Doctors of the Church

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Saints and Doctors of the Church, unknown painter around 1475

Doctors of the Church ( Latin : doctores ecclesiae ) are theologians and saints who had a formative influence on the theology of the Christian church. Only a few people were awarded this honorary title; in earlier times (and to this day in the Eastern Churches ) this happened relatively spontaneously, but also through some councils . In the Western Church , the elevation to the position of Doctor of the Church is formally pronounced by the Pope. Some outstanding early Christian writers up to around the 6th century are also referred to as church fathers .

In his February 2009 commentary by early Christian writers, Pope Benedict XVI. the designation chosen by Bede the Venerable ( doctores ac doctrices ) for scholars of both sexes. When Saint Hildegard was appointed Doctor of the Church by Benedict XVI. on October 7, 2012, however, he resorted to the title form Doctor Ecclesiae universalis .

The first eight Doctors of the Eastern and Western Churches are designated as such by both churches. The Roman Catholic Church defined the title of Doctor of the Church during the Counter-Reformation and also bestowed it on theologians of later centuries.

Doctors of the Eastern Churches

In the Eastern Church there were originally three Doctors of the Church, John Chrysostom , Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianz , to whom the feast of the three hierarchs on January 30th is dedicated in the Orthodox Church . Later, Athanasius of Alexandria was added analogous to the four Doctors of the Western Church . In the Orthodox Churches , the concept of the Doctor of the Church is not precisely defined. However, one can probably include Gregory of Nyssa , Pope Leo the Great , Maximus the Confessor , John of Damascus , Symeon the New Theologians , Gregorios Palamas and Mark of Ephesus to a large extent undisputedly.

Doctor of the Latin Church

The four Latin church fathers, Michael Pacher 1471–79

Originally only Hieronymus , Ambrosius of Milan , Augustine of Hippo and Pope Gregory the Great were teachers of the church in the Latin Church. They were confirmed as such by Pope Boniface VIII in 1295 . The list was expanded for the first time in the 16th century. Pope Pius V declared Thomas Aquinas and 1568 Athanasius the Great , Basil the Great , Gregory of Nazianzen and John Chrysostom to be doctors of the church. Bonaventure followed in 1588 . On the one hand, it was a matter of emphasizing the importance of Aquinas and his Summa theologica as an authoritative textbook in theology; on the other hand, the interest in the Greek theologians of the early Church had increased through humanism and the Counter-Reformation. A consensus patrum that supported the Roman Catholic position was a valuable argument in controversial theological discussions at the time.

More church teachers have been added since the 18th century, most recently in 2015 with Gregor von Narek, also a member of the Armenian Church . There are four women among the Doctors of the Roman Catholic Church: Teresa of Ávila , Catherine of Siena , Thérèse of Lisieux and Hildegard of Bingen . They were added to the list of Doctors of the Church in 1970 or later. This shows a higher evaluation of women by the church, but also a stronger weighting of mystical talent and spirituality for the award of the title of church teacher.

The title is bestowed in the Latin Church by the Congregation for Canonization and approved by the Pope after the saint's writings have been carefully examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith . This is regulated in the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus , June 28, 1988, Art. 73. This is not a decision ex cathedra and it does not explain that there is no error in the writings of the Doctor of the Church. The Catholic Church has set out the conditions for the title - orthodoxa doctrina ( orthodoxy , but not inerrancy), eminens doctrina (outstanding doctrine), insignis vitae sanctitas (a high degree of holiness) and ecclesiae declaratio (elevation to the position of Doctor of the Church by the Church). This summarizing statement comes from Pope Benedict XIV. ( De servorum Dei beativficatione et beatorum canonizatione , 1741).

Complete list of Catholic Doctors of the Church (36 saints)

Surname born died er. activity
Gregory the Great   540   604   1295 Pope
Ambrose of Milan   340   397   1295 Bishop of Milan
Augustine of Hippo   354   430   1295 Bishop of Hippo
Jerome   347   420   1295 Priest, Bible translator
Thomas Aquinas   1225   1274   1567 Italian Dominican , main exponent of scholasticism
John Chrysostom   349/350   407   1568 Archbishop of Constantinople
Basil of Caesarea   330   379   1568 Bishop of Caesarea
Gregory of Nazianz   329   390   1568 Archbishop of Constantinople
Athanasius the great   298   373   1568 Bishop of Alexandria
Johannes Bonaventure   1221   1274   1588 Franciscan , Bishop of Albano
Anselm of Canterbury   1033   1109   1720 Benedictine , Archbishop of Canterbury, founder of scholasticism
Isidore of Seville   560   636   1722 Bishop of Seville
Peter Chrysologus   380   450   1729 Bishop of Ravenna
Leo the Great   400   461   1754 Pope
Petrus Damiani   1006   1072   1828 Benedictine , Bishop of Ostia
Bernhard of Clairvaux   1090   1153   1830 French Cistercian , mystic
Hilary of Poitiers   315   367   1851 Bishop of Poitiers
Alfons Maria di Liguori   1696   1787   1871 Bishop of Sant'Agata de 'Goti and founder of the Redemptorist Order
Francis de Sales   1567   1622   1877 Bishop of Geneva , founder of the Salesian Sisters
Cyril of Alexandria   376   444   1883 Patriarch of Alexandria
Cyril of Jerusalem   315   386   1883 Bishop of Jerusalem
John of Damascus   650   754   1890 Monk, dogmatist
Beda Venerabilis   673   735   1899 English Benedictine historian
Ephraem the Syrian   306   373   1920 hermit
Petrus Canisius   1521   1597   1925 first German Jesuit
John of the Cross   1542   1591   1926 Spanish Carmelite and mystic, founder of the Discalced Carmelites
Robert Bellarmine   1542   1621   1931 Jesuit , Archbishop of Capua
Albertus Magnus around   1200   1280   1931 Dominican , Bishop of Regensburg , universal scholar
Anthony of Padua   1195   1231   1946 Portuguese Franciscan , preacher
Lawrence of Brindisi   1559   1619   1959 Italian Capuchin
Teresa of Ávila   1515   1582   1970 Spanish Carmelite , mystic, founder of the Discalced Carmelites
Catherine of Siena   1347   1380   1970 Italian mystic
Thérèse of Lisieux   1873   1897   1997 French Carmelite
John of Avila   1499   1569   2012 Priests, mystics
Hildegard von Bingen   1098   1179   2012 Benedictine , mystic
Gregory of Narek   951   1003   2015 Armenian monk and mystic


Web links

Commons : Doctors of the Church  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Doctors of the Church  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Apostolic letter of Benedict XVI. from October 7, 2012 in Latin and German
  2. a b c Heribert Smolinsky : Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Church . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 6 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1997, Sp. 20-22 .
  3. ^ San Gregorio di Narek Dottore della Chiesa Universale. In: Daily Bulletin. Holy See Press Office, February 23, 2015, accessed February 23, 2015 (Italian).