Eighty-one-year-old Sister Rita Callanan recently declared that Katy Perry — the pop star most famous for catchy radio hits like “I Kissed a Girl” and “Roar” — has “blood on her hands.”
Callanan is the last living member of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a group of nuns who lived in a sprawling Los Angeles convent. Years ago, Perry offered millions of dollars to buy the estate.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles supported Perry’s purchase, while the nuns didn’t. This sparked a bitter legal battle that lasted for multiple years and culminated in a shocking courthouse death last year.
Here’s a complete timeline of the scandal.
In 1972, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary pooled their money to purchase the property
The French-style chateau was designed by the architect Bernard Maybeck and built in 1927. The complex includes eight acres, more than 30,000 square feet of living space, and an adjoining House of Prayer that’s still in use by the local clergy.
According to the New York Times, the Sisters purchased the property from businessman Daniel Donohue after the death of his wife, who was posthumously honored as a papal countess by the Vatican.
Donohue sold his estate to the Sisters for just $600,000 and even helped them pay for it.
“What made him leave was the memory of his wife, Bernardine,” Sister Callanan told the Times in 2015, a year after Donohue had died.
In those early years, 52 Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary lived on the property, according to the Los Angeles Times. By 2011, just five remained.
The remaining Sisters were reportedly forced to relocate in 2011
According to Billboard, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles forced the elderly Sisters to leave the convent against their wills.
“We had to do what we were told,” Sister Catherine Rose Holzman told Billboard. “I think it’s because they were trying to sell our property. They had been trying for years even when we lived there. But none of us ever wanted to leave.”
The nuns’ relocation lies at the heart of the current property dispute. While the archdiocese began to entertain potential buyers, the sisters still believed the property belonged to them, so only they could sell it — especially because they felt they’d been mistreated in recent years.
As Danielle Bacher wrote for Billboard in 2015, “The nuns say that during the last two decades, their treatment by the archdiocese has devolved into a troubling pattern of neglect and broken promises.”
So when Archbishop Jose Gomez agreed to sell the property to Perry, without any input or involvement from the Sisters, the women said they were immediately concerned — without even knowing who Perry was — because they feared they wouldn’t see any of that money.
Perry offered to buy the estate for $14.5 million in cash
According to Billboard, Perry showed interest in the convent as early as 2013. The gospel singer-turned-pop star, a daughter of Evangelical Christian preachers, planned to move in with her mother and grandmother.
Gomez accepted her $14.5 million cash offer sometime in 2013 or 2014. But Holzman and Callanan, two of the last five living Sisters at the time, refused to sell to Perry.
Holzman had researched the celebrity buyer — and found a video of Perry joking about selling her soul to the devil in exchange for success.
“Even mentioning that she would sell her soul to Satan is against our principles and beliefs,” Holzman told Billboard in 2015. “Katy Perry represents everything we don’t believe in. It would be a sin to sell to her.”
Callanan was similarly displeased by the idea of Perry living in her former home. She told the Los Angeles Times that she was particularly unimpressed with Perry’s performance of “Teenage Dream” at the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show.
“Well, I found Katy Perry and I found her videos and — if it’s all right to say, I wasn’t happy with any of it,” Callanan said.
At the request of the archbishop, Holzman and Callanan met with Perry in May 2015. In an attempt to win them over, Perry reportedly sang the gospel song “Oh Happy Day” and showed the nuns her tattoo of the word “Jesus” on her wrist.
“She was nice,” Holzman told Billboard. “She told us why she wanted the property and then sang a song and left.”
Before Perry could complete the sale, the nuns sold the convent to someone else
Acting under the belief that they alone own the convent, the Sisters quickly sold the estate to restaurateur and developer Dana Hollister.
Hollister made her offer directly to the nuns: $15.5 million and $100,000 in cash up front. They accepted without ever meeting her and immediately turned over the deed. She moved in shortly after, intending to turn the property into a boutique hotel.
The Sisters told the New York Times that Hollister’s offer was partly preferable because she agreed to keep the property open to the public.
“What I’m doing is really pure,” Hollister told Billboard. “I don’t give a s— about the money. I met these sisters and realized, ‘If I don’t help, who is going to?'”
The archdiocese and Perry both sued Hollister
“The sisters have been taken advantage of by the Hollister transaction,” the archdiocese claimed in a 2015 statement.
In July 2015, mere months after Hollister bought the convent, a judge invalidated her purchase. He also ruled that Hollister could continue to live there, as long as she paid the Sisters $25,000 a month in rent while the lawsuits were pending.
Perry also sued the restaurateur for interfering with her own purchase. According to court documents filed in September 2015, Perry’s team claimed that Hollister “took advantage of vulnerable, elderly nuns, who she malevolently convinced to oppose the Roman Catholic Church.”
“It’s interesting she has all this girl power and she’s running over a woman and five nuns,” Hollister told Billboard of Perry. “We are going to Rome. We are not quitting now. We are just getting warmed up.”
Perry won the right to purchase the convent in 2017, but still needed the Vatican’s approval
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the archdiocese, clearing Perry’s path to buy the estate.
“The court finds that the sisters did not have the authority to sell the property to Hollister,” Judge Stephanie Bowick wrote in her ruling. “The Pope did not consent to the sale of the property to Hollister and there was no written approval from the Holy See or the archbishop.”
As reported by Billboard, any sale of church property that exceeds $7.5 million — in an archdiocese with more than 500,000 people — requires final approval from the Vatican.
In September 2017, it was reported that the Vatican wouldn’t approve Perry’s purchase until she found a replacement for the property’s House of Prayer.
In November 2017, a jury found that Hollister intentionally interfered with Perry’s legal purchase. She was ordered to pay the archdiocese $3.47 million in attorney fees and Perry’s company $1.57 million in fees.
She was also found guilty of malice and fraud, so a second phase of the trial was set to determine if either group should be awarded more money in punitive damages. Hollister declared bankruptcy shortly after.
In March 2018, one of the nuns died in a courtroom while supporting Hollister
Holzman and Callanan both accompanied Hollister to bankruptcy court in order to show their support.
“Katy Perry, please stop,” 89-year-old Holzman told Fox 11 while standing outside the Los Angeles courtroom. “It’s not doing anyone any good except hurting a lot of people.”
Hours later, she collapsed and died during the court proceeding.
On Saturday, 81-year-old Callanan told the New York Post that Perry “has blood on her hands.”
“I really didn’t like Katy Perry,” Callanan told the Post. “I’m sure she doesn’t like me.”
The convent is currently back on the market.
Credits: Business Insider