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 additions to theological or doctrinal matters.
In Catholicism, 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, only posthumously, 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. Although the revered Catalan philosopher Ramon Llull was dubbed "Doctor Illuminatus," he is not officially considered a Doctor of the Church.
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. 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 of the Church, but since then three additions to the list have been women:Saints Teresa of Ávila (St. Teresa of Jesus), Catherine of Siena and Thérèse de Lisieux (St. Therese the Little Flower of the Child Jesus). Saints Teresa and Therese were both Discalced Carmelites.
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.")
As of 2009, the Catholic Church has named 33 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 33 are 25 from the West and 8 from the East; 3 women; 18 bishops, 29 priests, 1 deacon, 2 nuns, 1 consecrated virgin; 24 from Europe, 3 from Africa, 6 from Asia.
List of Doctors of the Catholic Church
(For earlier authorities on Christian doctrine see Church Fathers and Ante-Nicene Fathers).
|St. Gregory the Great*||540 (ca.)||March 12, 604||1298||Italian||Pope|
|St. Ambrose*||340 (ca.)||April 4, 397||1298||Italian||Bishop of Milan|
|St. Augustine, Doctor Gratiae*||354||August 28, 430||1298||Berber from Numidia||Bishop of Hippo|
|St. Jerome*||347 (ca.)||September 30, 420||1298||Dalmatian||Priest, monk|
|St. John Chrysostom*||347||407||1568||Syrian (Ethnic Greek)||Archbishop of Constantinople|
|St. Basil*||330||January 1, 379||1568||Cappadocian (Ethnic Greek)||Bishop of Caesarea|
|St. Gregory Nazianzus*||329||January 25, 389||1568||Cappadocian (Ethnic Greek)||Archbishop of Constantinople|
|St. Athanasius*||298||May 2, 373||1568||Egyptian (Ethnic Greek)||Patriarch of Alexandria|
|St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis||1225||March 7, 1274||1568||Italian||Priest, Theologian, O.P.|
|St. Bonaventure, Doctor Seraphicus||1221||July 15, 1274||1588||Italian||Cardinal Bishop of Albano, Theologian, Minister General, O.F.M.|
|St. Anselm, Doctor Magnificus||1033 or 1034||April 21, 1109||1720||Italian||Archbishop of Canterbury, O.S.B.|
|St. Isidore*||560||April 4, 636||1722||Spanish||Bishop of Seville|
|St. Peter Chrysologus*||406||450||1729||Italian||Bishop of Ravenna|
|St. Leo the Great*||400||November 10, 461||1754||Italian||Pope|
|St. Peter Damian||1007||February 21/22,1072||1828||Italian||Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, monk, O.S.B.|
|St. Bernard, Doctor Mellifluus||1090||August 21, 1153||1830||French||Priest, O.Cist.|
|St. Hilary of Poitiers*||300||367||1851||French||Bishop of Poitiers|
|St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor Zelantissimus||1696||August 1, 1787||1871||Italian||Bishop of Sant'Agata de' Goti, C.Ss.R. (Founder)|
|St. Francis de Sales||1567||December 28, 1622||1877||French||Bishop of Geneva|
|St. Cyril of Alexandria, Doctor Incarnationis*||376||June 27, 444||1883||Egyptian||Patriarch of Alexandria|
|St. Cyril of Jerusalem*||315||386||1883||Jerusalem||Bishop of Jerusalem|
|St. John Damascene*||676||December 5, 749||1883||Syrian||Priest, monk|
|St. Bede the Venerable*||672||May 27, 735||1899||Northumbrian||Priest, monk|
|St. Peter Canisius||1521||December 21, 1597||1925||Dutch||Priest, S.J.|
|St. John of the Cross, Doctor Mysticus||1542||December 14, 1591||1926||Spanish||Priest, mystic, O.C.D. (Founder)|
|St. Robert Bellarmine||1542||September 17, 1621||1931||Italian||Archbishop of Capua, Theologian, S.J.|
|St. Albertus Magnus, Doctor Universalis||1193||November 15, 1280||1931||German||Bishop, Theologian, O.P.|
|St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon, Doctor Evangelicus||1195||June 13, 1231||1946||Portuguese||Priest, O.F.M.|
|St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Doctor Apostolicus||1559||July 22, 1619||1959||Italian||Priest, Diplomat, O.F.M. Cap.|
|St. Teresa of Ávila||1515||October 4, 1582||1970||Spanish||Mystic, O.C.D. (Founder)|
|St. Catherine of Siena||1347||April 29, 1380||1970||Italian||Mystic, O.P. (Consecrated virgin)|
|St. Thérèse de Lisieux, Doctor Amoris||1873||September 30, 1897||1997||French||O.C.D. (Nun)|
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has recognized 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. The Chaldean Catholic Church has recognized 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, James of Serug, Isaac of Armenia, Isaac of Nineve, and Maruthas.
The Eastern Orthodox church honours many of the pre-schism saints as well, but the application of the term Doctor or Father of the Church is somewhat more flexible than in the West, and it is misleading to look for lists of officially recognized Doctors. An Eastern Orthodox understanding of such pillars of the Church include saints such as Photios I of Constantinople, Gregory Palamas, Nicodemus the Hagiorite and possibly even more recent saints such as Nectarius Kefalas. An exception to this flexibility is the grouping of Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus and John Chrysostom, universal teachers or Doctors who are collectively known as the Three Hierarchs and represent the Christianization of the Hellenic tradition and education.
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)
Assyrian Church of the East
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:
- Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus
- Hilary of Poitiers
- Francis de Sales
- Thomas Aquinas
- Cyril of Jerusalem
- Frederick Denison Maurice
- William of Ockham
- Catherine of Siena
- Ephrem of Syria
- Sundar Singh of India
- Cyril of Alexandria
- Gregory of Nyssa and his sister Macrina
- Brooke Foss Westcott
- Jeremy Taylor
- Bernard of Clairvaux
- Augustine of Hippo
- Gregory the Great
- John Chrysostom
- Sergei of Radonezh
- Teresa of Avila
- Richard Hooker
- William Temple
- Leo the Great
- John of Damascus
- John of the Cross
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", those Doctors of the Church recognized by Rome may also be celebrated in the Church of England.
The Lutheran calendar of saints does not use the full term "Doctor of the Church," but the calendar of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod does refer to Martin Luther by the title of "doctor," in recognition that he held a doctoral degree and not in the sense used in "Doctor of the Church."
- Common Worship (Main Volume), p. 530
- Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saint. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co. 1924.