Designation given to certain "moral persons" or associations which, by Law of Separation of the Churches and the State, 1905, the French Republic, without any previous understanding with the Holy See, wished to call into existence in each diocese and parish, for religious worship, to receive as proprietors church properties and revenues, with responsibility of taking care of them.
By Article 8, it belonged to the Council of State, a purely lay authority, to pronounce upon the orthodoxy of any association cultuelle; the revenues were to be subject to state control.
Pope Pius X in the encyclical Gravissimo officii, 1906, gave it as his judgment that this law, made without his assent, threatened to intrude lay authority into the natural operation of the ecclesiastical organization; the Encyclical prohibited the formation not only of associations cultuelles, but of any form of association whatsoever "so long as it should not be certainly and legally evident that the Divine constitution of the Church, the immutable rights of the Roman pontiff and of the bishops, such as their authority over the necessary property of the Church, particularly the sacred edifices, would, in the said associations, be irrevocably and fully secure."
This law was modified by that of 2 January 1907, permitting exercise of religious worship in churches purely on sufferance and without any legal title; and further by a law passed 28 March 1907, classifying assemblages for religious worship as public meetings, and abolishing in respect of all public meetings the anticipatory declaration required by the Law of 1881 which the Church refused to make.
By this precarious arrangement the Church carried on until 1923 whcn a new method of administering church properties was inaugurated without opposition from the government.
New Catholic Dictionary