McCarthy v. Fuller, No. 12-2262 (7th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
In 1956, Sister Ephrem of the Most Precious Blood, experienced apparitions of the Virgin Mary, during which, Sister Ephrem claimed, she was told: “I am Our Lady of America.” The Archbishop supported a program of devotions to Our Lady of America. In 1965 Pope Paul VI approved creation of a cloister, which lasted until at least 1977, when surviving members left and formed a new congregation, dedicated to devotions to Our Lady of America. Sister Ephrem directed it until her death in 2000. Sister Therese succeeded Sister Ephrem, who willed to Sister Theres all her property, mostly purchased with donated money. Sister Therese worked with McCarthy, a lawyer, and Langsenkamp until 2007, when Langsenkamp and McCarthy established the Langsenkamp Family Apostolate in the chapel in which the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to Sister Ephrem. They sued Sister Therese, claiming theft of physical and intellectual property, fraud, and defamation. She counterclaimed, alleging theft of a statue and of the website and defamation by calling her a “fake nun.” The district court denied McCarthy’s motion that the court take notice of the Holy See’s rulings on Sister Therese’s status in the Church. The Seventh Circuit reversed, with “a reminder” that courts may not decide (or to allow juries to decide) religious questions. Determination of the ownership of the property is likely possible without resolving religious questions.