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The American republican form of government and the effects of the Enlightenment upon the European Catholic church provided fertile ground for theological reflection and ecclesiastical adaptation in early nineteenth-century American Catholicism. A number of immigrant Catholic laymen were influenced by their previous European Catholic experiences and by the American enthusiasm for republicanism to reform their understanding of the laity's role in the American Catholic church and to adapt ecclesiastical structures to American political institutions. In light of these experiences, some of these laymen began to reflect upon the Christian Scriptures and tradition, and to formulate a democratic conception of the layman's role within the church.