these facts it is asserted that the Abbot stood in loco parentis for the deceased.
The question is novel, no reported decisions having been found involving the specific issue. The authorities construing the phrase 'in loco parentis' seem to be at variance as to whether a common law meaning was intended by Congress or a somewhat more inclusive meaning.
It will not be necessary not will it be the purpose of this opinion to examine the conflict between those cases. However, an inquiry into the legislative history of the Act may be helpful in determining whether plaintiff is within the class of permitted beneficiaries.
The Senate Committee Report
on the amendatory Act of 1942 contains the following:
'Sections 7 to 9 are for the purpose of clarifying the existing legislation pertaining to the permitted class of beneficiaries, with particular reference to the terms 'parent', 'father', and 'mother.'
'These terms as used in the original act and the amendment of December 20, 1941, are not defined. As a result it could be held that only natural parents are included notwithstanding that in a given case the soldier may have been deserted by the natural parents and have been raised and supported wholly by an adoptive parent or parents. It is intended that they may be designated by the insured and that in case of automatic benefits, failure of designation or death of beneficiary, a person within the class as defined who last bore and exercised the parental relationship may be paid as beneficiary. Sections 8 and 9 are merely perfecting changes in existing law to conform to such intent.'
The House Committee Report
is to the same effect. From analysis of these reports, and from consideration of the generally accepted idea of parenthood, it would seem that Congress intended the benefits of the Act to apply to beneficiaries who occupied a relationship to the insured similar to that of natural parents, rather than one who exercised dominant authority by virtue of his position as head of an institution or religious order. Nothing in the statute or its legislative history indicates that a broader group was intended. The cases allowing recovery to one standing in loco parentis are cases where the beneficiary was in a position very much similar to that of a natural parent.
The impelling reason for the association in those cases apparently was the desire to create a parent-child connection for its own sake. In the instant case it seems the association was for the purpose of achieving religious objectives, the Abbot being the head of the order for purposes of administration and spiritual leadership. The relationship established between the decedent and the Abbot of the Abbey in which he lived, was predicated on the acceptance of a spiritual bond, which had its reflection in the material dependency voluntarily assumed by the decedent. That spiritual bond, in conscience and by express pronouncement, controlling the decedent's physical state, while it may possess attributes for the persons involved, far more affecting than those attached to the natural and material order, was not, as we conceive it, within the contemplation of the framers of the act, the basis for constituting the creation of a relationship equivalent to that of parent and child. The recognitions and states created by the religious appreciations of the individuals involved are not within the purview of the instant legislation. Thus although the relationship had some of the attributes of a natural parent-child relationship it was not sufficiently similar to be regarded as one contemplated in the phrase 'in loco parentis'. The Court concludes, therefore, that plaintiff did not stand in loco parentis to the insured within the meaning of the National Service Life Insurance Act as amended.
The designation of beneficiary by the insured having been ineffective, the third party defendants, sisters of the insured are entitled to the benefits of the insurance, as provided by Section 602(h)(3)(d) of the National Service Life Insurance Act, 38 U.S.C.A. § 802(h)(3)(d).
Let an order be entered.