In the 1990s, Pope St. John Paul II asked the Austrian bishops if they could start a Catholic theological institute to address certain concerns: the crisis in marriage and the family throughout the world, theological formation of students from former Soviet-bloc countries, and building an understanding between East and West, including the Eastern and Western traditions of the Church. The Austrian bishops agreed and the Holy See appointed Archbishop Dr. Christoph Schönborn, O.P. as Grand Chancellor and the International Theological Institute (ITI) for Studies on Marriage and Family was born.

During the first academic year, Archbishop Schönborn, asked an old acquaintance of his from Salzburg, DDr. Michael Waldstein, then a recently tenured professor at Notre Dame University in the United States, if he would consider leaving his position for that of Founding President of the ITI. Michael Waldstein responded affirmatively and asked another person on the teaching staff of Notre Dame to join him in this pioneer venture, namely Walter J. Thompson, who became the institute's first Vice-President. Together with the assistance of Archbishop Schönborn they put together the curriculum. In 2006 Dr. Waldstein was succeeded as President by Msgr. Dr. Larry Hogan, who had himself served the ITI as Vice-President since 1998. He was in turn succeeded by Dr. Christiaan Alting von Geusau in 2014.

The first students came in 1995 to the ITI campus in Gaming, Austria, called the Kartause, to begin classes. The Kartause is a former Carthusian Monastery founded in 1330 by Albrecht II, Duke of Austria. They shared a campus with the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

In January of 1997, on the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, the ITI received a message from Pope St. John Paul II in honor of its birth and official opening. That year the ITI saw its first graduating class – three students!

The ITI continued to grow – mostly by word of mouth from satisfied students who came not only to study theology, but to live it. Students have come from: Albania, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Moldava, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the USA.

The ITI needed room to grow and so in 2009 the campus was moved to Trumau, near Vienna, Austria. Trumau was founded as part of the land deeded to Heiligenkreuz Abbey by Duke Leopold IV. The classrooms, library and administration offices are housed in the Trumau Schloss which was built in 1138. 

Currently, graduating classes have about 30 students with diplomas in Sacred Theology Masters (STM)Sacred Theology Licentiate (STL)Sacred Theology Doctorate (STD)Master of Marriage and Family (MMF), or a certificate in our one year Studium Generale (SG). The success of their studies can be seen in the wonderful work alumni are doing in the Church and in the world

The ITI began offering a three-year Bachelor in Liberal Arts in September 2018.