At the little-known and extremely wealthy Abbey of Philadelphia the Abbess, Sister Hildegard, is dying. She wishes her favorite, Sister Alexandra, to succeed her but dies moments before she can make her endorsement public. Alexandra conspires with Sisters Gertrude and Walburga to win the coming election, and to defeat her rival, Sister Felicity, who is openly carrying on an affair with a Jesuit priest, Father Thomas. Alexandra orders hidden microphones and cameras installed throughout the convent, and even hires a pair of Jesuit students, Gregory and Ambrose, to break in and steal Thomas's compromising letters from Sister Felicity's sewing box. The break-in is discovered, but the real meaning is kept hidden and Alexandra wins the election by a landslide. Once she is made Abbess, Alexandra expels and excommunicates Felicity, who begins a very public campaign to topple Alexandra. At the same time, the publicity brings the abbey to the attention of the Holy See, which discovers that the order is an unofficial one, with no actual ties to the Roman Catholic Church. To make matters worse, Gregory and Ambrose blackmail Gertrude and Walburga, who send the bungling Sister Winifred to pay them off only to have the whole scandal made public.
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