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Secularisation and Modernity

Since the publication of my Protestant Modernity. Weber, Secularisation, and Protestantism in 2007, the question of the relation between secularisation, modernity and religious-cultural patterns of modernisation has been central to my research work in the Institute. In the same year that I published Protestant Modernity, Professor Charles Taylor published his A Secular Age which outlined a new understanding of the relation between secularisation and western modernity and one which has shaped reflection on these matters ever since.

I was fortunate to be invited by Charles Taylor, José Casanova, and George McClean to join an international and interdisciplinary research project on the question of what research in these areas was saying to the Catholic Church in modernity. Following a conference at the Institute for the Human Sciences in Vienna in 2011 the first in a series of publications was launched which had as its objective to consider constructive ways forward for the Catholic Church at a time of transformation: Church and People: Disjunctions in a Secular Age.

The Heythrop Institute for Religion and Society led one of these projects on the question of how the Catholic Church can exercise its magisterial authority at a time in which its credibility is considerably diminished due to recent crises. This issued in the publication in 2015 of our volume Towards a Kenotic Vision of Authority in the Catholic Church.

Our volume was launched in both Heythrop and at the University of Tilburg, Utrecht Holland, in June 2015, and together with the volume of our partners at Tilburg University who worked on the question of how a Catholic minority church in Europe can positively face the future: A Catholic Minority Church in a World of Seekers.

 Renewing the Church in a Secular Age: Holistic Dialogue and Kenotic VisionThis project was completed in 2015 with an international conference at the Gregorian University in Rome on renewing the Church in a secular age.  See a  video of Dr Anthony Carrol speaking on «Dialogue with Sceptics» during the Conference.

Following this conference, a team of international coordinators of this network met at Tewksbury, near Boston to work on a new project of ‘ Relearning to be Human for Global Times: Challenges and Opportunities’.

As part of the work of this project the Heythrop Institute invited Professor José Casanova to Heythrop in 2013 to give a seminar to faculty and research students on the question of secularisation and also to give a public lecture at the college on contemporary issues related to religious modernisation. We have also hosted Professor Charles Taylor for three days of conference, workshop, and lectures at Heythrop. At present, I am also working on two books to take these questions further. One is a monograph on the philosophical history of secularisation and the other is an edited collection on Charles Taylor’s notion of a ‘Catholic Modernity’.

Accompanying these academic projects, I have also been a member of an international network who run a summer school on questions of faith and politics in Europe. This summer school is for people aged 18-35 and takes place in Venice, Italy every two years since 2006. Full details of this can be found here. The objective of this summer school is to help people to discern their vocation to work in public life and to understand their Christian faith as not only a personal matter but one which has social and political implications.

For more information please contact Dr Anthony Carroll at

Dr Anthony Carrol speaks on «Dialogue with Sceptics» during the International Conference «Renewing the Church in a Secular Age» held at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome (March 5, 2015).