McElroy Lecture: Trusteeism, an American heresy

March 19, 2014

Time: 5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Location: Ss. Peter & Paul Jesuit Church, Detroit


Sally Barringer Gordon
Barringer Gordon

The 2014 McElroy Lecture on Law and Religion will feature a talk by Sarah (Sally) Barringer Gordon, professor of History and the Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Pennsylvania. Her topic will be "An American heresy: Trusteeism and the corporate law of religion in the early national United States."

The lecture will address the history of American Catholicism and its engagement in corporate law, especially in the early national period. Within Catholicism, the only heresy to emanate from America is known as "trusteeism," so called because lay trustees were the source. By the early nineteenth century, individual church corporations routinely were required to elect trustees, who then were vested with all the temporal property of the church. Before long, trustees began to assert themselves, claiming that as owners of the property they should have a say in who was called to preach to them, and whether or not their finances should be used to pay off the debt for construction of other Catholic churches. All across the country, controversies raged between lay trustees (as well as a few sympathetic clergy) and the church hierarchy, producing widespread protests and even riots.

In the early 1800s, corporate law thus became a key bone of contention among Catholics. Reverberations of these conflicts are felt even today, such as in the St. Sebastian Kostka Church case from St. Louis, where a suit by trustees against the Church was successful in 2013.

The lecture will take place in the Ss. Peter & Paul Jesuit Church at 629 East Jefferson Avenue in Detroit, immediately adjacent to the UDM School of Law. Parking will be provided at Christ Church Detroit, across Jefferson Avenue.

A complimentary reception will follow the lecture at approximately 6 p.m. in the School of Law Atrium.

To register to attend, please use the McElroy Lecture registration form.

About the McElroy Lecture Series

In 1998, the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law began a lecture series to address prominent issues of law and religion in American society, the McElroy Lecture Series.

Previous McElroy Lecturers have included U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Stephen L. Carter, Cardinal Adam Maida, Hon. John T. Noonan, Jr., Michael John Perry, Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan, Dennis W. Archer, Geoffrey C. Hazard, Jr., Cass R. Sunstein, Noah Feldman, Dr. Leslie Griffin, Cardinal Roger Mahony, John Witte, Jr., Douglas Laycock and Marci A. Hamilton.

RSVP: Requested

Contact: Denise Hickey, School of Law assistant dean
Phone: 313-596-0202
Email: hickeydp@udmercy.edu