On Friday, Sister Catherine Rose Holzman collapsed and died in Los Angles County Court. Just hours earlier, as she entered the courtroom, the 89-year-old uttered some of her final words to gathered media.
“To Katy Perry, please stop,” she said. “It’s not doing anyone any good except hurting a lot of people.”
At the time of her sudden death (the cause of which currently remains unclear), Sister Holzman was one of two elderly nuns locked in a protracted legal stoush with the 33-year-old pop star over the sale of a former convent in Los Angeles.
But how did the “I Kissed a Girl” singer end up in this strange court battle?
Let’s go back to the beginning.
According to ABC, the eight-acre Los Feliz property had been purchased in 1972 by the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For nearly four decades the five nuns were among those who called the sprawling hilltop estate home, with its 30,000 square feet of living space, large swimming pool and gardens.
Yet once in nursing homes, and with the upkeep costs mounting, the group ultimately sold the property in 2015 for US$15.5 million – the buyer, Dana Hollister, a restaurateur who reportedly wished to transform the site into a boutique hotel.
But according to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, it wasn’t the nuns’ to sell.
In a 2016 lawsuit, the Archdiocese claimed that the Immaculate Heart of Mary institute is ultimately governed by the Holy See and supervised by the Pope, and that any sale required prior approval.
A judge agreed, in a decision that cleared the way for the Archdiocese to sell to another interested party: Katy Perry. The ‘I Kissed a Girl’ singer had been waiting in the wings, keen to purchase the property as her next home.
But the Sisters, lead by Sister Holzman and Sister Rita Callanan, fought back on appeal. The case remains before the courts.
Why did the nuns not want to sell to Katy Perry?
According to Billboard, the nuns fear that because Perry’s US$14.5 million offer (including $10 million in cash) was made directly to the Archdiocese that they would never receive any money from the sale.
But it seems their objection was also somewhat personal: “Katy Perry represents everything we don’t believe in,” Sister Holzman told the publication in 2015. “It would be a sin to sell to her.”
Perry, who is the daughter of two born-again Pentecostal pastors, reportedly tried to win the group over with a face-to-face meeting, during which she performed gospel songs. But to no avail.
“She pulls out her phone to get the words for Oh Happy Day,” Sister Callanan told The Guardian. “I was looking at my attorney, thinking, ‘What on earth?’”
Where does the case stand now?
It’s ongoing, but the latest ruling was in Perry’s favour.
In November 2017, a jury determined that Hollister had interfered with the Archdiocese’s sale of the property to Perry, and she was ordered to pay both parties nearly US$15 million in legal fees.
But in her final interview, Sister Holzman told Fox 11 she and Sister Callanan wouldn’t be backing down. In fact, they pair planned to appeal directly to Pope Francis to regain control of their convent.