Three 19th century newspaper articles about corporation sole in Massachusetts:
The Boston Daily Globe, Wednesday, May 19, 1897: “To Protect Church Property Held by Archbishop — Corporation Sole Bill Passes the House, Ordered to a Third Reading Today — Vote Stood 100 to 47 in Favor of It — Present Law Declared to be Utterly Inadequate — Over 150 Churches are Interested — At Present Such an Official Accounts to No One.”
When the lower branch of the state legislature opened its session today Mr Pierce of Milton continued his argument against the passage of the bill to incorporate the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston and his successors a corporation sole to hold and manage certain property for religious and charitable purposes.
He said the bill proposed the creation of a gigantic trust. He would give to the Catholic church just as much as he would give to any other sect, but not one iota more.
The law enacted in 1878, on motion of the late Judge M. J. McCafferty of Worcester, covered the case, said Mr Pierce. The law of New York is precisely the same as ours.
Mr Washburn of Worcester, chairman of the committee on mercantile affairs, which reported the bill, made an able presentation of the reasons which actuated the committee in reporting as it did.
He thought the bill was just and proper, and there had been no remonstrance to which the committee could give any great weight from the Catholic people of the diocese. They were all in favor of it.
“There is now in the archdiocese of Boston church property held by the Catholic archbishop to the amount of about $5,000,000, covering 150 churches, more or less,” said Mr Washburn. “Under the present law, upon the death of the archbishop his heirs will be able to assert title to it. It has been found in other localities, that the property has sometimes been diverted to the heirs and not to the succeeding archbishop, as the donors intended.
“This bill seeks, by incorporating the archbishop, to protect the property held by him for religious purposes. It does not increase his power by one jot or by one tittle. When he dies the property will go to his successor. That is all the bill means; that is all there is to it. There is absolutely nothing in it that should arouse opposition.”
Mr Washburn said that there was a law now on the statute books of Maine very similar to the one proposed here.
Mr Lowell of Boston also favored the bill.
“If this bill passes,” said he, “it will not increase the holdings of the archbishop of Boston by one foot of land or by one dollar in money. What the Catholic church is now it will be after the bill has passed. The ecclesiastical property is all now vested in the archbishop. The bill will compel him to carry out in law what he is bound now to do morally. A corporation sole is a method perfectly well known to the English law.”
He hoped the bill would pass because it would put under state control an institution that was likely to become, if such already was not the case, the largest religious and charitable trust in the state.
Mr Manchester of Winchester, for the bill, said there was one reason at least why the state should establish the precedent of a corporation sole.
At present the archbishop of Boston holds $5,000,000 of property and is accountable to no one but himself for the administration of the affairs of the property.
“Is there any earthly reason why this archbishop should be obliged to open his books once a year and show the commissioner of corporations of this state how he has administered the property intrusted to his care? Said Mr Manchester. “This is an innovation, but it is an innovation I welcome.”
Mr. Moriarity of Worcester said the bill was in the interest of 600,000 Catholic citizens. There was absolutely no reason why the bill should not pass.
Mr Myers of Cambridge and Mr Dubuque of Fall River both favored the bill and discussed it from a legal point of view. The latter said that it gave to the laity of the Catholic church more power than they ever had before.
Mr Stone of Springfield of the judiciary committee and Mr Odlin of Andover also spoke for the bill.
Debate was closed by Mr Post of Lenox having charge of the bill.
By a vote of 100 to 47 the house ordered the bill to a third reading.
The Boston Daily Globe, Tuesday June 15, 1897: “In A Corporation Sole: Catholic Church Property is to be Thus Held — Archbishop is Required by New Act to Conform to Its Provisions — Object Thus Attained is the Avoiding of Any Legal Complications.”
One of the most important acts passed by the late legislature is house bill 1298 for the incorporation of the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston and his successors as a corporation sole, to hold and manage certain property for religious and charitable purposes.
The importance of the bill is seen in the fact that in Massachusetts today there are more than 1,000,000 Catholics, of whom 600,000 are in the archdiocese of Boston, and the other fact that property to the amount of $6,000,000 is involved. The history and purposes of the bill are therefore subjects of deep interest to the public.
It was introduced by Representative Jeremiah J. McCarthy from Charlestown at the request of Archbishop Williams and Charles F. Donnelly, the agent of the archbishop.
About the middle of February Representative McCarthy appeared before the committee on rules, the time having expired for the introduction of new business. The committee voted unanimously to suspend the rules and admit the bill. It was referred to the committee on mercantile affairs, and there was a hearing, at which Representative McCarthy, Charles F. Donnelly and Representative E. J. Moriarty of Worcester appeared in its favor. Mr. Crowley of Danvers appeared in remonstrance, the only other remonstrant being Mrs Nichols of Cambridge. There was but a slight opposition to the bill, the ground taken by the remonstrants being that it would place too much power in the hands of one man.
The committee reported adversely with leave to withdraw. And when the report came into the house a conference was held with Mr Maxwell, chairman of the committee, at the request of Representative Washburn, who moved to recommit the report back to the committee. After another hearing, with but one or two dissentients, it was reported that the bill ought to pass.
The report to accept the bill was favored by Representative Post of Lenox, a member of the committee, and there was no opposition. Representative Washburn made an eloquent speech in its favor, and Representatives Myers of Cambridge, chairman of the committee on judiciary, Manchester of Winchester, Lowell of Boston and Stone of Springfield favored it. Hon Edward L. Pierce of Milton opposed it vigorously, but it was ordered to a third reading by a vote of 100 to 47.
It was finally ordered to be engrossed, and on a majority vote of 40 it was sent to the senate, where it passed the various readings without a word of opposition. The bill was signed by Gov Wolcott on the Thursday before the prorogation, and the pen used in signing the bill was presented to Representative McCarthy.
The following circular issued by Representative McCarthy gives in clear terms the reasons for the bill, and the importance of it:
“A corporation sole is a corporation consisting of but one person; it is known to the civil law of the continent of Europe and to the Roman law before the Christian era, and also to the law of England. Such corporations have been established for more conveniently holding and handling property for the Catholic body, in the province of New Brunswick since 1846, in Illinois since 1861 and in Maine since 1887, in Maryland since about 1790, and in Massachusetts so far as the holding of ministers’ houses from 1745, and here the statute has simply fallen into disuse of recent years. See chapter 31, general statutes.
“All property for Catholic churches and pastors’ residences in Massachusetts has been and is held by the archbishop in his individual name, and should he fail to make a will, or deed it, the legal title would vest in his heirs. To avert the possibility of the church property so held going into the hands of heirs of a bishop or archbishop, the archbishop desires to have it vested in a corporation sole, as in the province of New Brunswick and the states of Illinois, Maine, and Maryland.
“By the present tenure of such property in the hands of bishops and archbishops, should any one of them become mentally infirm, or should he fail to make a will, or should there be any contention about his will, the title would be in peril, and the Catholic body might suffer. On the contrary, should the property be vested in a corporation sole as proposed, then the archbishop and his successors would hold it in succession for the use of the Catholic body.
“The archbishop proposes to convey all the property he holds to the proposed corporation as soon as the act shall have been passed. No will, deed or other instrument of conveyance would then be required for the passing of the title from person to person in the office of archbishop, and there would be no danger of the misapplication of the property, as the state has the control, regulation, supervision and direction of every corporation it creates, and may alter and amend the act at any time, if found necessary.
“The laws, customs, rules and usages of each religious denomination in this country, whether Jew or Gentile, Protestant or Catholic, are respected so far as they violate no principle of the constitution and are just and reasonable in character. Now the Catholics throughout the United States have chosen as a whole hitherto to have the church property they have accumulated in the different Catholic dioceses held in the hands of their several bishops as the owners thereof in fee simple absolute. No citizen or no state has heretofore questioned the right of Catholics to so have their church property held if they choose. In Massachusetts today there are over 1,000,000 Catholics, and 600,000 are in the archdiocese of Boston. If they now choose to have their church property held by a corporation sole there is no reasonable or just ground of objection under the spirit of our constitution.”
The act makes the present Roman Catholic archbishop and his successors a body politic and corporation sole, provides for any vacancy in the office of archbishop and empowers the corporation sole to receive, take and hold, by sale, gift, lease, devise or otherwise real and personal estate of every description, for religious, charitable and burial purposes, and to manage and dispose of the same for the religious and charitable purposes of the Roman Catholic church, subject to the laws of the commonwealth.
Section 3 of the act is mandatory and says: “The present Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston shall, within six months after the passage of this act, make, sign and swear to a statement which he shall submit to the commissioner of corporations, setting forth that he lawfully and regularly holds the office of Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston and that he accepts the provisions of this act and will duly conform to them.”
Section 4 provides for the swearing in of the archbishop’s successor, as a corporation sole, and section 5 provides that all instruments now held by the present Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston shall be vested in the corporation established by this act, subject to any trust expressed in any instrument and to any limitations governing the trust.
The act further provides that the corporation shall be subject to all laws of the commonwealth regulating corporations established for religious and charitable purposes, in requiring them to make annual and other returns to the commissioner of corporations concerning their condition and affairs, and that the act shall take effect on its passage.
The Boston Globe, Friday, Feb. 11, 1898: “Bishop Beaven’s Petition: Wishes to be Incorporated as Corporation Sole of the Springfield Diocese—Hearing Given Today.”
At the state house this morning, the committee on mercantile affairs gave a hearing on the petition for the incorporation of the Roman Catholic Bishop Beaven of the Springfield diocese as a corporation sole to hold and manage church property. Hon James B. Carroll of Springfield appeared for the petition. Daniel M. Crowley of Danvers, who appeared last year in opposition to the bill incorporating Archbishop Williams as corporation sole for the same purpose, was the only remonstrant today.
This bill follows exactly the language, as far as terms and restrictions are concerned, of the act passed last year. No new questions were, therefore, raised. What the archdiocese of Boston had the diocese of Springfield sought.
Mr. Carroll, however, went into the merits of the legislation asked for, as did Mr Crowley in opposition. Chairman Senator Williams interrogated the speakers at length. Mr Crowley was closely questioned in his opposition by Representative Connolly of Fall River and Representative Kelly of Boston.
Mr Crowley disclaimed any animus in the matter, but opposed the matter on the ground that Catholics should manage their own property by themselves. He referred to the failure of Bishop Purcell in St. Louis. Mr Carroll suggested that the violation of trust in that instance was entirely possible with the bishop’s present tenure. Both gentlemen agreed, however, that some change was desirable.
In opening the hearing Mr. Carroll said that the bill followed exactly the language of the act passed last year incorporating the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston. Questions of the bishop’s tenure of church property have arisen—whether he holds it absolutely for himself or in trust—and such questions have never been settled. “I do not believe,” he said, “it has ever been settled that the term ‘bishop’ created a trust.”
The speaker suggested that the law was desired merely for security and to hold to the people who build Catholic churches their property. With such legislation as proposed no complications would arise should the bishop die without making a will.
Mr. Carroll urged further that uniformity was also desired. The arch diocese of Boston has the desired legislation, and the Springfield diocese now asks for it.
The speaker also told the committee that under the proposed act the Catholics of Springfield diocese could secure a much lower rate on loans if incorporated. Today they are paying 5 percent on loans, principally to savings banks.
Daniel M. Crowley of Danvers appeared in opposition to the petition before the committee, as he had last year, when the archbishop of Boston sought incorporation. He would incorporate the local churches. If they did not desire incorporation he would leave them the rights to control and manage their own property.
Mr. Crowley urged that the Catholics of the state are as intelligent as any other body of citizens, and they are able to manage their property. He suggested that they make good citizens, and run cities well. Boston, though much criticized, he said, has been controlled and managed very well since it became democratic.
The speaker believed there was something more than merely convenience behind the petition. He did not understand why ex State Treas Phillips, ex Lieut Gov Halle and other prominent citizens had signed the petition of Bishop Beavens. He would prefer to see Catholic signers.
Representative Belcher asked Mr Crowley if there were many Catholics opposed to the incorporation of the bishop as a corporation sole. Mr Crowley thought there were a great many. Representative Belcher suggested that the witness was the only one who appeared last year and this year in remonstrance, although the hearings on the subject were extensively advertised.
Mr Crowley, in reply to questions, suggested that under the law incorporating the archbishop of Boston, no annual returns were called for. This was promptly denied by counsel Carroll and members of the committee. Mr. Crowley then said the returns demanded amounted to nothing. He wanted returns that would show the income from this corporation sole, and how it was applied.
After further discussion the committee closed the hearing.
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