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Gonzalez v. Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila, 280 U.S. 1 (1929)

Gonzalez v. Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila

No. 6

Argued April 8, 9, 1929

Decided October 14, 1929

280 U.S. 1


1. A judgment of the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands in a case in which the amount in controversy exceeds $25,000 is reviewable by this Court on certiorari. P. 280 U. S. 11.

2. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila is a juristic person amenable to the jurisdiction of the Philippine courts for the enforcement of any legal right, and a right claimed under a will to be appointed to, and receive the income from, a chaplaincy founded by the will is a subject matter within the jurisdiction of those courts. P. 280 U. S. 15.

3. The facts that the chaplaincy is a collative one and that its property was transferred to the spiritual properties of the Archbishopric, subject to ecclesiastical jurisdiction and control, affect the terms of the trust but do not deprive civil courts of jurisdiction to adjudicate legal rights arising therefrom. P. 280 U. S. 16.

4. In the absence of fraud, collusion, or arbitrariness, the decisions of the proper church tribunals on matters purely ecclesiastical, although affecting civil rights, are accepted in litigation before the secular courts as conclusive, because the parties in interest made them so by contract or otherwise. P. 280 U. S. 16.

Page 280 U. S. 2

5. Pursuant to the will of its foundress, a perpetual collative chaplaincy was established in 1820. Such a chaplaincy is subject to ecclesiastical control, and intervention by the proper spiritual authority to appoint and ordain the chaplain is essential. The ecclesiastical law also prescribes the qualifications of the chaplain. Held, in accordance with the implied intention of the parties, that the Canon Law in force at the time of the presentation of an applicant for appointment, rather than that in force in 1820, governs his fitness, and he cannot complain of an amendment adopted at a time when he was ineligible under either law and was enjoying no right of which the amendment deprived him. P. 280 U. S. 17.

6. The intention of the foundress of a collative chaplaincy, so far as expressed, was that the income should be applied to the celebration of masses and to the living of the chaplain, who should preferably be the nearest male relative in the line of descent from herself, or her grandson, the first incumbent. Four others of her descendants successively held the chaplaincy, the last of whom renounced it and was still living. During the resulting vacancy, the masses were duly celebrated, and the Archbishop applied the surplus income currently to pious educational uses, supporting this by a custom of the archdiocese and provisions of Canon Law. Held, without deciding whether such disposition of the surplus was proper or what should be its disposition in the future, that a son of the last incumbent, who was properly refused appointment as chaplain because he had not the qualifications prescribed by the Canon Law, was not entitled, as the nearest relative, to the accrued surplus. P. 280 U. S. 18.

7. Suit was brought by an individual to enforce his claimed right as sole beneficiary under a will to the appointment to, and accrued surplus income from, a collative chaplaincy. Held, that, on appeal, the action cannot be treated as a suit by him as representative of the heirs of the testatrix as a class to recover the surplus income during a vacancy. P. 280 U. S. 19.


Certiorari, 278 U.S. 588, to review a Judgment of the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands, which reversed a judgment recovered by Gonzalez directing the Archbishop of Manila to appoint him to a chaplaincy and to pay to him the income thereof accrued during its vacancy.

Page 280 U. S. 10

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