Tilburg School of Catholic Theology

Thinking through faith

Mission and vision

Mission statement

"Faith seeking understanding" is the primary mission of the research and teaching community of the Tilburg School of Catholic Theology. Our starting point is that reason inquires into faith and that faith stimulates thought. We carry out our mission with a strong conviction that critical reflection about faith can add to a clearer understanding of God's mysteries.

  • The School wants to introduce its students to the rich Catholic religious and spiritual tradition, which has developed and spread throughout the world over the past two thousand years.
  • The School familiarises students with scientific reflection about this tradition in the context of contemporary culture.
  • The School provides an academic instruction that offers a broad theological formation and also ties in with the professional research of its academic staff.
  • The School exercises its responsibilities to engage in research, instruction and other related services within an academic setting and within the Church, while staying in dialogue with contemporary culture and society.
  • As an academic theological institution, the School engages in a dialogue with other scientific disciplines in order to contribute to the moral and philosophical debate that all science needs, including theology itself. It actively seeks dialogue with other sciences in order to better fulfil its theological mission;
  • The School intends to further develop its international reputation and cooperation in scientific research.

In short, the School of Catholic Theology is open for all those who faithfully search for understanding.

What do we want?

The School implements its tasks of research, instruction and service within the context of both an academic and ecclesial community. Students and professors, men and women, lay and religious, priests and deacons, form a close community of people who not only share the same object of study, but also the same faith and spirituality. Theology and life cannot be separated.

Academic freedom

In teaching and research, the School strives towards academic excellence. It encourages cooperation with other theological colleges and faculties both in the Netherlands and abroad, e.g., in the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia and Ukraine. Moreover, it is open to cooperation with other academic disciplines not only at Tilburg University but also at other universities in the Netherlands and abroad.

The School affirms the traditions of academic freedom, respect for the truth, social responsibility and individual rights. It actively encourages freedom of research, open discussion, as well as the unlimited exchange of ideas. It sees these as being essential for the attainment of authentic knowledge.
Academic freedom presupposes:

  1. personal integrity in dealing with students and colleagues;
  2. scientific competence. This entails the observance of the professional standards that have been accepted by one's own discipline as well as the honesty to allow one's own ideas and research to be reviewed and judged by peers;
  3. accuracy and discernment in one's public statements as well as the ability to respect the opinions and responsibilities of others - even when one does not agree with them.

The School thrives because of the paradoxical tension that arises between faith and reason; nevertheless, it works hard to maintain a balance between both poles.

On the one hand, its members willingly and consciously stand within the rich religious tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. This means that they attempt to interpret and articulate reflections about the many theological, doctrinal, liturgical, canonical, pastoral, historical and cultural expressions that have developed throughout history. Authorized by the Roman Catholic Church the great chancellor, Cardinal Eijk, has the task to oversee the integrity of the Christian message. To this end, on the basis of the standards specified in the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana,  special statutes have been drawn up, that specify the great chancellor’s jurisdiction. The School wholeheartedly cooperates with the Dutch episcopacy.

On the other hand, in their search for insight into faith, the School unreservedly encourages the use of the full human faculty of reason. It does so within a university setting where it is accepted that academic freedom is an inescapable precondition for the attainment of knowledge. This is made explicit in the School's rules and regulations. Hence, the members of the School do not recognize a fundamental opposition between faith and rationality, because they presuppose that the God of revelation, who grants faith, is the same God who has bestowed upon humanity the light of reason. Starting from this basic premise, they hope that they will be able to avoid the traps of fideism, fundamentalism or frustrated apologetics, as well as faith-rejecting forms of rationalism and empiricism.

Social and ecclesial context

On the social and ecclesial front, the School is not isolated. It is firmly situated within the Dutch context of the 21st century. This context is difficult to interpret. On the one hand it is characterized by ecclesial and religious pluralism, de-institutionalization and individualism, on the other hand by new religious movements and by young people who make more radical religious choices than the previous generation. On the one hand, the marginalization of the Christian faith and of the Church has not yet come to a standstill, on the other religious questions continue to play an important role in the societal debate.
The School strives to remain relevant to both the Church and to the world. As Catholic theologians (in re and in spe) its members enter into dialogue with contemporary society, which is sometimes burdened by its own ideological presuppositions and related actions. Additionally, the School believes that through theological study and research as well as the formation of theologians, priests, deacons, pastoral workers, spiritual caretakers and teachers of religion it performs a service to both the Catholic Church in the Netherlands and to Dutch society as a whole.

Marcel Sarot
Dean of the Tilburg School of Catholic Theology