A self-proclaimed monastery is appealing a $270,000 judgment against it, after a woman said she was tricked into believing it was a legitimate Catholic establishment.
Our Lady of Mount Caritas in Ashford, Connecticut is a spread of buildings complete with a cross and religious statue outside. Signs at the bottom of the driveway call it a monastery built in "the rule & spirit of St. Benedict" and is "affiliated with [the] old Roman Catholic Church."
But the Catholic Church says Mount Caritas is not a monastery, and never was.
Mount Caritas was due Thursday in appellate court, seeking to overturn a judgment against it. The dispute involves a $200,000 donation from Janet Wagner, who had given the sum to Mount Caritas in 2011 -- just before the Bishop of Norwich sent a letter to Roman Catholic parishioners in eastern Connecticut, saying that Mount Caritas was not sanctioned by the Catholic church and wasn't Benedictine. The letter also said the women who live there aren't really nuns.
In court, Wagner was awarded $270,000, which included punitive damages, after a lower court found Mount Caritas had swindled Wagner of the money.
The question facing the appellate court now is whether Mount Caritas should have to make the payout to Wagner.
When NBC Connecticut contacted Mount Caritas to ask about the case, the woman who answered the phone responded, "That's private," and hung up.
Most people in Ashford know Mount Caritas only by its signs.
"I just see it from a distance, so I couldn't tell you really anything about it, though," one man said.
But according to the Ashford government's tax collector, the facility pays no property tax because it has been deemed a religious institution.