Self-Proclaimed Monastery Says Donor Knew It Was Phony

No one in court Thursday disputed the claim that Our Lady of Mount Caritas is not an actual monastery. The source of contention is whether a woman who donated $200,000 to the institution knew it was a fake when she wrote the check.

Janet Wagner said she made the donation in 2011 under the guise that Mount Caritas was a Benedictine monastery, as written on a sign outside the Ashford estate.

But the Norwich diocese said the two women who live there are not nuns and the facility is not sanctioned by the Catholic church.

A jury ruled in 2013 that Mount Caritas should return Wagner’s money – and it did, along with $70,000 in damages. But now Mount Caritas is appealing the decision, claiming it was honest with Wagner all along.

“Our position is that Janet always knew, that the plaintiff always knew from day one that Mount Caritas was on the wrong side of the diocese of Norwich, was not properly affiliated with it and had been instructed by the diocese not to conduct these activities,” Mount Caritas' attorney Edward Muska explained in appellate court Thursday.

Wagner’s lawyers, however, characterized the Mount Caritas women as deceitful and said their client was duped.

“The jury was there, the jury saw the evidence, the jury decided first that there were misrepresentations made, that the Wagners relied on these misrepresentation in donating the money, and for those reasons I’m asking the court to affirm the judgment of the trial court,” Wagner's attorney, Jeremy Donnelly, said during the proceedings.

Outside the courthouse Thursday, Wagner said she regards Mount Caritas as a good thing that went bad.

“I think they started out with good intentions but something broke,” she said. “I put my faith in God, I always have, and I put that faith into my attorneys, into the legal system, that God will work through this to bring us justice.”

Neither woman from Mount Caritas attended the proceedings Thursday. The institution has not returned a request for comment.

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