Sunday, August 21, 2011

On the Doctors of the Church

Since John of Avila has been named the 34th Doctor of the Church, this post needed some updating.

'Doctor of the Church' is a special, officially given, liturgical title in Rome's Universal Calendar: it indicates (1) saints in the universal calendar who (2) were doctors (i.e., theological teachers) and who (3) have left theological writings that (4) are of extraordinary quality and considerable value for the whole community of the faithful. It originally grew up on its own as applied to a small group of especially important theologians (Athanasius, Basil, Nazianzen, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great) and has since been extended outward by official recognition of a theologian as being in the same class. Because of (2) it is traditional not to consider martyrs for the title, despite a number of notable theologians in that category who fit all of the other criteria, because 'martyr' is a higher liturgical title than 'doctor' -- because of this martyrs would never be liturgically given a Mass for doctors, only for martyrs, and thus the title would be otiose. Likewise (3) is pretty restrictive; there have been some excellent theologians who don't qualify because we know of their work only indirectly and not from any writings they left (Saint Macrina comes immediately to mind). And, of course, there are extraordinarily important theologians who aren't saints in any calendar (Tertullian, Origen, Theodore Abu-Qurra). These are just some different ways of listing the Doctors of the Church for the purpose of seeing what patterns there might be.

I. By Death Year
(sometimes approximate; year in parentheses is the year they were officially recognized as Doctor of the Church; asterisks indicate approximate length of intervening interval)

368 Hilary of Poitiers (1851)
373 Athanasius
373 Ephrem the Syrian (1920)
379 Basil of Caesarea
387 Cyril of Jerusalem (1883)
390 Gregory Nazianzen
397 Ambrose of Milan
407 John Chrysostom
*
420 Jerome
*
430 Augustine
*
444 Cyril of Alexandria (1883)
450 Peter Chrysologus (1729)
*
461 Leo the Great (1754)
**************
604 Gregory the Great
***
636 Isidore of Seville (1722)
*********
735 Bede (1899)
*
749 John Damascene (1883)
******************************
1072 Peter Damian (1828)
***
1109 Anselm (1720)
****
1153 Bernard of Clairvaux (1830)
*******
1231 Anthony of Padua (1946)
****
1274 Thomas Aquinas (1568)
1274 Bonaventure (1588)
1280 Albert the Great (1931)
*********
1379 Catherine of Siena (1970)
*******************
1569 John of Avila (2011)
*
1582 Teresa of Avila (1970)
1591 John of the Cross (1926)
1597 Peter Canisius (1925)
**
1619 Lawrence of Brindisi (1959)
1621 Robert Bellarmine (1931)
1622 Francis de Sales (1877)
****************
1787 Alphonsus Liguori (1871)
**********
1897 Therese of Lisieux (1997)

II. By Birth Year
(often approximate, especially for earlier figures)

293 Athanasius
300 Hilary of Poitiers
306 Ephrem the Syrian
313 Cyril of Jerusalem
*
329 Gregory Nazianzen
330 Basil of Caesarea
337 Ambrose of Milan
*
347 Jerome
349 John Chrysostom
354 Augustine
**
376 Cyril of Alexandria
380 Peter Chrysologus
**
400 Leo I
**************
540 Gregory I
**
560 Isidore of Seville
***********
672 Bede
676 John Damascene
*******************************
1007 Peter Damian
**
1033 Anselm of Canterbury
*****
1090 Bernard of Clairvaux
**********
1195 Anthony of Padua
1206 Albert the Great (although perhaps as early as 1193)
**
1221 Bonaventure
1225 Thomas Aquinas
************
1347 Catherine of Siena
***************
1500 John of Avila
*
1515 Teresa of Avila
1521 Peter Canisius
**
1542 John of the Cross
1542 Robert Bellarmine
*
1559 Lawrence of Brindisi
1567 Francis de Sales
************
1696 Alphonsus Liguori
*****************
1873 Therese of Lisieux

III. By Year of Recognition

[Athanasius, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzen, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great all received it by organically developed custom]

1568 Thomas Aquinas
**
1588 Bonaventure
*************
1720 Anselm of Canterbury
1722 Isidore of Seville
1729 Peter Chrysologus
**
1754 Leo the Great
*******
1828 Peter Damian
1830 Bernard of Clairvaux
**
1851 Hilary of Poitiers
**
1871 Alphonsus Liguori
1877 Francis de Sales
1883 Cyril of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, John Damascene
*
1899 Bede
**
1920 Ephrem the Syrian
1925 Peter Canisius
1926 John of the Cross
1931 Albert the Great, Robert Bellarmine
*
1946 Anthony of Padua
*
1959 Lawrence of Brindisi
*
1970 Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila
**
1997 Therese of Lisieux
*
2011 John of Avila

IV. By Number of Years from Death to Recognition
(Color Code, very rough: Patristic Era, Scholastic Era, Counter-Reformation)
[Athanasius, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzen, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great all received it by organically developed custom]

1547 Ephrem of Syria

1496 Cyril of Jerusalem
1483 Hilary of Poitiers
1439 Cyril of Alexandria

1293 Leo I
1279 Peter Chrysologus

1164 Bede
1134 John Damascene

1086 Isidore of Seville

756 Peter Damian
715 Anthony of Padua

677 Bernard of Clairvaux
651 Albert the Great
611 Anselm of Canterbury

591 Catherine of Siena

442 John of Avila

388 Teresa of Avila
340 Lawrence of Brindisi
335 John of the Cross
328 Peter Canisius
314 Bonaventure
310 Robert Bellarmine

294 Thomas Aquinas
255 Francis de Sales

100 Therese of Lisieux

84 Alphonsus Liguori

V. Various Miscellaneous Lists

Because of the split between East and West there are no Eastern Doctors after Damascene, making eight in total (Hilary, Athanasius, Ephrem, Basil, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzen, Cyril of Alexandria, John Damascene).

There are three Carmelites (Teresa, John of the Cross, and Therese), two Jesuits (Canisius and Bellarmine), three Dominicans (Thomas, Albert, Catherine (Tertiary)), four Franciscans (Anthony, Bonaventure, Lawrence, Francis de Sales (Tertiary)), one Redemptorist (Liguori), and five Benedictines (Isidore [it is thought], Bede, Anselm, Bernard, Peter Damian). There are three women (Catherine, Teresa, Therese), two of whom were nuns (Teresa, Therese). There are nineteen bishops, of whom two were Patriarchs of Rome (Leo, Gregory), two Patriarchs of Alexandria (Athanasius, Cyril A), two Patriarchs of Constantinople (Nazianzen, Chrysostom), and one Patriarch of Jerusalem (Cyril J). That's actually very nice balance, although notably Antioch is missing, with no plausible candidate (interesting, given how important the See has been theologically). There is one deacon (Ephrem).

Some notable and influential theologians who possibly meet all the criteria but haven't yet received the designation: Gregory of Nyssa (whose absence is very noticeable), Epiphanius of Salamis, Jeanne de Chantal, Jean Eudes, Louis de Montfort, Bernardino of Siena, Veronica Giuliani, Birgitta of Sweden, Gertrude of Helfta, John Bosco, Lorenzo Giustiniani, Antonino of Florence, Thomas of Villanova, Ignatius of Loyola, Vincent de Paul.

Some notable and influential saints who possibly meet all the criteria except being on the Universal Calendar: Clement of Alexandria, Isaac the Syrian, Hildegard von Bingen, Gregory Palamas, Symeon the New Theologian, Nerses Shnorhali.

Some notable and influential saints who would be good candidates except that they are martyrs: Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Cyprian, Boethius, Maximus the Confessor, Thomas More, Edith Stein.

Some notable and influential theologians who will possibly at some point be given the designation if their canonization process is ever completed: John Duns Scotus, John Henry Newman, Antonio Rosmini, Julian of Norwich.

5 comments:

  1. For martyrs:Would Maximus the Confessor be one of those?, or are his works/writings not extensive enough do you think?

    ReplyDelete
  2. branemrys5:50 PM

    I think you're quite right that he should be somewhere. I confess, though, that I'm a bit fuzzy about how confessors, particularly confessors who die under circumstances related to, although not directly stemming from, their confessorship, fit into the matter. It's something that I'll have to look into.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Henry Karlson7:21 AM

    Apparently, some are trying to get Faustina recognized as a Doctor of the Church.

    http://www.zenit.org/article-33593?l=english

    I just don't see it... might as well call St Monica a Doctor of the Church next... it's not meant to disrespect St Faustina, but this kind of direction would just hurt what I see a Doctor of the Church should be about.

    ReplyDelete
  4. branemrys2:37 PM

    I think I agree with you here. I suppose the reasoning is that her diary is a pretty substantive piece of writing and has the sort of claim to significant theological teaching that St. Catherine's Discourses or Therese's autobiographical does. And it does seem that this is a little weak; it's certainly claim to regard her as theologically worthwhile, but it's also something she shares with literally hundreds of other theologians.

    I worry that there's an increasing tendency to advocate for doctors of one's own nationality or who support one's favorite devotion. And, as you say, this cheapens the whole title, which should indicate something universal and directly linked to theological teaching as such -- either a theologian renowned throughout the Church for holy teaching, or (as in the case of, say, St. Peter Canisius with his work on developing catechisms) who contributed something to theological teaching itself that is of proven benefit to everyone, whether anyone realizes it traces to them or not. And it really does need to be a title that indicates something precious and universally valuable in precisely this way: when first Aquinas and then Bonaventure were given the title, it was an extraordinary honor, because it had up to that point applied only to Church Fathers, and thus it said that here was theological teaching of the same caliber, in orthodoxy and value, as that of the Church Fathers themselves, albeit adapted to new modes and formats. It's one thing to recognize the different modes and formats, but another to broaden it to include any theological writer of importance.

    ReplyDelete
  5. branemrys5:33 PM

    Also, it occurs to me that Doctors of the Church tend to be (and ought generally to be) the fruition of a tradition rather than initiators. The closest analogue to St. Faustina and Divine Mercy is St. Marguerite Marie Alacoque and Sacred Heart -- but it is Eudes and Montfort who are the most plausible candidates, not Alacoque. This doesn't mean that Alacoque is in any way inferior; but being a Doctor of the Church indicates in particular a power of orderly and systematic communication well beyond the usual. You can find saints who practiced something like the Little Way even if not realizing it for generations before St. Therese; what makes St. Therese a Doctor of the Church is the orderly precision, the persuasiveness,  and the clarity with which she communicated it. It's not just true devotion, or even theological brilliance that matters: it's teaching.

    ReplyDelete

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