Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fascinating Lawsuit in the Culture/Religious Wars---As Nuns Intensify Fight To Prevent Sale of Convent to Katy Perry


ARE THERE ANY FASCINATING LAWSUITS THESE DAYS?  Well yes, actually: My ongoing legal proceedings with Abe's Garden.

Aside from that, there are a few others I think are well-worth following as Sisters Rita Callahan and Catherine Rose Holzman (pictured above) fight to block Katy Perry from buying their beloved, old convent in LA. The sisters do not like her, her lower cash deal or anything about her offer. They're revving it up with a top  LA law firm to play hardball with Perry, some of their other convent sisters and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  Gosh, this sounds familiar.

This from the NY Times article Monday:
Poverty, chastity, obedience — and they are still barring the door to Katy Perry. 

In a pair of legal filings on Friday, two nuns who object to Ms. Perry's proposed purchase of their order's convent on eight acres here disclosed an email describing any sale to the saucy pop singer as a breach of their sacred vows.

"In selling to Katy Perry, we feel we are being forced to violate our canonical vows to the Catholic Church," Sister Catherine Rose Holzman wrote to an official of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on May 22, as competing deals for the property, valued at about $15 million, were being considered
Whether the Los Feliz-area Mediterranean villa and acreage go to Ms. Perry or to her rival, the developer Dana Hollister, may depend on a decision by Judge Robert H. O'Brien of Superior Court in Los Angeles County. Judge O'Brien is expected to consider arguments in a case filed against Ms. Hollister by José H. Gomez, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles, at a hearing on July 30. 

Friday's filings by Sister Catherine Rose, 86, and Sister Rita Callanan, 77, include a memorandum opposing the archbishop, and declarations peppered with intimate details about church dealings. They add heat to a dispute that is already complicated by a possible clash between canon and civil law, and the decision by the nuns to reveal their distaste for Ms. Perry in public interviews late last month.

The court papers include claims by several of five surviving nuns in the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary that the archdiocese is betraying them and bullying them into supporting a sale other than their preferred transaction with Ms. Hollister. That deal would pay about $10 million for the convent, but with little cash up front, while giving the archdiocese more than $5 million to buy out its long-term lease on a retreat house for priests that also occupies the hillside plot on Waverly Drive. Under its terms, the nuns contend in their filings, they would directly control the proceeds, rather than having them administered by officials of the archdiocese. 

Their rejection of Ms. Perry's slightly lower cash offer — under diocesan control — now borders on schism. (It appears the Catholic hierarchy much prefers Ms. Perry's upfront cash deal and the control it gives them rather than the more money later deal.) Their filings included a letter titled "How the Chancery Stole Waverly," which was sent to the archbishop on June 13 by Sister Jean-Marie Dunne, 88, who previously filed a declaration supporting the sale to Ms. Perry and did not join in Friday's action. 

After a litany of objections to the archdiocese's attempt to assert control over the nuns' civil nonprofit, Sister Jean-Marie's letter concluded: "All of the above would and should have been avoided if the chancery personnel possessed a modicum of humility and honesty." 

Instead, she added, "they seem obsessed with their misconception of their sovereign, ecclesiastical canonical importance." (She later suggested that the archdiocese "even the score" by putting $3 million in the Immaculate Heart bank account.) 

Representatives of the archdiocese have argued that their only concern is to get the best deal for a now-dispersed group of aging nuns, who would continue to own the proceeds of any sale. Under the terms of Ms. Perry's deal, those would include a new priestly retreat house in the Pasadena area — though Sister Rita and Sister Catherine Rose say they view ownership of that house as a liability. 

"I would like to reiterate my continued commitment to all of the Immaculate Heart sisters that the archdiocese will take care of them and ensure their well-being now and in the future," Archbishop Gomez said in a statement on Saturday. 

Like Sister Jean-Marie, Sister Marie Victoriano, 88, and Sister Marie Christine Muñoz Lopez, 82, have filed declarations in support of the archbishop. But Sister Rita and Sister Catherine Rose, in a filing prepared by the lawyers from the Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtingher law firm, a Hollywood powerhouse, have questioned the validity of at least the Dunne and Lopez declarations.

Sister Jean-Marie, they noted, expressed opposition to the sale both before and after signing her statement, and Sister Marie Christine, they said, was observed to be "woozy" and under the influence of morphine at about the time church officials asked her for a declaration of support.Sister Marie Victoriano said in an email on Sunday, "I have great confidence in the archbishop's decision and have no concern whatsoever."

Sister Jean-Marie did not respond to an email query on Sunday. Sister Marie Christine could not be reached at her home in a Los Angeles care facility. The five nuns have been living separately since leaving their convent, which was acquired from a benefactor, Daniel J. Donohue, in 1971.
J. Michael Hennigan, a lawyer for the archdiocese, disputes claims that the declarations of support were improperly secured. 

Judge O'Brien is now being asked to decide whether the archdiocese relied too heavily on canon law in taking control of the nuns' temporal affairs, without meeting the demands of civil law. Mr. Hennigan said the archdiocese in no way neglected civil requirements. The Vatican, he added, has clearly decreed that no sister or group of sisters should be involved in the governance of their nonprofit. 

It is clear that several of the nuns do not trust the promises of care. Sister Rita and Sister Catherine Rose say the archdiocese misappropriated a final bequest of $250,000 from Mr. Donohue, who died in 2014, and has failed in its obligation to maintain the existing retreat house.
Fascinating fundamentals and cast of characters. While I certainly identify and sympathize with the plight of Sisters Rita and Catherine Rose, I still don't know enough to make an intelligent guess about the validity of their claims. It seems some of the dispute might be settled within the church hierarchy as far as possible, with what's left settled within the civil courts of Los Angeles. I wish these gutsy ladies well and plan to follow their case closely.

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