Literary and scientific society that came into conflict with the Catholic Church in 19th-century French Canada. It was founded in Montreal in 1844 as a discussion forum and free library, and it established branches throughout French-speaking Canada. It criticized the institutionalism of the church in Quebec and displayed books considered undesirable. Church leaders, including Ignace Bourget, bishop of Montreal (1840–76), attacked the institute, which appealed to Rome for support. In 1869 the church condemned the movement, and most members withdrew.
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