly to assert control over the institute and to meddle in its affairs," the archbishop said in his petition. "Among other things, respondents have refused to turn over the books, records and property of the institute, thereby impeding the ability of petitioners to govern the institute and to ensure the health and well-being of all of the sisters."

The nuns sued the archbishop but dropped the case. Perry's company Bird's Nest filed a cross-complaint calling Hollister an "opportunistic developer."

The archbishop is the plaintiff in a related lawsuit pending in Superior Court Judge Stephanie Bowick's courtroom, and the case has been the subject of appeals in state court. Bowick ruled in April that the archbishop and the archdiocese have authority over the sale but stopped short of validating Perry's offer.

Before her breakout hit, "I Kissed a Girl," Perry released a Christian rock album under her real name, Katy Hudson, in 2001. She was raised by evangelical parents in Santa Barbara.

The archbishop is represented by J. Michael Hennigan with McKool Smith Hennigan.

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