Monday, February 23, 2015

Doctors of the Church

Pope Francis is adding St. Gregory of Narek to the list of Doctors of the Church, so this is an updated post. All the news outlets are saying that Francis has already declared him Doctor of the Church, but as far as I am aware he is not yet on the Universal Calendar, although he is on the calendar of the Armenian Catholic Church, and people can only actually get the title when they are actually on Rome's Universal Calendar because it's a liturgical designation for that calendar, not an arbitrary title. (None of the reporting on this, in fact, makes much sense. The reporting on these kinds of events is regularly atrocious, and I ran into similar journalistic confusions with Juan de Avila and Hildegard von Bingen. It's even worse this time around, though.) What seems actually to have happened is that the Plenary Session for the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints put forward the proposal that he be named Doctor of the Church, and Pope Francis confirmed it. That would mean that the official declaration is yet to come. I will update again when new information comes up. Gregory of Narek will make the 36th Doctor of the Church.

'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). It was later conferred on Thomas Aquinas, and shortly afterward, Bonaventure, in order to recognize that these theologians were, in their own ways and according to the formats of their time, teachers of the Church of the same caliber as the prior Doctors of the Church. It 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' -- 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, Leo XIII). What follows are various lists in which kinds of theological periods and overlaps can be observed.

I. By Death Year
(sometimes approximate; year in parentheses is the year they were officially recognized as Doctor of the Church; to show gaps, asterisks indicate approximate length of intervening interval between death years, each asterisk indicating approximately a decade)

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)
**************************
1003 Gregory of Narek (2015?)
******
1072 Peter Damian (1828)
***
1109 Anselm (1720)
****
1153 Bernard of Clairvaux (1830)
*
1179 Hildegard von Bingen (2012)
*****
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 (2012)
*
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
***************************
951 Gregory of Narek
*****
1007 Peter Damian
**
1033 Anselm of Canterbury
*****
1090 Bernard of Clairvaux
1098 Hildegard von Bingen
**********
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
*
2012 John of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen
2015? Gregory of Narek

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
1012? Gregory of Narek

833 Hildegard of Bingen

756 Peter Damian
715 Anthony of Padua

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

591 Catherine of Siena

443 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, for most of the history of the title there have been no Eastern Doctors after Damascene. However, Gregory of Narek, you will notice, is later than Damascene by a couple of centuries, and as an Armenian he would be counted as an Eastern Doctor, bringing the total to nine (Hilary, Athanasius, Ephrem, Basil, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzen, Cyril of Alexandria, John Damascene, Gregory of Narek).

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 six Benedictines (Isidore [it is thought], Bede, Anselm, Bernard, Hildegard, Peter Damian). There are four women (Hildegard, Catherine, Teresa, Therese), three of whom were nuns (Hildegard, Teresa, Therese). There are nineteen bishops, of whom two were Patriarchs of Rome (Leo, Gregory), two Patriarchs of Alexandria (Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria), two Patriarchs of Constantinople (Nazianzen, Chrysostom), and one Patriarch of Jerusalem (Cyril of Jerusalem). 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 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 (Isaac of Nineveh), Gregory Palamas, Symeon the New Theologian, Nerses Shnorhali.

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.

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

10 comments:

  1. vojtas7:57 PM

    Do you recommend any secondary work on Theodore Abu-Qurra?

    I also found Gregory of Nyssa's absence odd, do you happen to know how that came about?

    ReplyDelete
  2. branemrys8:14 PM

    I don't know secondary works, but Lamoreux's translation of Theodore Abu Qurra's writings is quite readable and the introduction is quite good.

    On Gregory of Nyssa, I think it's just a matter of his being the least studied of the Cappadocian Fathers in the West; the other Cappadocian Fathers were read widely in the West, which is why they are all among the earliest to receive the designation, but Gregory of Nyssa was hardly read in the West until the twentieth century.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the recommendation.

    ReplyDelete
  4. thomas2:02 AM

    The cult of St. Gregory of Narek will be marked on 27 February

    ReplyDelete
  5. branemrys8:58 AM

    Thanks; I'll keep an eye out for more information then.

    ReplyDelete
  6. itinérante12:52 PM

    I thought St. Leo was as well recognised by the East, no? is he not the one who had his feast day last week?

    ReplyDelete
  7. itinérante12:56 PM

    Oh! I am sorry, my mistake! I got confused going up and down through the lists!

    ReplyDelete
  8. branemrys4:12 PM

    No problem! There certainly are a lot of lists doing different things.

    ReplyDelete
  9. thomas4:19 AM

    Yes. As you say, reporting on these matters could be better..will be interesting to hear 'officially'. Thanks for your careful explanations.

    ReplyDelete
  10. thomas11:17 AM

    fyi, at First Things: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2015/02/the-newest-doctor-of-the-church

    ReplyDelete

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