Doctor traces its root from the Latin word docens which means “teaching.” In the church, the term Doctor of the Church refers to those writers who contributed much to the development of Catholic thought. Many of the Early Church Fathers were considered doctors of theology. They wrote extensively to repudiate heresy. These early doctors were not all saints, and their writings were not always free from error themselves. Only those who are officially declared doctors by the church have writings that are completely free from any error.
Doctors formally proclaimed by the Church are men and women who are revered for their writings, preaching, and holiness. Each proclaimed doctor made important contributions to the faith and is acknowledged for his tremendous worth.
The following have been declared Doctors of the Church:
Saint Albertus Magnus (d. 1280) Saint Alphonsus Liguori (d. 1787) Saint Ambrose (d. 397)
Saint Anselm (d. 1109)
Saint Anthony of Padua (d. 1213) Saint Athanasius (d. 375)
Saint Augustine (d. 430) Saint Basil the Great (d.379)
Saint Bede the Venerable (d. 735) Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153) Saint Bonaventure (d. 1274)
Saint Catherine of Siena (d. 1380) Saint Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444)
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386) Saint Ephraem (d. 373)
Saint Francis de Sales (d. 1622)
Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 390) Saint Gregory I the Great (d. 604) Saint Hilary of Poitiers (d. 368)
Saint Isidore of Seville (d. 636) Saint Jerome (d. 420)
Saint John Chrysostom (d. 407) Saint John Damascene (d. 749) Saint John of the Cross (d. 1591)
Saint Lawrence of Brindisi (d. 1619) Saint Leo I the Great (d. 461)
Saint Peter Canisius (d. 1597) Saint Peter Chrysologus (d. 450) Saint Peter Damian (d. 1072) Saint Robert Bellarmine (d. 1621) Saint Theresa of Avila (d. 1582) Saint Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) Saint Therese of Lisieux (d. 1897)
When Pope John Paul II is canonized a saint, he will very likely be given the title of “Great” and be made a Doctor of the Church. He wrote extensively in philosophy and theology, and was the greatest teacher of our time. In addition to his holiness, Pope John Paul II was an erudite teacher, who instructed not only his Church but also the world in the areas of morality. These are some of the qualities that the Church looks at when it proclaims a saint to be a Doctor of the Church.