The Doctors of the Catholic Church

Felipe Fortitudo

The “Doctor of the Church” is a very special title and officially conferred by the Pope on a Saint who makes a significant contribution to the understanding and interpretation of the doctrines of the Church. The writings and sermons of this saint have been of great help and value to Christian believers.

Doctor was derived from the Latin word “docere” which means “to teach”. The doctors of the Church are some of the greatest teachers of the Catholic faith.

The Holy Church established a set of requirements for a saint in order to be included in the list. First, the saint displays a high degree of holiness, which set the saint apart even from the other Saints. Second, the saint has a very deep doctrinal insight. Finally, the saint has an extensive body of writings which the Catholic Church can highly recommend to the faithfuls. The process of conferring the title “Doctor” includes thorough and deep investigation of the saint’s writings by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. When the truth and greatness of the work is proven, the campaign is recommended to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The congregation will present the possible cases for the title of Doctor to the Pope. The Pope decides and then bestows the title “Doctor of the Church.”

In 1298, the first four doctors were officially declared by Pope Boniface VIII. They are St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and Pope St. Gregory the Great. As of 2015, there are 36 Doctors of the Church. Eight of the current 36 are “Church Fathers” – which is another topic we will discuss in detail in my future article. But basically, Church Fathers are influential theologians, bishops or scholars whose works gave meaning to the tenets of the Church. The main difference is not all of them were canonized as saints, which is a requirement in order to be included in the list of doctors. Four of Doctors/Fathers of the Church came from the Western Church(Latin) and the other half came from the East(Greek).

Before 1970, only men were designated Doctors until Pope Paul VI conferred the title on St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Therese of Avila. There are currently four women saints who are included in the list. The latest saint to be included in the rank was St. Gregory of Narek, conferred by Pope Francis in 2015.

Below is a list of all the Doctors of the Church in the order of when they were designated.

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