Trusteeism controversy

ca. 1815–1840

In its infancy, the Catholic Church in America relied on the initiative and benevolence of laypeople to an extraordinary degree. Lacking priests, many early parishes were established and managed by laity. As the nation grew and the clerical personnel of the Church increased, priests and bishops sought to standardize the Church's organization in accord with canon law and common practice. The result in some localities was tension—and sometimes hostility—between pastors and bishops on one side and lay trustees on the other. Significant battles over control of parishes occurred at St. Mary's in Philadelphia and in New York, among other places.


Catholic Encyclopedia


P. Carey, People, Priests and Prelates: Ecclesiastical Democracy and the Tensions of Trusteeism