Gallicanism, primarily a theory about the proper relationship between church and state. In New France this relationship was governed by a web of traditions and usages that defined the status of the French church, both within the secular kingdom and within the universal church. Gallicanism's major characteristics included a certain defiance of the papacy, the defence of Gallic freedoms (which discounted the idea of absolute papal authority, in temporal or spiritual matters, over the French king and church), and the desire to ensure the Crown's full power even in the spiritual domain.
After the conquest, and especially in the 19th century, Gallicanism became a theory with 2 groups of supporters: those who did not believe in papal infallibility or saw no need to accept it as dogma; and those who halfheartedly accepted a degree of state intervention in traditionally church-controlled domains such as education, marriage and the keeping of registries.
Gallicanism flourished in New France in the latter part of the 17th century, when Intendant Jean Talon and Governor Frontenac sought to reduce overwhelming religious influence and make the church obey the state. A modus vivendi was quickly reached, guaranteeing a certain autonomy to the church while permitting some state intervention, even in such purely religious questions as the life of religious communities. However, after 1760, having assured its survival and won for itself a degree of freedom, Canadian Catholicism rethought the division of religious and civil power.
Two tendencies appeared after 1840. On the one hand, Ultramontes supported the supremacy of the church and its prior right in education, the legislation of marriage, and all joint domains. On the other, those who modified these claims to any degree or defended the rights of the state were called Gallicans - a title that included groups such as the Sulpicians; lawyers such as George-Étienne Cartier, Rodolphe Laflamme and Joseph Doutre; and Université Laval professors such as Jacques Crémazie and Charles-François Langelier. Soon, however, extreme ultramontanes threw the epithet "Gallican" at anyone who did not think the way they did; Gallicanism as such existed to some degree but merged with Catholic liberalism, which was similarly denounced until the end of the 19th century.