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Church Fathers
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Doctors of the Catholic Church

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Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio - Free Lenten Resources!Introduction to the


Definition and Complete List


by Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D., Catholic Theologian and Speaker


Doctors of the Church - Therese of LisuexThe title “Doctor of the Church,” unlike the popular title “Father of the Church,”  is an official designation that is bestowed by the Pope in recognition of the outstanding contribution a person has made to the understanding and interpretation of the sacred Scriptures and the development of Christian doctrine. 


As of 2014, there are thirty-five male and female Doctors of the Catholic Church who hail from all ages of the Church’s history.  Of these, four are women (Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Hildegard of Bingen) and  twenty-four are quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Those who are not quoted are Saints Ephraem, Isidore, “the Venerable” Bede, Albert the Great, Anthony of Padua, Peter Canisius, Robert Bellarmine, John of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen, and Lawrence of Brindisi).


There are three requirements that must be fulfilled by a person in order to merit being included in the ranks of the 


 “Doctors of the Catholic Church”:

1) holiness that is truly outstanding, even among saints;

2) depth of doctrinal insight; and

3) an extensive body of writings which the church can recom­mend as an expression of the authentic and life-giving Catholic Tradition.


St. Gregory the Great, Doctors of the ChurchDuring the "golden age of the Fathers,” (300-600), eight Doctors of the Church particularly stand out and are called “Ecumenical Fathers” because of their widespread influence.  Bronze statues of several of these eight are to be found in St. Peter’s Basilica.  Four of these Doctors of the Church hailed from the Western (Latin-speaking) half of the Roman Empire.

·        St. Ambrose, 340-397

·        St. Jerome, 345-420

·        St. Augustine, 354-430

·        St. Gregory the Great (Pope), 540-604


Four of the Ecumenical Fathers who were Doctors of the Church came from the Eastern (Greek-speaking) Roman Empire:

·        St. Athanasius, 295-373

·        St. Basil the Great, 330-379

·        St. Gregory of Nazianzus, 330-390

·        St. John Chrysostom, 345-407


St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church, Early CHurch Father, Catholic ChurchThere are eight other Doctors of the Church from the patristic period:


There are ten Doctors of the Church during the Latin Middle Ages:



Saint Teresa of Avila, Doctors of the Church, Fathers of the Early Church, Catholic ChurchThere are seven Doctors of the Catholic Church who were prominent in the 16th century Catholic Reformation, all from the Latin Church: 

  • St. John of Avila  1499-1569
  • St. Teresa of Avila, 1515-1582
  •  St. Peter Canisius, 1521-1597
  • St. John of the Cross, 1542-1591
  • St. Robert Bellarmine, 1542-1621
  • St. Lawrence of Brindisi, 1559-1619


There are two Doctors of the Church in the modern era, both from the Latin Church:

·        St. Alphonsus Liguori, 1696-1787

·        St. Therese of Lisieux, 1873-1897 (proclaimed Doctor of the Church by John Paul II 10/19/97)


This list of the Doctors of the Church was adapted and updated from that provided by Louis Miller, Beacons of Light: Profiles of Ecclesiastical Writers Cited in the Catechism (Liguori, MO: Liguori, 1995), 61-62.


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