Inside Katy Perry's real-estate soap opera: Why nuns and the Catholic Church are battling over her dream LA property

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Beyond the gated, hilltop entrance of 3431 Waverly Drive -- a lush eight-acre estate in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles -- sits a former convent, where today Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, 86, has come to meet with Billboard. With her thin, white hair pressed back into a cornette, she glances around the parlor, bare except for a rare Aeolian organ previously used for grand church functions. For 40 years, this was home to the California Institute of the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Now, none of the order's remaining five nuns live here. Holzman only stops by weekly, usually to go over paperwork with the property manager. Peering through a window, she points to an adjacent building where her bedroom once was.

Four years ago, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles kicked the sisters out of the convent. "We had to do what we were told," says Holzman, who took her vows 68 years ago, at the age of 18. "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."

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Inside Katy Perry's real-estate soap opera: Why nuns and the Catholic Church are battling over her dream LA property
BERMUDA DUNES, CA - APRIL 11: Singer Katy Perry and guests attend Moet Ice Imperial at Moschino's Late Night hosted by Jeremy Scott at Coachella 2015 on April 11, 2015 in Bermuda Dunes, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Moet & Chandon)
LA QUINTA, CA - APRIL 11: Musician Caitlin Moe (2nd from Left), Katy Perry (Center) with Mia Moretti and friends at Soho Desert House on April 11, 2015 in La Quinta, California. (Photo by Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for Soho House)
LA QUINTA, CA - APRIL 11: Katy Perry, Mia Moretti, and Janell Shirtcliff attend Soho Desert House on April 11, 2015 in La Quinta, California. (Photo by Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for Soho House)
INDIO, CA - APRIL 11: Singer Katy Perry attends day 2 of the 2015 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival (Weekend 1) at the Empire Polo Club on April 11, 2015 in Indio, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Katy Perry arrives at the World Premiere Of "Katy Perry: The Prismatic World Tour" held at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on Thursday, March 26, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 22: (Exclusive Coverage; Editorial Use Only) Katy Perry performs onstage during 'The Prismatic World Tour' at PNC Arena on June 22, 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
CULVER CITY, CA - APRIL 18: Singers Kacey Musgraves (L) and Katy Perry perform onstage during CMT Crossroads: Katy Perry And Kacey Musgraves at Sony Pictures Studios on April 18, 2014 in Culver City, California. CMT Crossroads: Katy Perry and Kacey Musgraves premireres on CMT June 13th, 2014 at 10pm ET/PT. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT)
BELFAST, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 07: Katy Perry performs on stage on the opening night of her Prismatic World Tour at Odyssey Arena on May 7, 2014 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Christie Goodwin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 09: (Exclusive Coverage; Editorial Use Only) Katy Perry performs onstage during 'The Prismatic World Tour' at Madison Square Garden on July 9, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR STAPLES - Global pop star Katy Perry, center, with local teachers, left to right, Todd Simon and Sarah Fuller pose backstage at the Staples Center during Perry's Prismatic World Tour performance on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Los Angeles. Staples teamed up with superstar Katy Perry to "Make Roar Happen" and celebrate and support teachers during the back-to-school season by donating $1 million to DonorsChoose.org, a charity that has helped fund more than 450,000 classroom projects for teachers and impacted more than 11 million students. (Photo by Antonio Pullano/Invision for Staples/AP Images)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 07: Katy Perry performs live at Perth Arena during her Prismatic World Tour on November 7, 2014 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Singer and songwriter Katy Perry watches the action between the Ole Miss Rebels and the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
INGLEWOOD, CA - AUGUST 24: Rapper Riff Raff, recording artist Katy Perry, recording artist Sam Smith and singer Charli XCX attend attend the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards at The Forum on August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by MTV/MTV1415/Getty Images for MTV)
INGLEWOOD, CA - AUGUST 24: Rapper Riff Raff (L) and singer Katy Perry attend the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards at The Forum on August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for MTV)
INGLEWOOD, CA - AUGUST 24: Katy Perry arrives at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards at The Forum on August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
Singer Katy Perry performs at a concert in celebration of the Special Olympics on July 31, 2014 in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Singer Katy Perry performs during a a concert commemorating the Special Olympics with U.S. President Barack Obama, not pictured, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, July 31, 2014. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 4.4 million athletes in 170 countries. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 09: (Exclusive Coverage; Editorial Use Only) Katy Perry performs onstage during 'The Prismatic World Tour' at Madison Square Garden on July 9, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 09: (Exclusive Coverage; Editorial Use Only) Katy Perry performs onstage during 'The Prismatic World Tour' at Madison Square Garden on July 9, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 09: (Exclusive Coverage; Editorial Use Only) Katy Perry performs onstage during 'The Prismatic World Tour' at Madison Square Garden on July 9, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 24: (Exclusive Coverage; Editorial Use Only) Katy Perry performs onstage during 'The Prismatic World Tour' at the Verizon Center on June 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 24: (Exclusive Coverage; Editorial Use Only) Katy Perry performs onstage during 'The Prismatic World Tour' at the Verizon Center on June 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 24: (Exclusive Coverage; Editorial Use Only) Katy Perry performs onstage during 'The Prismatic World Tour' at the Verizon Center on June 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Singer Katy Perry tosses corn dogs as she shows her displeasure of Alabama being chosen as the favorite over Mississippi during a telecast of ESPN's College GamDay in The Grove at the University of Mississippi prior to their NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - JULY 04: In this handout photo provided by Disney Parks, singer Katy Perry poses with Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort on July 4, 2014 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Katy Perry, who sang the hit song 'Firework,' visited Walt Disney World Resort on U.S. Independence Day during a break in her global 'Prismatic' concert tour. (Photo by Chloe Rice/Disney Parks via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 22: (Exclusive Coverage; Editorial Use Only) Katy Perry performs onstage during 'The Prismatic World Tour' at PNC Arena on June 22, 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Pop star Katy Perry speaks on June 12, 2014 in Los Angeles, California, where she is teaming up with Staples to 'Make Roar Happen', celebrating and supporting teachers for a philanthropic effort during the back-to-school season. Besides donating $1 million to DonorsChoose.org, Staples will sponsor the North American leg of Katy Perrys Prismatic World Tour, which starts in Raleigh, North Carolina on June 22. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MAY 25: Katy Perry performs live at Radio 1's Big Weekend at Glasgow Green on May 25, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 18: Singer Katy Perry performs via satellite during the 2014 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 18, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
BELFAST, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 07: Katy Perry performs on stage on the opening night of her Prismatic World Tour at Odyssey Arena on May 7, 2014 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Christie Goodwin/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 22: Singer Katy Perry is seen on April 22, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by JMA/Star Max/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 22: Singer Katy Perry is seen on April 22, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by JMA/Star Max/GC Images)
LA QUINTA, CA - APRIL 13: Recording Artists Katy Perry and Sam Smith attend Soho Desert House with Bacardi and Spotify Day 3 on April 13, 2014 in La Quinta, California. (Photo by Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for Soho House)
LA QUINTA, CA - APRIL 12: Recording Artist Katy Perry attends the Spotify Brunch at Soho Desert House with Bacardi Day 2n April 12, 2014 in La Quinta, California. (Photo by Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for Soho House)
INDIO, CA - APRIL 12: Singer Katy Perry watches Lorde perform during day 2 of the 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 12, 2014 in Indio, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 08: Katy Perry attends as Nicole Richie, Rivka Sophia Rossi, Hayden Slater and friends host Marianne Williamson, Independent Candidate for Congress, CA 33 event at Kayne Griffin Corcoran Gallery on April 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 08: Katy Perry attends the Congressional candidate Marianne Williamson press event on April 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Araya Diaz/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 02: A makeup artist makes finishing touches to a wax figure of Katy Perry as it is unveiled at Madame Tussauds on April 2, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 29: Katy Perry attends the MOCA 35th anniversary gala celebration at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA on March 29, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
American singer Katy Perry poses for photos at the launch of her Prismatic world tour in Sydney On March 4, 2014. Katy has announced that the Prismatic world tour will head to Australia in November 2014 with live performances at concerts in Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane. AFP PHOTO / Saeed Khan (Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 04: Katy Perry poses for media at Telstra HQ, George Street on March 4, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
SAITAMA, JAPAN - MARCH 02: Singer Katy Perry attends U-Express Live 2014 press conference at Saitama Super Arena on March 2, 2014 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/WireImage)
SAITAMA, JAPAN - MARCH 02: Singer Katy Perry attends U-Express Live 2014 press conference at Saitama Super Arena on March 2, 2014 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/WireImage)
NARITA, JAPAN - MARCH 01: Singer Katy Perry is seen upon arrival at Narita International Airport on March 1, 2014 in Narita, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/GC Images)
NARITA, JAPAN - MARCH 01: Singer Katy Perry is seen upon arrival at Narita International Airport on March 1, 2014 in Narita, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/GC Images)
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 20: Katy Perry steps up the runway before the Moschino show as a part of Milan Fashion Week Womenswear Autumn/Winter on February 20, 2014 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho/WireImage)
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 20: Katy Perry steps up the runway before the Moschino show as a part of Milan Fashion Week Womenswear Autumn/Winter on February 20, 2014 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Katy Perry onstage at The BRIT Awards 2014 at 02 Arena on February 19, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Katy Perry performs at The BRIT Awards 2014 at 02 Arena on February 19, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Katy Perry performs at The BRIT Awards 2014 at 02 Arena on February 19, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Katy Perry attends the Elle Style Awards 2014 at One Embankment on February 18, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 18: Katy Perry sighting on February 18, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Alan Chapman/FilmMagic)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Katy Perry, winner of Woman of the Year, poses in the winners room at the Elle Style Awards 2014 at One Embankment on February 18, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images)
CULVER CITY, CA - JANUARY 28: (L-R) Actress Gwyneth Paltrow and recording artists Katy Perry and John Mayer attend Hollywood Stands Up To Cancer Event with contributors American Cancer Society and Bristol Myers Squibb hosted by Jim Toth and Reese Witherspoon and the Entertainment Industry Foundation on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Entertainment Industry Foundation)
CULVER CITY, CA - JANUARY 28: Recording artist Katy Perry (L) and actress Selena Gomez attend Hollywood Stands Up To Cancer Event with contributors American Cancer Society and Bristol Myers Squibb hosted by Jim Toth and Reese Witherspoon and the Entertainment Industry Foundation on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Entertainment Industry Foundation)
CULVER CITY, CA - JANUARY 28: Recording artist Katy Perry attends Hollywood Stands Up To Cancer Event with contributors American Cancer Society and Bristol Myers Squibb hosted by Jim Toth and Reese Witherspoon and the Entertainment Industry Foundation on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Entertainment Industry Foundation)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 27: To commemorate the 50th anniversary of one of the most historic moments in music and television, The Recording Academy, AEG Ehrlich Ventures and CBS presents 'The Night That Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute To The BEATLES.' The primetime entertainment special celebrates the remarkable legacy of the seven-time GRAMMY Award-winning group and their groundbreaking first appearance on 'The Ed Sullivan Show.' The two-hour show broadcasts exactly 50 years to the day, date and time of the original event, Sunday, Feb. 9 (8:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured L-R: Katy Perry and Steve Lukather (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27: Recording artist Katy Perry attends 'The Night That Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute To The Beatles' at the Los Angeles Convention Center on January 27, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Singer Katy Perry arrives at the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Singer Katy Perry arrives at the Universal Music Group 2014 Post GRAMMY Party at The Ace Hotel Theater on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Singer Katy Perry arrives at the Universal Music Group 2014 Post GRAMMY Party at The Ace Hotel Theater on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Katy Perry performs onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Katy Perry performs onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Jason Flom and Katy Perry attend the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
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High-end real-estate feuds are as commonplace in Los Angeles as cloudless skies. But in the past months, this one has become national news. Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez is fighting with five elderly IHM sisters over the sale of the convent -- a French-style chateau with Mediterranean flourishes, more than 30,000 square feet of living space and an adjoining prayer house. Gomez wants to sell the villa to 30-year-old global superstar Katy Perry, who has offered $14.5 million for the property. But the nuns, who control the deed, want to sell to local restaurateur Dana Hollister, 54.

But the feud isn't just about a preference over buyer -- it's a matter of trust. 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, including the unsettling reality that the Waverly Drive property was used to harbor accused pedophiliac priests. Since the archdiocese brokered Perry's offer to pay $14.5 million ($10 million in cash) without the nuns' involvement, the sisters fear they won't see a penny from the sale. Meanwhile, Hollister's offer for $15.5 million (with only $100,000 in cash) was made directly to their order.

The squabble escalated on June 11, when Perry visited Waverly Drive with a group that included the archbishop's construction coordinator. But two security guards hired by Hollister blocked their path. According to an eyewitness, Perry's group refused to leave, so the Los Angeles Police Department was notified. Perry was gone when two officers showed up, asking the remaining group to vacate. A day later, Archbishop Gomez filed a temporary restraining order against Hollister, the first in a complicated series of legal filings that will likely take years to resolve. (Perry declined to comment for this story, but her management supplied Billboard with the statement: "It is not appropriate for Katy to respond while this is being adjudicated in its proper forum, which is a court of law.")

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Beyond the legal battle, the transaction has turned into a conflict with religious overtones. In this schism between a local Roman Catholic hierarchy and a nearly extinct religious order, Perry, the daughter of evangelical Christian ministers, has been cast by the nuns (unfairly or not) as a secular agent in a war on the sacred.

For the nuns, this isn't an issue of civil law, but divine law. "Katy Perry represents everything we don't believe in," says Holzman. "It would be a sin to sell to her."

In 1927, architect Bernard Maybeck designed the Waverly Drive complex -- which has been a shooting location for TV shows like My Name Is Earl and the rebooted 90210 -- for Earle C. Anthony, a successful automobile designer who lived on-site and founded a radio station in the garage. In the early 1950s, Catholic philanthropist Daniel Donohue purchased the property and in 1971 resold it to the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters for $600,000, an amount pooled together from inheritances and savings interest and paid during the course of five years.

"A property with this much acreage is so rare," says Josh Altman, real-estate-agent star of Bravo's Million Dollar Listing. "If this was in Beverly Hills, it would be worth north of $50 million. One day this will easily be a $35 million-plus estate."

Holzman had never heard of Perry until April, when Archbishop Gomez informed the five IHM sisters the pop star was buying their former home. This announcement came seven months after the archdiocese told the nuns it was asking $7 million for the estate, news that distressed the sisters. For one, $7 million seemed insultingly low -- they had been told years before the estate was worth at least three times that amount. (As it happens, any church--property transaction of more than $7.5 million in an archdiocese with more than 500,000 people requires final approval from the Vatican.)

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But far more significantly, the nuns were upset the church was planning a deal behind their backs. Two days after that September 2014 meeting, in a letter to the archbishop, Sister Jean-Marie Dunne, 89, wrote: "I want you to know I believe no respect for the sisters' intelligence was shown and that there was a dreadful lack of honesty."

On Jan. 31, the sisters' legal counsel issued a cease-and-desist to the archdiocese and the Coldwell Banker sales director overseeing the sale, which was ignored. Then Holzman researched Perry online and found a video interview in which the former gospel singer joked that she had found success as a secular artist because "I sold my soul to the devil." This was alarming. "Even mentioning that she would sell her soul to Satan is against our principles and beliefs," Holzman says now. In an email to then-Rev. Monsignor Joseph V. Brennan, she wrote, "In selling to Katy Perry, we feel we are being forced to violate our canonical vows to the Catholic Church."

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On May 26, at the archbishop's urging, the five nuns met with Perry at nearby convalescent home Nazareth House, where two IHM sisters lived. As Holzman recalls, the pop star arrived late. Holzman mentioned the "devil" video she'd seen online. Perry said her comment was just for entertainment and showed them her left-wrist tattoo: the word "Jesus," inked when she was 18.

At the request of Dunne, who sang along, Perry belted out the gospel song "Oh Happy Day," reading the lyrics off her iPhone. She planned to turn the estate into a private residence for her family and employees, she told the women. She wanted to sip green tea and meditate in the gardens. "She was nice," says Holzman. "She told us why she wanted the property and then sang a song and left."

So who actually owns the Waverly Drive convent? That question dates back more than two decades. The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary were always fiscally independent of the archdiocese, collecting money through private donations, investments, fees from renting their home for events and -film shoots. But the order's numbers dwindled as elders died and fewer young women joined. In 1992, there were only 35 Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters left, with a median age of 69. Citing their infirmity as a grave concern, then-Archbishop Roger Mahony wrote to the Vatican with a proposal: The archdiocese would assume financial support for the order, provided the convent could not be sold or transferred without his office's written permission. The Vatican approved this request, an act that would ultimately cause legal confusion over who controlled the estate's sale.

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Inside Katy Perry's real-estate soap opera: Why nuns and the Catholic Church are battling over her dream LA property
This Monday, June 29, 2015 photo shows the gate to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary property in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. A dispute between a group of elderly nuns and the Los Angeles Archdiocese over who owns the hilltop convent has caught Katy Perry in its crosshairs. The singer is named in a lawsuit filed on June 19, 2015, over the scenic property. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
This Monday, June 29, 2015 photo shows the gate to Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary property in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. A dispute between a group of elderly nuns and the Los Angeles Archdiocese over who owns the hilltop convent has caught Katy Perry in its crosshairs. The singer is named in a lawsuit filed on June 19, 2015, over the scenic property. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
This Monday, June 29, 2015 photo shows, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary property in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. A dispute between a group of elderly nuns and the Los Angeles Archdiocese over who owns the hilltop convent has caught Katy Perry in its crosshairs. The singer is named in a lawsuit filed on June 19, 2015, over the scenic property. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
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Holzman says the move was ultimately a gambit of the archdiocese to gain power of the property. Documents show the IHM sisters paid for maintenance for decades, with no help from the archdiocese. "They never took care of us," she insists. "The truth is that the church hasn't given us a dime ever for this house."

Unbeknownst to the sisters, the archdiocese was also using the premises at its discretion. Archbishop Mahony, later at the center of the Los Angeles-area church sex-abuse scandal, quietly began sheltering priests accused of molestation on the grounds. One was the Rev. Richard Allen Henry, who was first taken into police custody at the Waverly Drive property in 1991 and later sentenced to eight years in state prison for counts related to abusing four boys.

"I did see Henry arrested and then realized what was going on. At the time, I didn't know. None of us did," says Holzman. "He stayed at the convent for many months before that. There wasn't much we could do about it. The archdiocese told us he could stay there, and we do what we are told."

Henry wasn't the only priest offender harbored at the residence. In September 2004, LAPD detectives came to the site and arrested the Rev. Fernando Lopez, who would be convicted of four felony counts of molestation charges. Brother David Joseph Nickerson was arrested in 2008 and later would be convicted of third-degree sexual assault. The then-64-year-old not only lived at the facility, but had worked at the house of prayer for years.

In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles reportedly reached a $660 million settlement with more than 500 alleged clergy-abuse victims and still owes hundreds of millions in damages and legal fees. Holzman believes the archdiocese wants the cash from the convent's sale for this reason. "That's why they want to sell to Katy Perry. They want the money for you know what," she says, unwilling to mention the sex-abuse scandal by name. "We won't see a dime of it."

"The care and well-being of all five sisters has always been our primary concern," contends the archdiocese in a statement to Billboard. "[We] will continue to protect the sisters and ensure that future transactions will provide immediate funding for their care."

Holzman finds this difficult to believe. "They haven't helped us with money ever. Why would they start now?"

Dana Hollister sips a soda inside Echo Park's iconic Brite Spot diner, one of several Los Angeles restaurants she owns. Having first opened a successful interior-design business in 1987, she has since founded the sort of Eastside staples that inspired the Los Angeles Times to call her a "scene maker" and compare her real-estate acumen to having "X-ray eyes."

Hollister intends to convert the convent into a boutique hotel. This isn't the first nunnery Hollister has plotted to reinvent that way. In the '90s, she lobbied to turn the Paramour -- a 22,000-square-foot Silver Lake convent most recently inhabited by Franciscan nuns -- into a 45-room spa hotel. But neighbors fought her plans, so when she secured $2.25 million in financing in 1998, she turned the mansion into her home, a stately 4.5-acre residence that hosted Beck's birthday party and Anne Heche's 2001 wedding.

Hollister had her eye on the Waverly convent for years. She heard it was on the market, emailed the property manager and proposed a deal directly to the sisters. When Archbishop Gomez broke the news about Perry, the sisters quickly accepted Hollister's $15.5 million offer without even meeting her and turned the deed over immediately.

"What I'm doing is really pure," insists Hollister. Diagnosed 14 years ago with late-stage cervical cancer that's currently in remission, she says her health is a major motivation and pledges to donate a percentage of the hotel's proceeds to charity. "I don't give a shit about the money. I met these sisters and realized, 'If I don't help, who is going to?' "

The archdiocese claims in a statement, "The sisters have been taken advantage of by the Hollister transaction." That's the line Perry has taken as well, suing the entrepreneur for interfering with her contractual rights to the sale. In documents filed in September, the performer's team categorized Hollister as someone who "took advantage of vulnerable, elderly nuns, who she malevolently convinced to oppose the Roman Catholic Church."

In July, Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant invalidated Hollister's purchase, describing it as "a bad deal," though letting her keep possession for now. In November, the court will consider the legality of the archbishop's attempt to assert control of the sisters' corporation, which his office tried to do quietly in June.

Hollister, who says she has never spoken to Perry, thinks this has all gotten out of control. "It's interesting she has all this girl power and she's running over a woman and five nuns." She continues, "We are going to Rome. We are not quitting now. We are just getting warmed up."

Holzman, meanwhile, vows to continue the fight. "I owe it to every sister up in Heaven looking down on me."

This story originally appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of Billboard.

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