You may wonder about the title “Doctor of the Church” and how it is determined to award someone that title. In the Roman Catholic Church, a Doctor of the Church (Latin doctor, teacher, from Latin docere, to teach) is a saint recognized as having made significant contribution to theology or doctrine through their research, study, or writing. It is an official designation that is bestowed by the Pope. This honor is given rarely, only posthumously, and only after canonization. The Roman Catholic Church has, up until 2019, named 33 Doctors of the Church.
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.
The proclamation of a pope about naming a Doctor of the Church does not mean to declare that the teaching of any Doctor is free from error.
All these Doctors of the Church advanced the knowledge of God through their writing on theology, spirituality, mysticism, or through their defense of the faith in the face of heresy and schism.
The list below includes all the doctors of the Church and where their shrines are located, if any.
The title was first given in the Middle Ages, and originally, there were four great Doctors of the Church:
St. Ambrose (Milan, Italy) 4th century bishop of Milan
St. Augustine (Pavia, Italy) 5th century bishop of Hippo
St. Gregory the Great (Rome, Italy), who was pope at the start of the 7th century
St. Jerome (St. Mary Major, Rome, Italy) the 5th century biblical scholar and translator.
Over the years the church has added additional saints with the title “Doctor of the Church,” . These include:
Baltimore, Maryland: Shrine of St. Alphonsus Liguori
St. Basil the Great
St. Bede the Venerable
St. Cyril of Alexandria
St. Gregory Nazianzus
St. Gregory of Narek
St. Hilary of Poitiers
St. John Damascene
St. John of the Cross
St. John Chrysostom
St. Lawrence of Brindisi
St. Leo the Great
St. Peter Canisius
St. Peter Chrysologus
St. Peter Damian
St. Robert Bellarmine