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Arts and Entertainment

The Los Feliz Convent Katy Perry Wants To Buy Housed Abusive Priests

(Photo by Michael Locke via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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You know that massive convent in Los Feliz Katy Perry wants to buy? Apparently it was used by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles as a refuge for molester priests.According to an in-depth report by Billboard, Archbishop Mahony (who would later be at the center of the area's Catholic church sex-abuse scandal) had been using the gorgeous Immaculate Heart of Mary convent as a place to shelter priests accused of molestation, without informing the sisters who lived there. One of these priests was the Rev. Richard Allen Henry, who was first taken into police custody at the convent in 1991, before he was later sentenced to eight years in state prison for the sexual abuse of four boys.

86-year-old Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, a representative of sorts from the order that had lived at the convent for 40 years, told Billboard, "I did see Henry arrested and then realized what was going on. At the time, I didn't know. None of us did. 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."

But that was just the beginning. In September 2004, Rev. Fernando Lopez was arrested at the convent, and was convicted on four counts of molestation. In 2008, 64-year-old Brother David Joseph Nickerson was arrested and later convicted of third-degree sexual assault; he'd been working there for years.

According to Billboard, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles reportedly settled for $660 million with more than 500 alleged clergy-abuse victims; not counting additional hundreds of millions in other damages and legal fees. "That's why they want to sell to Katy Perry," Holzman said. "They want the money for you know what...We won't see a dime of it."

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In addition to exploring the convent's unfortunate ties to sex abuse scandals, the article also has some anecdotes that detail meetings between Perry and the nuns; they were skeptical about selling their holy grounds to a woman who didn't quite seem to share their values, per se.

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."

But Perry said she was just kidding about that whole selling-her-soul-to-the-devil thing! Really! She's got a "Jesus" tattoo to prove it, and wanted the nuns to know it.

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.

As if the ink wasn't enough, Perry also proved her Christian devotion to the nuns by singing for them:

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."

The legal processes of buying and selling the convent have been convoluted, and it's impossible to say what will ultimately happen with the property. But restaurant owner Dana Hollister, another player in the story, wants to transform the convent into a boutique hotel, and threw some shade at Perry. She told Billboard, “It’s interesting she has all this girl power and she’s running over a woman and five nuns.”