Maguire v Attorney-General

Judgment Date14 May 1943
Date14 May 1943
CourtHigh Court
Maguire v. Attorney-General

Will - Charitable bequest - Direction to trustees and executors to expend a sum of money in founding a Convent of Perpetual Adoration - Validity.

Construction Summons.

Mary A. Maguire, in religion Sister Mary de Sales, died on the 4th day of October, 1939. By her will, dated the 9th day of January, 1939, the testatrix appointed her brother, the Very Rev. Andrew Canon Maguire, P.P., and her nephew, Thomas A. Maguire, executors and trustees. The testatrix disposed of all her property in the following terms:—"I give devise and bequeath all the moneys which I became entitled to out of the estate of my late brother Thomas Maguire to my said executors to be disposed of as follows. Firstly I direct them to expend a sum not exceeding £5,000 in founding a Convent of Perpetual Adoration at Lisnaskea or elsewhere as they may determine. Secondly I direct that the residue of my estate be expended on such charitable purpose or purposes as they may determine, having special regard to the wishes intimated in my written instructions to them."

The plaintiff, one of the executors of the will, brought the summons to have the following question, inter alia,arising out of the will, determined by the Court:—

Whether the bequest "Firstly I direct them [the executors] to expend a sum not exceeding £5,000 in founding a Convent of Perpetual Adoration at Lisnaskea or elsewhere as they may determine" was a valid charitable bequest?

In an affidavit made by the other executor, the Very Rev. Andrew Canon Maguire, P.P., the following facts were stated:—

The testatrix was a professed Sister of the Order of Mercy, and the vows taken by her included a vow of poverty. She had a great admiration for, and devotion to, the idea of Perpetual Adoration, and knew and had visited the convent devoted to Perpetual Adoration at Drumshambo, Co. Leitrim, and was desirous of helping to found a similar institution at Lisnaskea.

Perpetual Adoration is an expression well known to members of the Catholic Church. It is a form of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, whereby in some suitable church or chapel arrangements are made, necessarily by a community, for an unbroken succession of persons to be present in private prayer and in contemplation before the Blessed Sacrament exposed to the view of the worshippers. Outside such a community exposition of the Blessed Sacrament only takes place on certain occasions during the year, with the authorisation of the Bishop of the diocese. The deponent stated that he had read the evidence given by the Most Rev. Dr. Delaney, Bishop of Cork, in the case of theAttorney-General v. Delaney(1), and believed that to be a true and accurate statement of the belief and teaching of the Catholic Church on the Mass. The adoration of the Blessed Sacrament might be considered an extension of the ceremony and sacrifice of the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament being reserved therefrom, and it involved all the dogma and doctrines of the Church relating thereto. The existence of a convent devoted to Perpetual Adoration was unquestionably a source of edification and of spiritual and moral benefit to all Catholics quite apart from such subsidiary benefits as the presence of a convent in a country town such as Lisnaskea might bring.

After the death of the testatrix the deponent had communicated with the Order of Nuns at Drumshambo with a view to obtaining information as to the possibility of a branch convent of that community being founded at Lisnaskea, but for financial reasons and for lack of numbers of professed sisters this was not found possible. The deponent stated that he had had interviews with the Mother Superior of the Convent of the Order of Marie Reparatrice, Merrion Square, Dublin, and could state that that Order was devoted to the Adoration of God in the Blessed Sacrament and was what is generally called by Catholics an "Order of Perpetual Adoration." The nuns of the Order were under the usual vows of the Catholic religion, including a vow of poverty. The convents of the Order have a chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed daily and nuns are always present before it in prayer and contemplation. These chapels were open to the public at stated hours, usually during the daytime, and an object of the Order was to encourage the laity to come and join in the prayers and contemplation of the Community. In addition, the ordinary services of the Church were performed at which the public might usually attend. By their rule

the nuns sang or said in the choir the Office of the Order. The chapel of the Convent at Merrion Square had a continuous flow of devout laity passing in and out to their devotions all day long. In addition to that primary object of Adoration the Order undertook subsidiary good works all centring, around their primary object. The convent arranged Retreats for women, conducted an Adoration Society for men and women, which numbered some hundreds and gave instruction to young children for their first Holy Communion. The nuns also made vestments and altar cloths, and presented these to poor Churches, and generally engaged in Church needlework (the income from which in part supported their upkeep) and manufactured altar breads. The Order had convents in Cork and Limerick where similar work was carried on. The property of the convents was held in trust by certain members of the community. Each convent was independent of the others but was under the control of a Mother Provincial, who was responsible for the convents in Ireland, England and Scotland to the Head of the Order, who resided at the principal house of the Order at Rome.

The deponent stated that in his opinion the Order undertook all that the testatrix meant and understood by the words "a Convent of Perpetual Adoration," and added that, if allowed a discretion in the matter, he and his co-executor proposed to hand over such moneys as were held to be in their control to that Order for the founding of a Convent of Perpetual Adoration. The Mother Superior had informed the deponent that the community was anxious to found another such convent with the help of the said bequest, subject to the formal permission of the Head of the Order and that of the Bishop of the Diocese at Lisnaskea, or elsewhere, should Lisnaskea prove unsuitable. During the present emergency, however, a definite undertaking could not be given.

An affidavit was filed on behalf of the Attorney-General, which was made by the Very Rev. Patrick Dargan. D.D., explaining the primary purpose of the exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The material portions of this affidavit are stated in the judgment of Gavan Duffy J.

A bequest to found a convent for the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a valid charitable gift.

So held by Gavan Duffy J.

Cur. adv. vult.

Gavan Duffy J.:—

The late Sister Mary de Sales, of the Order of Mercy, otherwise Mary Maguire, by her last will bequeathed to her executors all the moneys accruing to her from the estate of her deceased brother, Thomas (of Lisnaskea), and directed her executors and trustees thereout to expend a sum not exceeding £5,000 in founding a Convent of Perpetual Adoration at Lisnaskea or elsewhere as they might determine, and she directed that the residue of her estate should be applied to charitable purposes. The main question for decision is the question whether the bequest of £5,000 is in law a valid charitable bequest. On the religious aspect of the gift I have an affidavit from the Very Rev. Canon Maguire, P.P., of Castleblayney, one of the executors, and an affidavit, filed on behalf of the Attorney-General, by the Very Rev. Canon Dargan, D.D., President of Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, and I shall begin by summarising the evidence very briefly.

Dr. Dargan deposes that the primary purpose of exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament is to honour God incarnate, really . present under the Sacred Species; the Blessed Sacrament is enclosed in a monstrance and placed on a throne upon an altar, in acknowledgment of the Kingship of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist and as an invitation to the faithful to pay Him the tribute of adoration. The devotion of perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is well known in the Catholic Church; strictly perpetual adoration requires some person to be engaged always, day and night, in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, but religious institutes, where adoration is maintained during the greater part of each day and all through certain nights, are usually called institutes of perpetual adoration by Catholics. In practice, the devotion is always associated with reparation for the sins of men, thus propitiating God and securing His clemency towards guilty man; invariably and as a matter of course the participants pray for the welfare of the Church, the conversion of sinners, and the needs, spiritual and temporal, of persons who have asked for prayers. A convent for perpetual adoration is comparable to a spiritual powerhouse.

I am further informed that continuity of adoration is secured in practice only through religious institutes, usually of women, and the approval of the competent ecclesiastical authority is essential; the constitutions of convents for perpetual adoration may vary considerably. Mass is always said daily in any such convent, and daily Mass would certainly be prescribed by the rules of the convent; and daily Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is also a matter of course. I need only add that the contemplated convent would be the home of a society, recognised by the Church, of Catholic women, bound by religious vows and living under a strict rule, which might cut them off completely, or almost completely, from the world outside. And adoration in the deep seclusion of an enclosed convent may...

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5 cases
  • Bank of Ireland Trustee Company Ltd v Attorney General
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 30 Julio 1957
    ...Held that such bequest was for a purpose merely charitable and was therefore exempt from legacy duty. Maguire v. Attorney GeneralIR [1943] I.R. 238 followed; McNamee v. MansfieldIR [1945] I.R. 13 distinguished; Attorney-Generalv. Hall [1897] 2 I.R. 426 and O'Hanlonv. Logue [1906] 1 I.R. 247......
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    • House of Lords
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    • 5 Febrero 1979
    ...1 I.R. 431; O'Manlon .v. Lokue 1906 1 I.R. 260; Attorney General .V Becher 1910 2I.R. 260; Maugire deceased.Maugire.v.Attorney General 1943 I.R.238; Sheridan deceased, Bank of Ireland .v. Attorney General & Ors. 1957 I.R. 257). Notwithstanding such divergence in relation to the law of ohari......
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4 books & journal articles
  • Catholicism and the Judiciary in Ireland, 1922-1960
    • Ireland
    • Irish Judicial Studies Journal No. 1-20, January 2020
    • 1 Enero 2020 law’. 77 Cook v Carroll [1945] IR 515. 78 Maguire v Attorney General [1943] 238 and Re Howley [1940] IR 119. 79 [1943] 238. 80 [1943] IR 238, 254. [2020] Irish Judicial Studies Journal Vol 4(1) 19 20 Divine Lord, Jesus Christ who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial’. In Cook......
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    • Emory University School of Law Emory International Law Reviews No. 21-1, September 2007
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    • Ireland
    • Irish Judicial Studies Journal No. 2-2, July 2002
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