LOS ANGELES (CN) — The Vatican has dealt a setback to two nuns fighting Katy Perry’s efforts to buy their Los Feliz convent by issuing a decree that authorizes the Los Angeles Archdiocese to control and manage the property.
Sisters Rita Callanan and Catherine Holzman sued Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez last year to block the $14.5 million sale of the convent to Perry, claiming the archdiocese did not have the authority to sell it. The nuns’ preferred buyer is developer Dana Hollister, who wants to turn the eight-acre property into a boutique hotel.
In May, the sisters’ attorney John Scholnick told Superior Court Judge Stephanie Bowick that letters from church officials submitted to the court make clear that Rome had yet to rule on the matter.
But a decree obtained by Courthouse News and dated July 7 hands control of the property to the archbishop and says he has governing authority over the sisters’ institute, Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In addition to Callanan and Holzman, three other sisters are part of the institute.
Counsel for the parties were in Bowick’s courtroom on Tuesday for a status conference but continued the hearing until Oct. 27 while they await a ruling from the LA-based Second Appellate District.
The church’s attorney Michael Hennigan told Bowick that he expects the court to rule “any day.”
Earlier this year, the appeals court put the brakes on Perry’s plan to buy the convent and convert it into a residence after staying a ruling that Gomez and the Los Angeles Archdiocese have a legal right to sell to the pop star.
The same order had granted in part Perry’s motion for a judgment on the pleadings, but stopped shy of validating the star’s offer for the convent.
A letter from the Vatican and decree establishing the archbishop’s authority are attached to court papers filed at the appeals court on July 26. The decree states that Gomez has been appointed in “light of the recent canonical and civil controversies which have arisen regarding the administration of the temporal goods of the institute.”
In an accompanying letter, Archbishop Secretary Jose Rodriguez Carballo confirms the appointment of the archbishop as pontifical commissary.
“Following a careful study of the document submitted regarding the controversy which has arisen between two of the five members of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary regarding the sale of the Waverly Street Property, the need for a duly authorized person to be appointed as Pontifical Commissary was recognized,” Carballo wrote.
The church’s attorney Robert Mockler argues in the filing that the decree should end the nuns’ appeal.
“In confirming the Archbishop’s control over the institute, the Dicastery implicitly rejected all of the issues on which petitioners claimed they needed discovery in connection with the motion for summary adjudication. Civil courts must defer to this determination by the highest ecclesiastical authority of the church,” the McKool Smith attorney writes.
Perry’s company Bird’s Nest has sued Hollister claiming she is an “opportunistic developer” who persuaded the nuns they had authority to sell the property, even though that power belongs to the archbishop.
The nuns have stated that they find the “Teenage Dream” and “Roar” singer’s public unappealing.
Before she courted controversy among some sectors of the American public with her breakout hit, “I Kissed a Girl,” Perry began her career with a Christian rock album that she released under her real name, Katy Hudson. Perry was raised by evangelical parents in Santa Barbara.
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