Doctor of the Church (Latin doctor "teacher"), also referred to as Doctor of the Universal Church (Latin: Universae Ecclesiae Doctor), is a title given by the Catholic Church to saints recognized as having made a significant contribution to theology or doctrine through their research, study, or writing.
Some other churches have similar categories with various names.
In the Western church four outstanding "Fathers of the Church" attained this honour in the early Middle Ages: Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, and Saint Jerome. The "four Doctors" became a commonplace notion among Scholastic theologians, and a decree of Boniface VIII (1298) ordering their feasts to be kept as doubles throughout the Latin Church is contained in his sixth book of Decretals (cap. "Gloriosus", de relique. et vener. sanctorum, in Sexto, III, 22).
In the Eastern Church three Doctors were pre-eminent: Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus. The feasts of these three saints were made obligatory throughout the Eastern Empire by Leo VI the Wise. A common feast was later instituted in their honour on 30 January, called "the feast of the three Hierarchs". In the Menaea for that day it is related that the three Doctors appeared in a dream to John Mauropous, Bishop of Euchaita, and commanded him to institute a festival in their honour, in order to put a stop to the rivalries of their votaries and panegyrists. This was under Alexius Comnenus (1081–1118; see "Acta SS.", 14 June, under St. Basil, c. xxxviii). But sermons for the feast are attributed in manuscripts to Cosmas Vestitor, who flourished in the tenth century. The three are as common in Eastern art as the four are in Western. Durandus (i, 3) remarks that Doctors should be represented with books in their hands. In the West analogy led to the veneration of four Eastern Doctors, Saint Athanasius being added to the three hierarchs.
The details of the title, Doctor of the Church, vary from one autonomous ritual church to another.
In the Latin Church, the four Latin Doctors "had already long been recognized" in the liturgy when 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 Pius V.
To these names others have subsequently been added, originally with liturgical effects. The requisite conditions are enumerated as three: eminens doctrina, insignis vitae sanctitas, Ecclesiae declaratio (i.e. eminent learning, a high degree of sanctity, and proclamation by the Church). Benedict XIV explains the third as a declaration by the supreme pontiff or by a general council. But though general councils have acclaimed the writings of certain Doctors, no council has actually conferred the title of Doctor of the Church. The procedure involved extending to the universal Church the use of the Divine Office and Mass of the saint in which the title of doctor is applied to him. The decree is issued by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints and approved by the pope, after a careful examination, if necessary, of the saint's writings. It is not in any way an ex cathedra decision, nor does it even amount to a declaration that no error is to be found in the teaching of the Doctor. It is, indeed, well known that the very greatest of them are not wholly immune from error. No martyr is in the list, since formerly the Office and the Mass were for Confessors. Hence, as Benedict XIV points out, Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, and Saint Cyprian of Carthage are not called Doctors of the Church. The Doctors' works vary greatly in subject and form. Some, such as Pope Gregory the Great and St Ambrose of Milan, were prominent writers of letters and short treatises. Saints Catherine of Siena and John of the Cross wrote mystical theology. Saints Augustine of Hippo and Bellarmine defended the Church against heresy. Bede wrote biblical commentaries and theological treatises. Systematic theologians include the Scholastic philosophers Saint Anselm of Canterbury, Saint Albert the Great, and Saint 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(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, St. Catherine was a lay Dominican, and Hildegard was a Benedictine.
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 and abolished the title and the Common of Confessors, instituting a distinct Common of Doctors.
As of 2015 [update] , the Catholic Church has named 36 Doctors of the Church. Of these, the 17 who died before the Great Schism of 1054 are also held in high esteem by the Eastern Orthodox Church, although it does not use the formal title "Doctor of the Church" in the same way that Catholics do.
Among these 36 are 27 from the West and 9 from the East; 4 women; 18 bishops, 12 priests, 1 deacon, 3 nuns, 1 consecrated virgin; 26 from Europe, 3 from Africa, 7 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 Ante-Nicene Fathers, while the 9th, 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.
On 20 August 2011, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would soon declare St. John of Ávila a Doctor of the Church.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 canonized. St. Hildegard of Bingen was officially declared to be a Saint of the universal Church by Pope Benedict XVI on 10 May 2012, clearing the way for her to be named a Doctor of the Church. Pope Benedict formally declared St. John of Ávila and Hildegard of Bingen to be Doctors of the Church on 7 October 2012.
Pope Francis declared the 10th century Armenian monk Saint Gregory of Narek to be the 36th Doctor of the Church on 21 February 2015.The decision was somewhat controversial. According to critics of Pope Francis' decision, Saint Gregory was monk of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which, like other Oriental Orthodox Churches, split off from the rest of Christendom over the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. Therefore, Saint Gregory is seen by some as a Monophysite who was in union with neither Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Christians at the time of his death in 1003. The Oriental Orthodox churches, which the Armenian Church is an integral part of, are Miaphysites. Defenders of the decision, however, have cited historical evidence that Narek Monastery, where Saint Gregory lived and died, was a center of opposition to Monophysitism from inside the Armenian Church. It is also cited that Saint Gregory of Narek is listed in the Roman Martyrology with a feast day of February 27th and that members of the Armenian Catholic Church have always had a strong devotion to him and his writings.
In October of 2019, the Polish Catholic Bishops Conference formally petitioned Pope Francis to consider making Saint Pope John Paul II a Doctor of the Church in an official proclamation, in recognition of his contributions to theology, philosophy, and Catholic literature, as well as the formal documents (encyclicals, apostolic letters, bulls, motu proprio documents, homilies, and speeches) that he issued.Also, the Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador has petitioned Pope Francis to name Saint Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez, martyred in 1980 while he was Archbishop there, who held a doctorate and was a reliably orthodox figure even as he grew to advocate for the plight of his people during the civil war there, as a Doctor of the Church. Romero and John Paul II are known to be widely respected figures today, even by many in the Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant denominations, or who are not religious or are agnostic.
In a departure from previous practice, neither Benedict XVI nor Francis ordered the Doctors of the Church they had created to be inscribed in the General Roman Calendar.
(For earlier authorities on Christian doctrine, see Church Fathers and Ante-Nicene Fathers)
* indicates a saint who died before 1054, and is therefore also held in high esteem by the Eastern Orthodox Church.
|1.||St. Gregory the Great*||One of the four Great Latin Fathers||540 (ca.)||604||1298||Pope, O.S.B.|
|2.||St. Ambrose*||One of the four Great Latin Fathers||340 (ca.)||397||1298||Bishop of Milan|
|3.||St. Augustine*||One of the four Great Latin Fathers; Doctor gratiae|
(Doctor of Grace)
|354||430||1298||Bishop of Hippo (now Annaba)|
|4.||St. Jerome*||One of the four Great Latin Fathers||347 (ca.)||420||1298||Priest, monk|
|5.||St. Thomas Aquinas||Doctor angelicus|
|1225||1274||1567||Priest, Theologian, O.P.|
|6.||St. John Chrysostom*||One of the four Great Greek Fathers||347||407||1568||Archbishop of Constantinople|
|7.||St. Basil the Great*||One of the four Great Greek Fathers||330||379||1568||Bishop of Caesarea|
|8.||St. Gregory of Nazianzus*||One of the four Great Greek Fathers||329||389||1568||Archbishop of Constantinople|
|9.||St. Athanasius*||One of the four Great Greek Fathers||298||373||1568||Archbishop of Alexandria|
|10.||St. Bonaventure||Doctor seraphicus|
|1221||1274||1588||Cardinal Bishop of Albano, Theologian, Minister General, O.F.M.|
|11.||St. Anselm||Doctor magnificus|
|1033 or 1034||1109||1720||Archbishop of Canterbury, O.S.B.|
|12.||St. Isidore of Seville*||560||636||1722||Archbishop of Seville|
|13.||St. Peter Chrysologus*||406||450||1729||Bishop of Ravenna|
|14.||St. Leo the Great*||Doctor unitatis Ecclesiae|
(Doctor of the Church's Unity)
|15.||St. Peter Damian||1007||1072||1828||Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, monk, O.S.B.|
|16.||St. Bernard of Clairvaux|| Doctor mellifluus |
|17.||St. Hilary of Poitiers*||Doctor of the Divinity of Christ||300||367||1851||Bishop of Poitiers|
|18.||St. Alphonsus Liguori||Doctor zelantissimus|
(Most Zealous Doctor)
|1696||1787||1871||Bishop of Sant'Agata de' Goti, C.Ss.R. (Founder)|
|19.||St. Francis de Sales||Doctor caritatis|
(Doctor of Charity)
|1567||1622||1877||Bishop of Geneva, C.O.|
|20.||St. Cyril of Alexandria*||Doctor Incarnationis|
(Doctor of the Incarnation)
|376||444||1883||Archbishop of Alexandria|
|21.||St. Cyril of Jerusalem*||315||386||1883||Archbishop of Jerusalem|
|22.||St. John Damascene*||676||749||1890||Priest, monk|
|23.||St. Bede the Venerable*||Anglorum doctor|
(Doctor of the English)
|672||735||1899||Priest, monk, O.S.B.|
|25.||St. Peter Canisius||1521||1597||1925||Priest, S.J.|
|26.||St. John of the Cross||Doctor mysticus|
|1542||1591||1926||Priest, mystic, O.C.D. (Reformer)|
|27.||St. Robert Bellarmine||1542||1621||1931||Archbishop of Capua, Theologian, S.J.|
|28.||St. Albertus Magnus||Doctor universalis|
|1193||1280||1931||Bishop of Regensburg, Theologian, O.P.|
|29.||St. Anthony of Lisbon and Padua||Doctor evangelicus|
|30.||St. Lawrence of Brindisi||Doctor apostolicus|
|1559||1619||1959||Priest, Diplomat, O.F.M. Cap.|
|31.||St. Teresa of Ávila||Doctor orationis|
(Doctor of Prayer)
|1515||1582||1970||Mystic, O.C.D. (Reformer)|
|32.||St. Catherine of Siena||1347||1380||1970||Mystic, O.P. (Third Order Dominican)|
|33.||St. Thérèse of Lisieux||1873||1897||1997||O.C.D. (Nun)|
|34.||St. John of Ávila||1500||1569||2012||Priest, Mystic|
|35.||St. Hildegard of Bingen||1098||1179||2012||Visionary, theologian, composer, polymath, O.S.B. (Abbess)|
|36.||St. Gregory of Narek*||951||1003||2015||Monk, poet, mystical philosopher, theologian|
In addition, parts of the 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. In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Spe Salvi , called Saint Maximus the Confessor "the great Greek Doctor of the Church", though the Congregation for the Causes of Saints considers this declaration an informal one.
Though not named Doctors of the Church or even canonized, many of the more celebrated doctors of theology and law 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); Roger Bacon, "Doctor Mirabilis" (Wondrous Doctor); Gregory of Rimini, Doctor authenticus (Authentic Doctor); Jean 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.
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 of Martyropolis.
The Eastern Orthodox Church honors many of the pre-schism saints as well, but the term "Doctor of the Church" is not applied in the same way. 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.The Church also recognizes three saints with the title Theologos (Theologian): St. John the Evangelist, St. Gregory of Nazianzus and St. Symeon the New Theologian.
The Armenian Apostolic Church recognizes the Twelve Holy Teachers ( Vardapets ) of the Church
They also recognize their own saints Mesrob, Yeghishe, Movses Khorenatsi, David the Invincible, Gregory of Narek,Nerses III the Builder, and Nerses of Lambron as "Doctors of the Armenian Church" or the "Armenian Doctors."
The Assyrian Church of the East recognizes Yeghishe, Diodorus of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Nestorius as Doctors of the Church.
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 chosen among those already recognized as Doctors of the Church in the Latin rite of the Catholic Church. Those designated as 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",those Doctors of the Church recognized by the Catholic Church may also be celebrated in the Church of England.
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.
Canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares that a person who has died is a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the list of recognized saints, called the "canon." Originally, a person was recognized as a saint without any formal process. Later, different processes were developed, such as those used today in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion.
Ephrem the Syrian was a Syriac Christian deacon and a prolific Syriac-language hymnographer and theologian of the fourth century.
Gregory of Nazianzus, also known as Gregory the Theologian or Gregory Nazianzen, was a 4th-century Archbishop of Constantinople, and theologian. He is widely considered the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age. As a classically trained orator and philosopher he infused Hellenism into the early church, establishing the paradigm of Byzantine theologians and church officials. Saint Gregory was saint patron of medieval Bosnia before the Catholic conquest when he was replaced by Saint (pope) Gregory.
Pope Liberius was Pope of the Church in Rome from 17 May 352 until his death on 24 September 366. According to the Catalogus Liberianus, he was consecrated on 22 May as the successor to Pope Julius I. He is not mentioned as a saint in the Roman Martyrology, making him the earliest pontiff not to be venerated as a saint in the Roman Rite. Liberius is mentioned in the Greek Menology, the Eastern equivalent to the martyrologies of the Western Church and a measure of sainthood prior to the institution of the formal Western processes of canonization.
Basil of Caesarea, also called Saint Basil the Great, was the bishop of Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia, Asia Minor. He was an influential theologian who supported the Nicene Creed and opposed the heresies of the early Christian church, fighting against both Arianism and the followers of Apollinaris of Laodicea. His ability to balance his theological convictions with his political connections made Basil a powerful advocate for the Nicene position.
Divine Liturgy or Holy Liturgy is the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine Rite, developed from the Antiochene Rite of Christian liturgy which is that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox, the Byzantine Catholic Churches, and the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. Although the same term is sometimes applied in English to the Eucharistic service of Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, they use in their own language a term meaning "holy offering" or "holy sacrifice". Other churches also treat "Divine Liturgy" simply as one of many names that can be used, but it is not their normal term.
The masculine first name Gregory derives from the Latin name "Gregorius", which came from the late Greek name "Γρηγόριος" (Grēgórios) meaning "watchful, alert".
Isaac or Sahak of Armenia (354–439) was Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He is sometimes known as "Isaac the Great," and as "Sahak the Parthian" owing to his Parthian origin.
Grigor Narekatsi was an Armenian mystical and lyrical poet, monk, and theologian. He is a saint of the Armenian Apostolic Church and was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Francis in 2015.
The Armenian Rite is an independent liturgy used by both the Armenian Apostolic and Armenian Catholic Churches. It is also the rite used by a significant number of Eastern Catholic Christians in Georgia.
The Litany of the Saints is a formal prayer of the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Old Catholic Church, Anglo-Catholic communities, and Western Rite Orthodox communities. It is a prayer to the Triune God, which also includes invocations for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and all the martyrs and saints upon whom Christianity was founded, and those recognised as saints through the subsequent history of the church. Following the invocation of the saints, the Litany concludes with a series of supplications to God to hear the prayers of the worshippers. It is most prominently sung during the Easter Vigil, All Saints' Day, and in the liturgy for conferring Holy Orders.
In the Calendar of the Scottish Episcopal Church, each holy and saint’s day listed has been assigned a number which indicates its category. It is intended that feasts in categories 1 - 4 should be kept by the whole church. Days in categories 5 and 6 may be kept according to diocesan or local discretion. Commemorations not included in this Calendar may be observed with the approval of the bishop.
The Three Hierarchs of Eastern Christianity refers to Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. They were highly influential bishops of the early church who played pivotal roles in shaping Christian theology. In Eastern Christianity they are also known as the Three Great Hierarchs and Ecumenical Teachers, while in Roman Catholicism the three are honored as Doctors of the Church. The three are venerated as saints in Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Anglicanism, and other Christian churches.
Only-Begotten Son, sometimes called "Justinian's Hymn", and/or the "Hymn of the Incarnation", was composed around the 4th or 5th centuries. This hymn is chanted at the end of the Second Antiphon during the Divine Liturgies of St John Chrysostom, St Basil the Great and of St Gregory the Illuminator.
In the 5th century in Christianity, there were many developments which led to further fracturing of the State church of the Roman Empire. Emperor Theodosius II called two synods in Ephesus, one in 431 and one in 449, that addressed the teachings of Patriarch of Constantinople Nestorius and similar teachings. Nestorius had taught that Christ's divine and human nature were distinct persons, and hence Mary was the mother of Christ but not the mother of God. The Council rejected Nestorius' view causing many churches, centered on the School of Edessa, to a Nestorian break with the imperial church. Persecuted within the Roman Empire, many Nestorians fled to Persia and joined the Sassanid Church thereby making it a center of Nestorianism. By the end of the 5th century, the global Christian population was estimated at 10-11 million. In 451 the Council of Chalcedon was held to clarify the issue further. The council ultimately stated that Christ's divine and human nature were separate but both part of a single entity, a viewpoint rejected by many churches who called themselves miaphysites. The resulting schism created a communion of churches, including the Armenian, Syrian, and Egyptian churches, that is today known as Oriental Orthodoxy. In spite of these schisms, however, the imperial church still came to represent the majority of Christians within the Roman Empire.
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were ancient and influential Christian theologians and writers who established the intellectual and doctrinal foundations of Christianity. There is no definitive list. The historical period during which they flourished is referred to by scholars as the Patristic Era ending approximately around AD 700.
Articles related to Christianity include:
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Catholic Church:
The Popular Patristics Series is a book series published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press consisting of English translations of mainly first millennium Christian texts. It currently comprises 60 volumes. The texts are principally translated from Greek, but some Latin, Syriac and Coptic writers are included. John Behr has edited the series since its inception.
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