Doctor of the Church

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St. Isidore of Seville, a 7th century Doctor of the Church, depicted by Murillo (c. 1628) with a book, common iconographical object for a doctor.

Doctor of the Church (Latin doctor, teacher, from Latin docere, to teach) is a title given by a variety of Christian churches to individuals whom they recognize as having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.


[edit] Roman Catholic Church

In the Catholic Church, this title is given to a saint from whose writings the whole Church is held to have derived great advantage and to whom "eminent learning" and "great sanctity" have been attributed by a proclamation of a pope or of an ecumenical council. This honour is given rarely, and only after canonization. No ecumenical council has yet exercised the prerogative of proclaiming a Doctor of the Church.

Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, and Pope Gregory I were the original Doctors of the Church and were named in 1298. They are known collectively as the Great Doctors of the Western Church. The four Great Doctors of the Eastern Church, John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Athanasius of Alexandria were recognized in 1568 by Pope St. Pius V.

The Doctors' works vary greatly in subject and form. Some, such as Pope Gregory I and Ambrose were prominent writers of letters and short treatises. Catherine of Siena and John of the Cross wrote mystical theology. Augustine and Bellarmine defended the Church against heresy (Bellarmine condemned Giordano Bruno to death). Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People provides the best information on England in the early Middle Ages. Systematic theologians include the Scholastic philosophers Anselm, Albertus Magnus, and Thomas Aquinas.

Until 1970, no woman had been named a doctor in the church, but since then four additions to the list have been women: Saints Teresa of Ávila (St. Teresa of Jesus) and Catherine of Siena by Pope Paul VI; Thérèse de Lisieux[1] (St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face), "the Little Flower" by Pope John Paul II; and Hildegard of Bingen by Benedict XVI. Saints Teresa and Therese were both Discalced Carmelites, while St. Catherine was a lay Dominican.

Traditionally, in the Liturgy, the Office of Doctors was distinguished from that of Confessors by two changes: the Gospel reading Vos estis sal terrae ("You are the salt of the earth"), Matthew 5:13–19, and the eighth Respond at Matins, from Ecclesiasticus 15:5, In medio Ecclesiae aperuit os ejus, * Et implevit eum Deus spiritu sapientiae et intellectus. * Jucunditatem et exsultationem thesaurizavit super eum. ("In the midst of the Church he opened his mouth, * And God filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding. * He heaped upon him a treasure of joy and gladness.") The Nicene Creed was also recited at Mass, which is normally not said except on Sundays and the highest-ranking feast days. The 1962 revisions to the Missal dropped the Creed from feasts of Doctors.

As of 2012, the Catholic Church has named 35 Doctors of the Church. Of these, the 17 who died before the Great Schism of 1054 (marked * in the list below) are also venerated by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Among these 35 are 27 from the West and 8 from the East; 4 women; 18 bishops, 12 priests, 1 deacon, 3 nuns, 1 consecrated virgin; 26 from Europe, 3 from Africa, 6 from Asia. More Doctors (12) lived during the 4th century than any other; eminent Christian writers of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries are usually referred to as the Apostolic Fathers or Ante-Nicene Fathers, while the 9th, 10th and 20th centuries have so far produced no Doctors at all. The shortest period between death and nomination was that of Alphonsus Liguori, who died in 1787 and was named a Doctor of the Church in 1871 - a period of 84 years; the longest was that of Ephrem the Syrian, which took fifteen and a half centuries.

[edit] New Doctors

On 20 August 2011, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would soon declare St. John of Ávila a Doctor of the Church.[2] Although no official announcement was given, it was reported in December 2011 that Pope Benedict intended to declare Hildegard of Bingen as a Doctor of the Church despite her not yet having been officially canonised.[3] The liturgical cult of St. Hildegard of Bingen was officially extended to the universal Church by Pope Benedict XVI on 10 May 2012, clearing the way for her to be named a Doctor of the Church.[4] Pope Benedict formally declared SS John of Ávila and Hildegard of Bingen to be Doctors of the Church on 7 October 2012.[5]

[edit] List of Doctors of the Catholic Church

(For earlier authorities on Christian doctrine, see Church Fathers and Ante-Nicene Fathers)

Name Titles Born Died Promoted Ethnicity Activity
St. Gregory the Great* 00540-01-01540 (ca.) 00604-03-12March 12, 604 01298-01-011298 Italian Pope
St. Ambrose* 00340-01-01340 (ca.) 00397-04-04April 4, 397 01298-01-011298 Trier Bishop of Milan
St. Augustine* Doctor Gratiae
(Doctor of Grace)
00354-01-01354 00430-08-28August 28, 430 01298-01-011298 Algerian (Ethnic Berber) Bishop of Hippo (now Annaba)
St. Jerome* 00347-01-01347 (ca.) 00420-09-30September 30, 420 01298-01-011298 Dalmatian Priest, monk
St. John Chrysostom* 00347-01-01347 00407-01-01407 01568-01-011568 Syrian (Ethnic Greek) Archbishop of Constantinople
St. Basil the Great* 00330-01-01330 00379-01-01January 1, 379 01568-01-011568 Cappadocian (Ethnic Greek) Bishop of Caesarea
St. Gregory Nazianzus* 00329-01-01329 00389-01-25January 25, 389 01568-01-011568 Cappadocian (Ethnic Greek) Archbishop of Constantinople
St. Athanasius* 00298-01-01298 00373-05-02May 2, 373 01568-01-011568 Egyptian (Ethnic Greek) Patriarch of Alexandria
St. Thomas Aquinas Doctor Angelicus
(Angelic Doctor);
Doctor Communis
(Common Doctor)
01225-01-011225 01274-03-07March 7, 1274 01568-01-011568 Italian Priest, Theologian, O.P.
St. Bonaventure Doctor Seraphicus
(Seraphic Doctor)
01221-01-011221 01274-07-15July 15, 1274 01588-01-011588 Italian Cardinal Bishop of Albano, Theologian, Minister General, O.F.M.
St. Anselm Doctor Magnificus
(Magnificent Doctor)
01033-01-011033 or 1034 01109-04-21April 21, 1109 01720-01-011720 Italian Archbishop of Canterbury, O.S.B.
St. Isidore of Seville* 00560-01-01560 00636-04-04April 4, 636 01722-01-011722 Spanish Bishop of Seville
St. Peter Chrysologus* 00406-01-01406 00450-01-01450 01729-01-011729 Italian Bishop of Ravenna
St. Leo the Great* 00400-01-01400 00461-11-10November 10, 461 01754-01-011754 Italian Pope
St. Peter Damian 01007-01-011007 01072-02-21February 21, 1072 01828-01-011828 Italian Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, monk, O.S.B.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux Doctor Mellifluus
(Mellifluous Doctor)
01090-01-011090 01153-08-21August 21, 1153 01830-01-011830 French Priest, O.Cist.
St. Hilary of Poitiers* 00300-01-01300 00367-01-01367 01851-01-011851 French Bishop of Poitiers
St. Alphonsus Liguori Doctor Zelantissimus
(Doctor Most Zealous)
01696-01-011696 01787-08-01August 1, 1787 01871-01-011871 Italian Bishop of Sant'Agata de' Goti, C.Ss.R. (Founder)
St. Francis de Sales Doctor Caritatis
(Doctor of Charity)
01567-01-011567 01622-12-28December 28, 1622 01877-01-011877 French Bishop of Geneva
St. Cyril of Alexandria* Doctor Incarnationis
(Doctor of the Incarnation)
00376-01-01376 00444-07-27July 27, 444 01883-01-011883 Egyptian Patriarch of Alexandria
St. Cyril of Jerusalem* 00315-01-01315 00386-01-01386 01883-01-011883 Jerusalemite Bishop of Jerusalem
St. John Damascene* 00676-01-01676 00749-12-05December 5, 749 01883-01-011883 Syrian Priest, monk
St. Bede the Venerable* 00672-01-01672 00735-05-27May 27, 735 01899-01-011899 English Priest, monk
St. Ephrem* 00306-01-01306 00373-01-01373 01920-01-011920 Syrian Deacon
St. Peter Canisius 01521-01-011521 01597-12-21December 21, 1597 01925-01-011925 Dutch Priest, S.J.
St. John of the Cross Doctor Mysticus
(Mystic Doctor)
01542-01-011542 01591-12-14December 14, 1591 01926-01-011926 Spanish Priest, mystic, O.C.D. (Founder)
St. Robert Bellarmine 01542-01-011542 01621-09-17September 17, 1621 01931-01-011931 Italian Archbishop of Capua, Theologian, S.J.
St. Albertus Magnus Doctor Universalis
(Universal Doctor)
01193-01-011193 01280-11-15November 15, 1280 01931-01-011931 German Bishop of Regensburg, Theologian, O.P.
St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon Doctor Evangelicus
(Evangelic Doctor)
01195-01-011195 01231-06-13June 13, 1231 01946-01-011946 Portuguese Priest, O.F.M.
St. Lawrence of Brindisi Doctor Apostolicus
(Apostolic Doctor)
01559-01-011559 01619-07-22July 22, 1619 01959-01-011959 Italian Priest, Diplomat, O.F.M. Cap.
St. Teresa of Ávila 01515-01-011515 01582-10-04October 4, 1582 01970-01-011970 Spanish Mystic, O.C.D. (Founder)
St. Catherine of Siena 01347-01-011347 01380-04-29April 29, 1380 01970-01-011970 Italian Mystic, O.P. (Consecrated virgin)
St. Thérèse of Lisieux Doctrix Amoris
(Doctor of Love)
01873-01-011873 01897-09-30September 30, 1897 01997-01-011997 French O.C.D. (Nun)
St. John of Ávila 01500-01-011500 01569-05-10May 10, 1569 02012-01-012012 Spanish Priest, Mystic
St. Hildegard of Bingen 01098-01-011098 01179-09-17September 17, 1179 02012-01-012012 German Visionary, composer, O.S.B. (Abbess)

[edit] Other recognised Doctors

In addition, parts of the Roman Catholic Church have recognised other individuals with this title. In Spain, Fulgentius of Cartagena, Ildephonsus of Toledo and Leander of Seville have been recognized with this title.[citation needed] In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Spe Salvi, called Saint Maximus the Confessor 'the great Greek Doctor of the Church', though it is not yet clear as to whether this constitutes official recognition.

Though not named Doctors of the Church or even canonized, many of the more celebrated theologians of the Middle Ages were given an epithet which expressed the nature of their expertise. Among these are Bl. John Duns Scotus, Doctor subtilis (Subtle Doctor); Bl. Ramon Llull, Doctor illuminatus (Illuminated Doctor); Bl. John of Ruysbroeck, Doctor divinus ecstaticus (Ecstatic Doctor); Alexander of Hales, Doctor irrefragabilis (Unanswerable Doctor); Gregory of Rimini, Doctor authenticus (Authentic Doctor); John Gerson, Doctor christianissimus (Most Christian Doctor); Nicholas of Cusa, Doctor christianus (Christian Doctor); and the priest and professor Francisco Suárez, Doctor eximius (Exceptional Doctor).

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church recognises Ambrose, Jerome, Gregory, Augustine, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom, as well as Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Elder, Pope Leo I, John of Damascus, Cyril of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius of Salamis, and Gregory of Nyssa.[citation needed]

The Chaldean Catholic Church honours as doctor Polycarp, Eustathius of Antioch, Meletius, Alexander of Jerusalem, Athanasius, Basil, Cyril of Alexandria, Gregory Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Fravitta of Constantinople, Ephrem the Syrian, Jacob of Nisibis, Jacob of Serugh, Isaac of Armenia, Isaac of Nineveh, and Maruthas.[citation needed]

[edit] Eastern Orthodox Church

The Eastern Orthodox church honors many of the pre-schism saints as well, but the application of the term "Doctor of the Church" is, in effect, unnecessary within the overall praxis of Eastern Orthodox theology, thus omitting the need to look for lists of officially recognized "Doctors". The more usual term used is Father. An Eastern Orthodox understanding of such notables includes saints such as Photios I of Constantinople (see Photian schism), Gregory Palamas and Nicodemus the Hagiorite. One consistent use of the category is the trio of Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus and John Chrysostom, recognized as universal teachers and known as the Three Holy Hierarchs, representing the Christianization of the Hellenic tradition and education. In addition, besides St John the Evangelist, two other saints bear the title 'Theologian': they are St. Gregory of Nazianzus and St. Symeon the New Theologian.

[edit] Armenian Church

The Armenian Church recognizes as Doctors of the Church Hierotheus the Thesmothete, Dionysius the Areopagite, Pope Sylvester I, Athanasius of Alexandria, Cyril of Alexandria, Ephrem the Syrian, Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Epiphanius of Salamis, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Jerusalem, and their own saints Mesrob, Eliseus the historiographer, Moses of Chorene, David the philosopher, Gregory of Narek, Nerses III the Builder, and Nerses of Lambron. (See also Vardapet)

[edit] Assyrian Church of the East

The Assyrian Church of the East recognizes as Doctors of the Church Eliseus, Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Nestorius.

[edit] Anglicanism

The churches of the Anglican Communion tend not to use the term "Doctor of the Church" in their calendars of saints, preferring expressions such as "Teacher of the Faith". Those thus recognized include figures from before and after the Reformation, most of whom are also recognized as Doctors of the Church by Rome. Those designated Teachers of the Faith in the Church of England's calendar of saints are as follows:

Since all of the above appear in the calendar at the level of Lesser Festival or Commemoration, their celebration is optional. Similarly, because "In the Calendar of the Saints, diocesan and other local provision may be made to supplement the national Calendar",[6] those Doctors of the Church recognized by Rome may also be celebrated in the Church of England.

[edit] Lutheranism

The Lutheran calendar of saints does not use the term "Doctor of the Church." The calendar of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod refers to Martin Luther by the title of "Doctor" in recognition of his academic degree, Doctor of Theology from the University of Wittenberg in 1512.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saint. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co. 1924.

[edit] External links