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Opinion of the Court.

It is undisputed that the decedent did have a special permission with respect to the use of this income. Originally given by the Abbot of St. Vincent's, it was continued by the Abbot of St. Mary's. It was given in recognition of the fact that his literary work was in addition to the duties which he was normally required to perform. But, as we think, the conclusion of the court below does not give proper weight to the testimony as to the nature and scope of the privilege thus accorded. It was explicitly testified by the Abbot that Father Wirth was permitted to keep the moneys in question, not as his own, but to have their use for charitable purposes with the permission of his superiors. It was this permission which was originally given and which the complainant's Abbot renewed. This testimony was not controverted and, in view of the constitution of the Order, we find no ground for treating the permission as being of a different character. It is said that it does not appear how the decedent while in Minnesota, for example, could have expended the money for the charitable purposes of the Order in New Jersey. But the purposes of this Order were broadly charitable and religious; the decedent prosecuted his educational and religious work with the Abbot's consent and the use of these moneys for charitable purposes, wherever he was located for the time, might well be in furtherance of the objects of the Order. It may have been the concession of a special privilege to permit the decedent to act directly in the distribution of the moneys which he had earned by his additional labors, instead of turning them over to the head of the Order, but we cannot say that it was a permission without restriction or one which essentially altered his relation to the Order and his fundamental duty while he remained a member of it.

On the contrary, we agree with the Circuit Court, not only in its finding of fact that the permission was limited as stated, but also in its holding that in view of the basic

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law of the organization, there is no warrant for the conclusion that the Abbot had any authority to allow Father Wirth to assert an independent title or to hold the property as absolutely his own. It is said that the 'Rule of St. Benedict' recognizes the right of the member of the Order to keep whatever the Abbot permits him to have. But this plainly refers to the necessities of life and not to accumulations in direct antagonism to the principles of the society. Whatever indulgence may have been shown to the decedent with respect to the submission of appropriate accounts, it cannot be said that while his membership continued he had, or could have, the privilege of accumulating an individual estate for his own benefit and free from his obligations to the Order. This could not but be regarded as violative of the constitution of the complainant and beyond the competency of its official head to grant.

2. We are thus brought to the question whether the requirement, which lies at the foundation of this suit, is void as against public policy; that is, whether, by reason of repugnance to the essential principles of our institutions, the obligation though voluntarily assumed, and the trust arising from it, cannot be enforced. In support of this view, it seems to be premised that a member of the Order can be absolved from his vows only by the action of the Head of the Church and that unless the requisite dispensation is thus obtained the member is bound for life in temporal, as well as in spiritual, affairs. This, it is said, is the necessary import of testimony given by the Abbot. It is thus assumed that the vows in connection with the 'Rule' bind the member in complete servitude to the Order for life or until the Head of the Church absolves him from his obligations; and it is concluded that an agreement for such a surrender, being opposed to individual liberty and to the inherent right of every person to acquire and hold property, is unenforceable in the civil

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courts and cannot form the basis for an equitable title in the complainant.

This argument, we think, disregards the explicit provision of the complainant's constitution as to voluntary withdrawal. It overlooks the distinction between civil and ecclesiastical rights and duties; between the Order of St. Benedict of New Jersey, a corporation of that State, and the monastic brotherhood subject to church authority; between the obligation imposed by the corporate organization and religious vows. As we have said, the question here is not one of canon law or ecclesiastical polity. The requirement of complainant's constitution must be read according to its terms and its validity must be thus determined. Granted that it is to be examined in the light of that to which it refers, still, obligations which are inconsistent with its express provisions cannot be imported into it. This constitution, as already stated, definitely provides: "Membership is lost at once:-2. By voluntarily leaving the Order for any purpose whatsoever." (Section XI.) This language cannot be taken to mean other than what it distinctly says. So far as the corporation, and the civil rights and obligations incident to membership therein, are concerned, it leaves no doubt that the member may voluntarily leave the Order at any time. His membership in the corporation, and the obligation he assumes, are subject to that condition. If he severs his connection with the corporation, it cannot be heard to claim any property he may subsequently acquire. His obligation runs with his membership and the latter may be terminated at will.

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With this privilege of withdrawal expressly recognized, we are unable to say that the agreement-expressed in § XII of the complainant's constitution-that the gains and acquisitions of members shall belong to the corporation, must be condemned. These go to the corporation in exchange for the privileges of membership and

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to further the common purpose to which the members are devoted. No constitutional right is invaded and no statutory restriction is transgressed. The legislature of New Jersey which, subject to constitutional inhibition is the arbiter of the public policy of that State, granted the charter by special act to the Benedictine Society of 'religious men living in community' and it cannot be said that the constitution adopted by the Order was repugnant to the charter provisions or exceeded the authority plainly intended to be conferred. It would seem to be clear that the obligation assumed instead of being opposed to the public policy of the State where it was created was directly sanctioned.

The validity of agreements providing for community ownership with renunciation of individual rights of property during the continuance of membership in the community, where there is freedom to withdraw, has repeatedly been affirmed. The case of Goesele v. Bimeler, 14 How. 589, related to a religious society called Separatists. By an agreement made in 1819, the members of the society agreed to unite in a 'communion of property.' They renounced 'all individual ownership of property, present or future, real or personal.' Amendatory articles of like import were signed in 1824. As to these agreements, the court said: "The articles of 1819 and 1824 are objected to as not constituting a contract which a court of equity would enforce. What is there in either of these articles that is contrary to good morals, or that is opposed to the policy of the laws? An association of individuals is formed under a religious influence, who are in a destitute condition, having little to rely on for their support but their industry; and they agree to labor in common for the good of the society, and a comfortable maintenance for each individual; and whatever shall be acquired beyond this shall go to the common stock. This contract provides for every member of the

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Opinion of the Court.

community, in sickness and in health, and under whatsoever misfortune may occur. .-By disclaiming all individual ownership of the property acquired by their labor, for the benefits secured by the articles, the members give durability to the fund accumulated, and to the benevolent purposes to which it is applied. No legal objection is perceived to such a partnership." (Id., pp. 606, 607). In Schwartz v. Duss, 187 U. S. 8, the controversy related to the property of the Harmony Society, a community in Pennsylvania. It was said that the cardinal principle of the society was 'self-abnegation,' which was manifested 'not only by submission to a religious head, but by a community instead of individual ownership of property, and the dedication of their labor to the society.' It had been held by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that the agreements constituting the community were not offensive to the public policy of that State (Schriber v. Rapp, 5 Watts, 351), and, as to this, it was said by this court: "The Supreme Court observed that the point made against the articles as being against public policy was attended with no difficulty, and Chief Justice Gibson said for the court: 'An association for the purposes expressed is prohibited neither by statute nor the common law."" (Id. p. 26.) In Burt v. Oneida Community, 137 N. Y. 346, in describing the character of that society, the Court of Appeals of New York said that its main purpose was the 'propagandism of certain communistic views as to the acquisition and enjoyment of property' and 'the endeavor to put into practical operation an economic and industrial scheme which should embody and illustrate the doctrines which they held and inculcated.' Necessarily, said the court (p. 353), "the basic proposition of such a community was the absolute and complete surrender of the separate and individual rights of property of the persons entering it; the abandonment of all purely selfish pursuits, and the investiture of the title to their

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