Houtart studied philosophy and theology at the seminary of "Mechelen ("Belgium) and became a priest in 1949. He earned a master's degree in political and "social sciences at the Catholic University of "Leuven (Belgium). He earned a degree at the International Superior Institute of Urbanism (Brussels, Belgium). He earned a PhD in sociology from the "Catholic University of Louvain and served as professor there from 1958 till 1990
His doctoral thesis was based on the sociology of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. He was an author and co-author of numerous publications on socio-religious matters. He served as the chief editor of the International Journal of Sociology of Religion, "Social Compass" for nearly forty years (1960–1999). He also advised the international Catholic journal Concilium which was founded at the Nijmegen University, on the issues of sociology of religion.
He participated as a "peritus expert in the sessions of "Vatican II (1962–1965) playing a key role in the formation of the introduction of the "Gaudium et spes. Over the years, Houtart developed a dialectical approach to the study of world religions.
In the context of the global financial crisis in 2008, Houtart was invited by the UN to address the issues of globalisation of capital in October 2008 by the president of the UN in New York.
In 2009, Houtart was awarded the "UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence "for his lifelong commitment to world peace, intercultural dialogue, human rights and the promotion of tolerance, and in recognition of his outstanding efforts to advance the cause of social justice in the world." He shared the award with Pakistani philanthropist "Abdul Sattar Edhi.
In 2009, Houtart signed the Appeal for the removal of Hamas from the EU terror list  and he was instrumental in the Russell Tribunals against the state of Israel.
Until the scandal about the sexual abuse on a very young boy , he served as an advisor to CETRI (Centre Tricontinental), a Belgian non-governmental organisation which he founded in 1976. The objective of CETRI is to promote dialogue and corporation between third world social movements and social forces plus encourage resistance and action. Houtart was one of the most active members of the "World Social Forum, and was active in the Globalisation and Ethics discourse.
Center Tricontinental (CETRI)
International Association of Sociology of Religion,
World Forum for Alternatives