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The Crisis of Religion and the Problem of Roman Catholic Self-Definition


The Project

This project seeks to dispel some of the confusion surrounding the notion, and the contemporary discussion, of ‘religion’ by means of a critical reflection on one of its most complex and enduring manifestations, namely, the Roman Catholic tradition of Christianity. More concretely, our research explores the content and development of Roman Catholicism’s religious self-definition throughout history.

This history has been marked by internal tensions, and disputes and divisions within Catholicism, as well as repression and corruption. In the course of its existence, Roman Catholicism has encountered multiple cultural, religious and philosophical systems which it has both opposed and/or, to some degree, appropriated. Since the advent of modernity (and postmodernity) it has been obliged to address the emergence of modern atheism and the processes of secularization (and secularism). Most recently, it has been required to meet the challenges issuing from the increasing presence and growing popularity of rival religious systems, both Christian and non-Christian.

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Research Team

As a whole, the GOA-research group joins some forty scholars involved in research on both the doctoral and postdoctoral level. Each of these members works in close collaboration with one of the five supervisors.


Terrence Merrigan - Coordinator
(Systematic Theology 
and the Study of Religions)

Mathijs Lamberigts
(History of Church and Theology)


Lieven Boeve
(Systematic Theology
and the Study of Religions)
Joris Geldhof
(Pastoral and Empirical Theology)


Wim François
(History of Church and Theology)


Upcoming Activities

May 2, 2016      

Continuing Education in Fundamental and Dogmatic Theology

Promotiezaal, Universiteitshal


Full catalogue of recent events and initatives


Recent Publications

  • Boeve, L. (2014). Lyotard and Theology: Beyond the Christian Master Narrative of Love. Philosophy and Theology. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark.

  • François, W. (2015) The Catholic Church and the Vernacular Bible in the Low Countries: A Paradigm Shift in the 1550s?. In: Corbellini, S., Hoogvliet, M.,  Ramakers, B. (Eds.), Intersections, vol: 38, Discovering the Riches of the Word: Religious Reading in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 234-281.

  • Geldhof, J. (2015). Ritual as an Involuntary Impediment to Interreligious Encounter? A Phenomenological Exploration in Conversation with C. Verhoeven. Worship, 89.

  • Lamberigts, M. (2015). Vatican II, Non-Christian Religions and the Challenges for (New) Evangelization Programmes. In: Grogan, P., Kim, K. (Eds.), The New Evangelization. Faith, People, Context and Practice. London/New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 15-29.

  • Merrigan, T. (2015). The Exile of the Religious Subject: A Newmanian Perspective on Relgion in Contemporary Society. In: Hellemans S., Jonkers P. (Eds.), A Catholic MInority Church in a World of Seekers. Washington DC: The Council For Research in Values and Philosophy, 193-222. [Full Text]

Full list of recent publications