Thomas Maher, Philadelphia, for appellant.
No appearance for appellee.
Before Rhodes, P. J., and Hirt, Reno, Dithrich, Ross, Arnold and Gunther, JJ.
[ 171 Pa. Super. Page 542]
Wife-appellant sued for divorce, alleging cruelty and indignities. After a hearing, at which defendant did not appear personally or by counsel, the master recommended dismissal of the complaint. Upon her exceptions, the court below recommitted the case to the master with directions 'to summon the defendant and examine him respecting his alleged treatment of the plaintiff, and his reasons therefor, and to reconsider the testimony as a whole', and file a supplemental report. The defendant, with counsel, attended the second hearing, and candidly admitted the truth of plaintiff's and her father's testimony taken at the first hearing, while refusing to commit himself as to the further testimony of plaintiff and her witnesses taken at the second hearing. Nevertheless, the master again filed an adverse report, which the court below approved and dismissed the complaint, without an opinion.
The parties were married on February 4, 1950, when both were 20 years of age. They resided with the wife's parents, and she continued to work as a bookkeeper. From the beginning, defendant's conduct was, to state it mildly, unkind and inconsiderate, and became progressively worse, so that his loud and profane verbal abuse culminated in an act of physical violence on September 9, 1950, when they separated.
His lordly attitude toward his wife is aptly illustrated by his indefensible demand that she abstain from attending church services. She was a Baptist; he a Methodist. She had been accustomed, all her life, to attend church and Sunday school regularly. Early in their married life, he refused to permit her to attend church, and as to that testified, 'I really hadn't any
[ 171 Pa. Super. Page 543]
reason, I guess', although later he explained: 'She didn't like my church and my Reverend, and I didn't like hers. We tried it a couple of times and went to another church, and the mother didn't like that, so that was the end of that.' His explanation does not justify his objection to her attending her own church, alone if she so desired. In itself, standing alone, such conduct may not amount to an indignity but it does reveal defendant's unwholesome conception of the privileges of the married state. To place himself between plaintiff and her church and demand compliance with his will as the price of marital peace was an affront to her spirit, and as Judge McPherson, one of Pennsylvania's distinguished nisi prius jurists, said in his classic opinion in Brubaker v. Brubaker, 4 Pa.Dist.R. 185, 187: 'The 'person' meant by the [divorce] statute [23 P.S. § 10] is the indivisible personality formed by the union of body and spirit, and indignities offered to either are necessarily offered to both.' See 1 Freedman, Marriage and Divorce, p. 742.
Of a piece was his refusal to allow her to go to the annual church picnic which she had attended since childhood; and his impolite, not to say churlish, reception of their friends who visited them. She was not allowed to see her friends and when they called at the house defendant 'practically threw them out.' A certain couple called to see them, but defendant refused to go downstairs, and, although they remained only twenty minutes, defendant subsequently told plaintiff her friends had stayed long enough. The same couple again called on defendant's birthday with a gift and after they were in the house a half hour defendant ordered plaintiff upstairs to put up her hair, stating he did not want the company to stay any longer. With other friends of plaintiff, defendant offered to drive them home after a ten minute visit.
[ 171 Pa. Super. Page 544]
Boorish behavior, directed against his wife's friends or his own friends, has not been recognized as a technical indignity. Yet it cannot be doubted that such conduct would be painfully humiliating to a young bride or, for that matter, to 'any woman of ordinary ...