Doctors of the Catholic Church – Definition & Complete List

Have you ever wondered what is meant by “a doctor of the Church”?  Here is a definition and a complete, up-to-date (2022) list of all 37 of the men and women who have been proclaimed Doctors of the Catholic Church with links to biographies and excerpts from them as well.

The 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 2022, the official list includes thirty-seven men and women who hail from all ages of the Church’s history.  Of these, four on the list 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, Gregory of Narek and Lawrence of Brindisi).

The definition of the term “Doctor of the Church” is based on the 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.

During the era of the Church Fathers, (approximately AD 100-AD 800), eight Doctors 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.  Five of these hailed from the Western (Latin-speaking) half of the Roman Empire, though the earliest of them came originally from the East and spoke Greek.

 

St. Irenaeus, ca. 120- ca. 200

St. Ambrose, 340-397

St. Jerome, 345-420

St. Augustine, 354-430

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

Four of the Ecumenical Fathers also deemed Doctors came from the Eastern (Greek-speaking) Roman Empire:

St. Athanasius, 295-373

St. Basil the Great, 330-379

St. Gregory of Nazianzen, 330-390

St. John Chrysostom, 345-407

There are eight other Doctors from the patristic period making in total, sixteen (16) Fathers who are also recognized as Doctors of the Church:

St. Ephrem the Syrian, 306-373 (Syriac)

St. Hilary, 315-368 (Latin)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 315-387 (Greek)

St. Cyril of Alexandria, 376-444 (Greek)

St. Leo the Great (Pope), 390-461 (Latin)

St. Peter Chrysologus, 400-450 (Latin)

St. Isidore of Seville (who some consider last of the Latin Fathers), 560-636

St. John Damascene, (often considered last of the Greek Fathers), 676-749

There are eleven Doctors of the Church from the Middle Ages, all of them except the last from the Latin or Western Church:

St. Bede the Venerable, 673-735

St. Peter Damian, 1007-1072

St. Anselm, 1033-1109

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153

St. Hildegard of Bingen, 1098-1179

St. Anthony of Padua, 1195-1231

St. Albert the Great, 1200-1280

St. Bonaventure, 1217-1274

St. Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274

St. Catherine of Siena, 1347-1379

St. Gregory of Narek, 951-1003 (from the Armenian Church)

St. Catherine of Siena

There 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

St. Francis de Sales, 1567-1622

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

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

7 Comments
  • Kimberly
    Posted at 17:18h, 30 January

    Dr. Italy,
    Where can I find a description for each of the Doctors of the Church regarding their contribution to the Church. For example, St. Alphonsus is known for moral theology, etc.

  • Marcellino D'Ambrosio
    Posted at 17:18h, 30 January

    Kimberly, if you put your cursor over the name of the Doctors who appear in this list, you will see that the names are links to short bios on our website that describes each of these doctors. Actually, there are just a few for which we are still lacking bios.

  • Pete Kolbusz
    Posted at 17:02h, 13 February

    Are there any courses based on the FOTC? Something that not only teaches you something about them and their times but, something that teaches what they taught. A course that starts with the first Doctor and ends with the most recent.

  • Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
    Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
    Posted at 22:27h, 13 February

    Pete, there is no course like this that I’m aware of. EWTN is doing a video series on the Doctors of the Church in which I am interviewed, but it is far from being completed, to my knowledge. Actually, a survey of the history of the development of Catholic doctrine is necessary first to provide the background to really appreciate the various doctors. I teach a course like this for the Catholic Distance university http://www.cdu.edu. The name of the course is the Catholic Theological Tradition.

  • Phillip A. Poitevin
    Posted at 09:35h, 18 September

    Was Dietrich von Hildebrand declared a “Doctor of the Church”? Did Pope Pius XII declaring Hildebrand such an individual?
    Thank you very much.

  • Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
    Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
    Posted at 23:43h, 23 September

    No Philip, Pius XII did not do so and neither did any subsequent pope. Before being declared a Doctor of the Church, a person must first of all be canonize as a saint. Pius XII called him, by way of admiration, a “twentieth century of the church” but did not officially declare him as such.

  • Karen A Ray
    Posted at 18:59h, 28 August

    So hoping for ‘doctor of the church’ for St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy In My Soul devotion. Such has been a significant part of my life as well as my daughter’s and grandson’s. I cannot put into words how she has helped us in happy times as well as the tiresomeness and helplessness times that come and go in our lives especially during this pandemic overwhelming our lives. So exquisite, so helpful, so much hope she offers her followers, students, and all other applications necessary and strengthening during this pandemic. I feel I see her when I say my nighttime prayers and gratefully when I awaken in the morning. Many hopes and prayers lie in this perfect saintly little lady. Delight would never express the love of devotion regarding. God bless and keep you.

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