Doctors of the Church

Doctors of the

Universal Church

Doctors of the Church by Luca Signorelli - taken from - a great Catholic website

This is the introductory article of a series of posts that I hope to do.  I had been wanting to do this post for a week or two, but….things got busy.  Jimmy Akin had a post a couple of days ago about John Henry Cardinal Newman, who Jimmy thinks will become the next Doctor of the Universal Church, mainly for his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.

The Catholic Church is blessed with many great, holy saints.  Several of these saints have not only benefited the Church (and, indeed, the world) with their pious example, but they have left behind writings that teach and edify us in our faith.  These people are called Doctores Ecclesiae – Doctors of the Church.

Before I get too carried away, let me link 3 websites for your own further study.

There are currently 33 Doctors of the Universal Church.  The term “doctor” comes from the docere, to teach.  So, the Doctors of the Church have something to teach us.  (Note: The Doctors who are the subject of this series are those of the Universal Church; that is, they are bound to be venerated by such by all Catholics throughout the world.  Individual bishops may declare saints to be doctors of their local churches; but these do not obligate anyone outside their dioceses.)

St. Athanasius of Alexandria from Wikipedia - he defended the divinity of Jesus Christ against the Arian heresy

There are

  • 8 “ecumenical” Doctors (4 from the West, 4 from the East);
  • 10 early Doctors (300s – 1100s AD);
  • 7 Middle Age Doctors (1100s – 1500s);
  • 6 from the Catholic Counter-Reformation! (1500s);
  • 2 from the Modern Era (since 1600) – with more to come (Cardinal Newman, Pope John Paul II, for example)

St. Therese of Lisieux from Wikipedia - the most recent Doctor and 1 of 3 women Doctors

They are saints; so, of course, they teach us with their piety. That is one of the conditions of being proclaimed a Doctor: a high degree of sanctity.

A second quality required to become a Doctor is eminent learning – these saints have left us a valuable collection of their writings, from which we can learn greatly.

St. Alphonsus Liguori from Wikipedia - founder of the Redemptorists and writer of more than 100 spiritual works

The third condition is that the Pope (or a General Council) declares a saint to be so; at which point, the Mass in honor of  that saint can include the title Doctor.

The declaration is not an infallible decision; and their writings are not wholly immune from errors.  Interestingly, some of the greatest saints of (especially) the early Church are not proclaimed as Doctors.  For example – St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Ireneaus, St. Cyprian of Carthage.  These learned, holy men all suffered martyrdom, and the Office and Mass are for Confessors only (that is for people whose canonization comes through the witness of miracles attributed to them, not to their martyrdom).

So, who then are these 33 Doctors of the Universal Church?  Click the links above to find out.  Better yet, stay tuned to this blog as we discover them together.

This entry was posted in Doctors of the Church, Elements of Faith, Saints. Bookmark the permalink.

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