The grueling battle between an 80-year-old nun and megapop star Katy Perry for the right to occupy a California convent continues. And now, after the three years, the legal conflict is only escalating as the holy woman at the center appeals to the highest office of the Catholic Church to intervene. Sister Rita Callanan wrote to Pope Francis himself saying, “They’ll have to kill me first if they want to keep me quiet.”
If the history of this case is any indication, Sister Callanan is not just being dramatic. The stress of this ordeal has taken a mortal toll on the aging remnant of the Sisters of the Most Holy Immaculate Heart. Callanan’s colleague, 89-year-old Sister Catherine Rose Holman dropped dead during a hearing related to the conflict over the property earlier this year.
The conflict first arose when the Archdiocese decided to sell the property to the “Swish Swish“ singer without convening with the sisters who were still residing there.
Callanan believes this was an instance where the Archdiocese exercised its authority beyond reasonable limits without regard to ongoing needs of her order—which she says is on trend for the governing body, especially the archbishop. “He is claiming he’s taking care of us, that’s not true. We send bills up there and they don’t get paid. I get my stipend, but it’s not leaving me enough for living expenses for the way the cost of living has risen … I’ve got family members who are very sick, close family members have died including my own sister, there’s so many things, it’s just punishment,” she says, according to The Daily Mail.
Callanan tried to sell the property to another buyer: L.A. businesswoman Dana Hollister. Although Katy Perry expresses desire to utilize the property as a context for spiritual development (“The pop star told them she plans to live in the estate with her mother and grandmother, sit in the meditation garden, sip tea and find herself,” reports Forbes), Sister Callanan feels “in selling to Katy Perry, we feel we are being forced to violate our canonical vows to the Catholic Church.”
But the Archdiocese claimed the sisters did not have the right to sell the property, a claim that has been upheld in court as of last Friday. A jury awarded the estate to the “Teenage Dream“ singer along with “$1.57 million in legal fees to be paid by restaurant owner Dana Hollister who also now owes the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles $3.47 million,” Vanity Fair reports.
Nevertheless, Callanan and Hollister are resolute in staking their claim on the 30,000 square-foot Los Feliz property. Hollister told The Hollywood Reporter that she is “using back channels in Rome to appeal to the Vatican and Pope Francis with her $30 million offer.”
Whether the Pope Francis can or will be able to intervene is yet to be seen.