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.

Name Born Died Promoted Ethnicity Post
St. Gregory the Great * c. 540 3/12/2004 1298 Italian Pope
St. Ambrose * c. 340 4/4/1997 1298 Italian Bishop of Milan
St. Augustine, Doctor Gratiae * 11/13/1954 8/28/1930 1298 Numidian Bishop of Hippo
St. Jerome * c. 347 9/30/2020 1298 Dalmatian Priest, monk
St. John Chrysostom * 347 407 1568 Syrian Archbishop of Constantinople
St. Basil * 330 1/1/1979 1568 Cappadocian Bishop of Caesarea
St. Gregory Nazianzus * 329 1/25/1989 1568 Cappadocian Archbishop of Constantinople
St. Athanasius * 298 5/2/1973 1568 Egyptian Patriarch of Alexandria
St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis 1225 3/7/1974 1568 Italian Priest, Theologian, O.P.
St. Bonaventure, Doctor Seraphicus 1221 7/15/1974 1588 Italian Cardinal Bishop of Albano, theologian, O.F.M.
St. Anselm, Doctor Magnificus 1033 or 1034 4/21/2009 1720 Italian Archbishop of Canterbury
St. Isidore * 560 4/4/1936 1722 Spanish Bishop of Seville
St. Peter Chrysologus * 406 450 1729 Italian Archbishop of Ravenna
St. Leo the Great * 400 11/10/1961 1754 Italian Pope
St. Peter Damian 1007 February 21/22,1072 1828 Italian Cardinal (Catholicism) Bishop of Ostia, monk, O.S.B.
St. Bernard, Doctor Mellifluus 1090 8/21/1953 1830 French Priest, O.Cist.
St. Hilary of Poitiers * 300 367 1851 French Bishop of Poitiers
St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor Zelantissimus 9/27/1996 8/1/1987 1871 Italian Bishop of Sant’Agata de’ Goti, Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer
St. Francis de Sales 8/21/1967 12/28/2022 1877 French Bishop of Geneva
St. Cyril of Alexandria, Doctor Incarnationis * 376 6/27/1944 1883 Egyptian Patriarch of Alexandria
St. Cyril of Jerusalem * 315 386 1883 Jerusalem Bishop of Jerusalem
St. John Damascene * 676 12/5/1949 1883 Syrian Priest, monk
St. Bede the Venerable * 672 5/27/1935 1899 English Priest, monk
St. Ephrem * 306 373 1920 Syrian Deacon
St. Peter Canisius 5/8/2021 12/21/1997 1925 Dutch priest, S.J.
St. John of the Cross, Doctor Mysticus 6/24/1942 12/14/1991 1926 Spanish Priest, mystic, Discalced Carmelites (Founder)
St. Robert Bellarmine 10/4/1942 9/17/2021 1931 Italian Archbishop of Capua, theologian, Society of Jesus
St. Albertus Magnus, Doctor Universalis 1193 November 15,1280 1931 German Bishop, theologian, Dominican Order
St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon, Doctor Evangelicus 8/15/1995 6/13/1931 1946 Portuguese Priest, Franciscan
St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Doctor Apostolicus 7/22/1959 7/22/2019 1959 NItalian Priest, diplomat, Order of Friars Minor Capuchin
St. Teresa of Ávila 3/28/2015 10/4/1982 1970 Spanish Mystic, Discalced Carmelites (Founder)
St. Catherine of Siena 3/25/1947 4/29/1980 1970 Italian Mystic, Dominican Order
St. Thérèse of Lisieux 1/2/1973 9/30/1997 1997 French Discalced Carmelites (Nun)

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