A nun is sending pop star Katy Perry a clear message: Money can’t buy everything.
Sister Rita Callanan, the 79-year-old last surviving owner of a Los Feliz, Calif. convent, told The Daily Beast she will continue her years-long legal struggle to keep Perry from purchasing the site she considers “holy ground.”
“I just feel that Katy Perry is used to getting all she wants, and to her money means everything, and to her, whatever Katy wants, Katy gets,” Callanan said, wishing the singer would cease her efforts to acquire the convent.
Callanan and four other sisters pooled their resources to purchase the eight-acre property–a Mediterranean-style villa complete with a fountain and pool–for $600,000 in 1972.
“To us it is holy ground,” Callanan told the Daily Beast.
The convent has been in dispute since 2015, when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles attempted to sell it to Perry for $14.5 million without the nuns’ permission.
McKool Smith Hennigan, a law firm representing Archbishop José Horacio Gómez, said:
“A majority of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters agreed to have the Archbishop sell their former convent on their behalf in 2014 with all proceeds going to the Institute for the care of the Sisters.”
Callanan claimed the archdiocese evicted the sisters, cut their revenue sources, and took over the convent.
When the nuns learned the of the pending sale, they took action, recruiting the help of restaurateur Dana Hollister, who agreed to purchase the convent from them.
In the ensuing litigation, lawyers pointed out that canon law requires sales of more than $7.5 million to get approval from the Vatican. A Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge invalidated the sale. A jury ultimately sided against Hollister, who was required to pay $5 million in damages–forcing her to declare bankruptcy.
“I think it’s unconscionable that the archbishop is trying to get $15.5 million from Dana Hollister,” Callanan said of the decision. “The archbishop has put Dana Hollister into bankruptcy.”
The archdiocese argued that Hollister was taking advantage of the elderly nuns, but Callanan dismissed the notion.
“We were never allowed to tell our story,” she said. “The jury never heard our story. I would have liked the jury to have heard that we were the ones who asked Dana to buy the property and she was trying to help us out.”
Until recently, Callanan was joined by Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, but the 89-year-old nun collapsed and died during a court proceeding in Los Angeles this month.
“Sister’s death has taken a toll on me. It really has,” Callanan mourned. “But I’m not going to give up.”
Perry said in 2015 that she wants to live in the convent with her mother and grandmother, seeing the spacious estate as a place where she can “sit in the meditation garden, sip green tea and find herself,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
According to Callanan, the Vatican approved an agreement in 1992 that guaranteed the nuns would be taken care of “down to the very last sister.”
But she claimed her stipend was reduced and her health insurance company sent her a cancellation notice after the archdiocese left a bill unpaid.
To prevent the convent’s sale to Perry, Callanan started a GoFundMe that has already exceeded its $30,000 goal.
“It is now more important than ever to continue this fight and for our cause to prevail,” she wrote.