Talk:Doctor of the Church

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Asterisks in list[edit]

There are asterisks beside some of the names in the list but no explanation of what they signify! Kace7 (talk) 20:41, 14 June 2013 (UTC)


This column needs major work and changes. St. Basil's nationality most certainly was NOT Turkish. He neither spoke nor understood the language. Furthermore, there were no Turks living in the area at the time, nor was there any Turkish, Ottoman, or Seljuk kingdom, principality, emirate, khanate, province, colony, city or any other kind of unit there at this time. St. Ambrose was NOT Italian. He might have considered himself, and been considered in turn, Roman or Latin, but not Italian.

The table either needs to change the name of the column to something like "Current nation in which place of birth is located" or the information in the column needs to reflect the understanding of nationality/ethnicity that existed at the times of these various saints.

There's also a lot of inconsistency. St. Jerome's nationality is listed as "Dalmatian", but there is no nation of Dalmatia today. Despite that, this makes good sense as "Dalmatian" more closely corresponds with the ethnic/national categories of his time than "Croatian" or "Serbian" or "Yugoslav". St. Isidore's nationality of Visigothic likewise fails to correspond with any of today's nationalities, but that's actually not a problem since it does correspond with the nationalities in use at his time.

My suggestion? In this column, first give the nationality that the person in question most likely would have used to describe himself or herself. Many of these will be more closely tied with place of birth (natio) than with current nation states, but that's actually good as it's more accurate. Second, give the name of which of today's nation states this birthplace now lies in. I think, for example, that the first datum for all of the "Italian" saints should NOT be Italy, but rather the name of the republic, empire, kingdom, duchy or whatever they were born in and identified as their nationality. Interlingua talk email 14:29, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

Add to the examples above that Bede can in no sense be described as British. British could mean Brythonic Celtic, i.e. Welsh: he was a Northumbrian Angle. British can also mean a UK citizen post-1707: he lived a thousand years too early for that. I wish I could share the confidence expressed above that nationality could make any sense at all when applied to people who lived before the emergence of nation states. At least we can all accept that St Theresa of Lisieux was French and that's about it.Sjwells53 20:49, 2 July 2007 (UTC)

Support - the sense in which ethnicity is being used here is very problematic. The best designation for the listed individuals who lived in The Roman Empire is probably 'Roman'; this ought to include Gregory the Great as well. The case of Isidore of Seville is absurd. Isidore was an Hispano-Roman living in the Visigothic kingdom and so hispano-gothic is the closest ethnic label not spanish. The question that has not been addressed here is how do we ascribe a contemporary ethnonym to a Late Latin speaking bishop living in a kingdom ruled by a German speaking people or to any of the other individuals listed in this article. Geography is not identity and the fact that some time in the past some people lived in the geographical space that one group or another now lives in does not mean that the past people and the current people have some necessary connexion.Rykalski (talk) 11:42, 27 June 2008 (UTC)
Support. Anselm was not Italian. Burgundian by birthplace, or Lombard by heritage would be more accurate. French, Swiss, Germanic, Norman or English also could be used to describe his background as (in)accurately as Italian.Enon (talk) 08:03, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

"Traditional Catholics" and women Doctors[edit]

A user added material claiming that "the traditional Catholics" reject the addition of the three women Doctors from 1970 on. That statement has been progressively toned down, to "most traditional Catholics", then "many", and finally "some". The effect, though, is to make the statement very weasel-wordish, and in the absence of a reputable source (and a clear definition of who does and who doesn't count as a "traditional(ist) Catholic"), the article is far better off without the statement however phrased, so I have taken the liberty of removing it. Vilĉjo 22:06, 30 August 2006 (UTC)

An Updating[edit]

On this feast of St. Ambrose, I have done some updating to this article.

  • Eliminated the reference to the doctors as theologians. The women doctors were not theologians.
  • Eliminated the reference to beatification. Canonization (formal or equivalent) is necessary.
  • Corrected some of the nationality problems & added footnotes where I thought necessary.
  • Added more appropriate activities.
  • Added a quote pertaining to women doctors.

The references to the honorary titles should be eliminated as they can be confusing. Some titles are shared by more than one doctor, e.g., the titles "Doctor Universalis" and "Doctor Venerabilis" are given to both Thomas Aquinas and Albert the Great. Furthermore, which title is to be given? Thomas Aquinas has had upwards of ten titles bestowed on him. If they did, indeed, serve to distinguish, then they would merit inclusion. 17:29, 7 December 2006 (UTC)


I think the list should be sorted according to birth (or flourishing) dates. As the list is as today, there isn't any criterion for its ordering. Nivaca 20:35, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

Sounds like a good criterion to me. Goldfritha 23:48, 5 January 2007 (UTC)
Unless it's been edited recently, it's sorted by the year each was named a Doctor. I'd suggest keeping that order, with either year of birth or alphabetical ordering for those years which had multiple Doctors named. PaulGS 00:21, 15 February 2007 (UTC)


From the current article:

"The Catholic Church has to date named 33 Doctors of the Church. Of these, the 17 who died before the formal disunion of the Eastern and Western Churches in 1054 are also venerated by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Among these 33 are 25 from the West and 8 from the East; 14 diocesan priests, 16 religious priests and 3 women; 18 bishops, 9 priests, 1 deacon, 2 nuns and 1 lay woman; 24 from Europe, 3 from Africa, 6 from Asia."

My first question is what the definition of "East" and "West is. My second question is how "18 bishops, 9 priests, 1 deacon, 2 nuns and 1 lay woman" can add up to 33. That seems to add up to 31 to me. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 04:21, 13 February 2007 (UTC).

The West in Christian history terms refers to that part of the world once [rimarily controlled by the Western Roman Empire, the Latin-speaking world, i.e., roughly, Western Europe. The East refers to that part of the world once controlled by or heavily influenced by the Byzantine Empire -- hence, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, roughly speaking. Western Christianity follows the Roman liturgical tradition (and later, the Protestant traditions), while Eastern Christianity follows the Byzantine, Antiochene, Alexandrian and Armenian traditions -- today the Eastern Rite Catholic, the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. There are in fact 33 doctors -- the 2 nuns and one laywoman is a bit misleading, as Catherine of Siena was a lay Dominican who later was part of a convent; 19 were bishops (including Popes), 10 were priests, 1 was a deacon, and three were women, all arguably (in some sense) religious sisters.HarvardOxon 04:53, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

Just to muddy the waters, the Oriental traditions consider both the Byzantine and Latin traditions to be Western. In a sense, they're right, as both the Byzantine and Latin traditions draw heavily on the Graeco-Roman philosophical inheritance, while the Oriental Orthodox (and their corresponding Catholic Churches) never adopted it. What fun. InfernoXV (talk) 13:42, 27 June 2008 (UTC)

Expansion of list[edit]

I have included references to groups other than simply the main Roman Catholic Church as per the Holweck source cited. John Carter (talk) 20:34, 29 December 2007 (UTC)

Reference to Isaac of Nineveh[edit]

In my browser the reference to Isaac is in red (not linked), but in Google I find that wikipedia does have an article on someone by thet name. Are the 2 the same? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:57, 10 April 2009 (UTC)

Asterisks in Table Undefined[edit]

A number of the entries on the table have an asterisk, but the meaning of this is undefined. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:56, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

If no one knows what these are, then they should be removed. (talk) 01:46, 7 April 2013 (UTC)

St. Ambrose isn't German. St. Ambrose German? Then Albert Einstein is Italian[edit]

St. Ambrose was a Roman (Roman by race, by culture and even, it must be added, by his carrer); Bishop and moralist as he was, his ethics were a form of Christianized stoic philosophy. He was never ethnically or culturally German. -- (talk) 11:53, 10 April 2011 (UTC)

Lutherans and Doctors[edit]

Lutherans recognize and use the term Doctor for the great doctors of East and West. I also am pretty sure that for the commemoration of Martin Lutheran, the use of the term doctor is not just to note that he had a doctorate but that he was a teacher of the Church in the same way that 'doctor' is used in the rest of the article. Is there any documentation for the use of doctor in this way? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:51, 28 April 2011 (UTC)

"Little Flower"[edit]

I have corrected the reference to St. Theresa (of Lisieux) to reflect her correct name in religion and indicated that "Little Flower" is not an official name, but one bestowed on her by the faithful. Caeruleancentaur (talk) 12:49, 2 May 2011 (UTC)

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Surely this column is anachronistic and useless and should be removed. In imperial and medieval times, the people of Europe did not share our hang ups about blood and soil. In many cases the ethnicity is not known with any certaintly. Is there any benefit at all to keeping it? Rwflammang (talk) 18:43, 28 January 2013 (UTC)

Since no one has mentioned any benefit to keeping this article, and since someone has recently asserted that St Ambrose was Gallic, which at a minimum debatable, I will delete this column. Rwflammang (talk) 20:54, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
Thank you! Kace7 (talk) 20:39, 14 June 2013 (UTC)

Doctrix amoris[edit]

Does anyone have any source for the title doctrix amoris? Rwflammang (talk) 13:24, 9 August 2013 (UTC)

The proper title would be Doctor, not doctrix -- the Church has not chosen to use the feminized noun in reference to the female Doctors (thus throughout the Latin version of John Paul II's Apostolic Letter declaring her a Doctor, the Latin term is doctor, not doctrix). The use of the title Doctor Amoris for Therese comes from several factors: the title of the aforementioned Apostolic Letter, which is Divini Amoris Scientia, "the science (knowledge) of Divine Love"; and the fact that Therese's "little way" was founded fundamentally on the concept of divine love, as discussed in her main Wiki entry and as cited by John Paul II in his homily for the occasion of making her a Doctor ("Thérèse of Lisieux did not only grasp and describe the profound truth of Love as the centre and heart of the Church, but in her short life she lived it intensely."). Finally, your contention that doctor amoris is a title reserved to Ovid makes little sense, given that Ovid is not a Doctor of the Church. NathanielMCampbell (talk) 15:32, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
The main problem with attributing doctoral titles to the most recently declared doctores Ecclesiae is that the titles are not themselves officially bestowed by the Church; rather, they are what become generally accepted by popular use over the course of time. It will likely be several more decades (or longer) before recent doctors like Therese, or John of Avila, of Hildegard of Bingen, develop widely accepted and used titles. NathanielMCampbell (talk) 16:01, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
As a matter of fact, she is not called doctor amoris, so that title is a non-starter. As a matter of fact, she is called doctrix amoris, as any user of google can easily attest. Our problem is that there is no evidence that any of these google hits ("ghits") have any origin short of Wikipedia itself. Wikipedia demands a reference. If the title doctrix amoris is going to be used, we will need a notable source for it. Rwflammang (talk) 04:21, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
That's basically what I said: the theological and devotional communities haven't yet developed a standard doctoral moniker for Therese, although doctor/doctrix amoris has been used on occasion (a google search of the masculine form, for example, turns up a use by Rome Reports last year when John of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen were made doctores). The feminine form, however, is NOT correct, as the official Vatican documents concerning Therese (as well as the other female doctores) uses doctor, NOT doctrix, as I pointed out above. Until such time as the theological and devotional communities settle on a standard, it would be best for Wikipedia to leave those fields blank. NathanielMCampbell (talk) 14:24, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
The Vatican has no authority over Latin grammar. The sensus fidelium, unlike its minders in the curia, seems to understand that Therese was a woman, and that the feminine form is the correct one. Rwflammang (talk) 19:40, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
But as of now, the only citable sources I can find with Latin titles for these women are the Apostolic Letters written by the Popes who declared them doctores -- and in all of those, they are referred to as doctores, NOT as doctrices. Perhaps you would like to inform Fr. Reginald Foster (who certainly worked on Therese's letter) that he got it wrong? (I'd also point out that quite a few holy women {especially medieval} had a habit of using gender-bending language precisely as a way to overcome patriarchal boundaries.) NathanielMCampbell (talk) 13:29, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
I'd be happy to talk with Brother Foster about it if you could send me his contact info. Also, any examples of medieval holy women using "gender bending" language you could throw my way would be appreciated. Thanks. Rwflammang (talk) 17:41, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
It's been a few years since I was in contact with Reggie -- and I believe he's been in ill-health lately, and has retired back to Milwaukee. (Here's his Wiki page: Reginald Foster (Latinist).) As for medieval holy women: the topic is vast and thorny, ranging from Hildegard of Bingen's famous inversions, in which her frail femininity is used by God to make her a scourge of the moral failures of men; to the fact that in the commentary tradition, Marguerite Porete's works were often thought to have been written by a man. A good recent overview that would include extensive references would be Medieval Holy Women in the Christian Tradition, c. 1100-c. 1500, ed. Alastair Minnis and Rosalynn Voaden (Turnhout: Brepols, 2010). NathanielMCampbell (talk) 17:51, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
P.S. I'd also point out that changing the form from doctor to doctrix is not, in fact, grammatically necessary, although there is precedent for the feminine form in the Vulgate version of Wisdom 8:4. NathanielMCampbell (talk) 18:00, 12 August 2013 (UTC)

(outdent) When I asked for examples of gender bending, I meant the grammatical kind. I'm definitely not interested in any other kind. I also note that Lewis and Short seems unaware of the possibility of using Doctor in the feminine gender. Rwflammang (talk) 00:08, 13 August 2013 (UTC)

Off the top of my head, I would point you to Hildegard of Bingen's frequent practice of having the "voice from heaven" refer to her as homo, a noun which she then uses throughout her writings in a specifically gender-neutral way to refer to a generic "human person". There's also the visions of Hildegard's contemporary, Elisabeth of Schönau, in which the angel of Lord often addresses her as homo but also at least once as fili hominis (which is clearly masculine), and at another time exhorting her to act viriliter (see cc. 67-70 of the First Book of Visions, in Elisabeth of Schönau: The Complete Works, trans. Anne L. Clark (Paulist Press, 2000), pp. 85-7.) I don't have time at the moment to dig deeper, but I'm sure that if I did, I could come up with more examples.
The other place to look for this is the long tradition of employing female images for God and Christ. A few standard sources on this: Caroline Walker Bynum, Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (Univ. of California Press, 1982); ibid., "'...And Woman His Humanity': Female Imagery in Religious Writing of the Later Middle Ages," in Bynum, Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion (Zone Books, 1991); Barbara Newman, From Virile Woman to WomanChrist: Studies in Medieval Religion and Literature (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1995); and Catherine Mooney, ed., Gendered Voices: Medieval Saints and their Interpreters (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), which includes two essays apropos to the references above: Barbara Newman, "Hildegard and Her Hagiographers: The Remaking of Female Sainthood" (pp. 16-34) and Anne L. Clark, "Holy Woman or Unworthy Vessel? The Representations of Elisabeth of Schönau" (pp. 35-51). NathanielMCampbell (talk) 14:31, 13 August 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for all these references, but I am still dubious. Obviously, homo and viriliter are not examples of grammatical gender bending, nor are female images for God or Christ. You are certainly correct that fili is masculine, unless of course it is an abbreviation for filia; these are manuscripts after all. I have not yet located a primary source for her Latin text. But thanks for the pointers. Rwflammang (talk) 23:05, 26 August 2013 (UTC)
I found her work in PL195 and added a mention of it in her article. Rwflammang (talk) 23:21, 26 August 2013 (UTC)

Style: titles and links[edit]

Wondering about the use of titles in the article:

The title "Saint" is used throughout the list of Doctors recognized by the Catholic Church, but is omitted in lists of other Christian churches that recognize saints. Seems to me that it should appear both places. This also raises an issue of WP:OVERLINK since Doctors who are recognized by multiple churches have their names linked each time they are mentioned. Order names, titles, etc. are also overlinked.
In the "Activity" Column (and isn't there a better name for this?)
Don't want to get anachronistic, but was Milan a province when St. Anselm was bishop? Should he be listed as an archbishop?
SS John Chrysostom and Gregory Nazianzus are both listed as Archbishops of Constantinople with separate links to Archbishop and Constantinople. Shouldn't they be listed as Patriarch of Constantinople? Similarly, St Cyril of Jerusalem should be listed as Patriarch of Jerusalem (link to disambiguation page intentional).
St Bonaventure is listed as a "Cardinal Bishop" with both words in the link, yet St Peter Damian has only the "Bishop" in his entry listed. Other cardinals (St. Jerome, St. Robert Bellarmine off the top of my head) aren't identified as such. Seems like this honor should be mentioned for all or for none.
It seems that "Jesuit", "Benedictine", "Redemptorist", "Dominican", "Discalced Carmelite" or just "Carmelite" and "Cistercian" are more useful to an encyclopedia user than the abbreviations used at present. Since the monastery at Jarrow followed the Rule of St Benedict IIRC, St Bede could be listed as a Benedictine rather than a monk. --Lineagegeek (talk) 14:52, 13 September 2013 (UTC)
I think you are right; calling Ambrose an archbishop is anachronistic. For the same reason, calling Chrysostom, Gregory, and Cyril patriarchs would be anachronistic; calling them archbishops is not. Rwflammang (talk) 18:18, 13 September 2013 (UTC)
Then at least the links should be Archbishop of Constantinople and Archbishop of Jerusalem rather than what they are now. Not my area, but I'll be bold snd upgrade the other St Cyril to Archbishop. I welcome comment from anyone about establishment or recognition of patriarchates before the fifth century. I'll leave time for more comment before doing anything with the other stuff.--Lineagegeek (talk) 22:22, 13 September 2013 (UTC)

Eastern Orthodox section[edit]

The Eastern Orthodox section is problematic in many ways.

  • It says that the term doctor of the church is unnecessary in Eastern Orthodox theology. So what? It's not necessary in Roman Catholic theology either. The statement is off topic.
  • It says the EO theology "omits the need" for a list of (scare quote) "Doctors". What need? How can what is non-existent be omitted?
  • The more usual term used is Father, it says. So what? Is this a need in EO theology? It certainly isn't in RC theology.
  • There seems to be an assumption running through this paragraph that Doctor has some sort of theological meaning. What it is of course is a liturgical classification, like confessor, or martyr, or apostle, or virgin, or pastor, or holy man, or holy woman.

The last two sentences of this section are interesting and, perhaps, relevant. I suggest deleting or at least replacing the rest. I see nothing there that is on-topic or even coherent. Rwflammang (talk) 15:24, 2 August 2014 (UTC)

Aperuit os eius[edit]

There is a difficulty in rendering the Latin phrase In medio Ecclesiae aperuit os ejus, * Et implevit eum Deus spiritu sapientiae et intellectus. * Jucunditatem et exsultationem thesaurizavit super eum into English. The Latin phrase makes clear that the one doing the opening is not the same as the one whose mouth is being opened. The English rendering, in the midst of the Church he opened his mouth does not make that clear at all. That rendering makes it sound like it was the doctor who was opening his own mouth. I had changed "his mouth" to "her mouth" under the assumption that ejus referred to the Church, so that the doctor was opening the Church's mouth. A fellow editor objected that ejus referred to whomever eum referred to. Consulting Ecclesiasticus 15:5 convinces me that the he was right. It is not the doctor who is doing the opening, but Deus, God, the subject of the response. The erudite Ronald Knox translated the line thus, The Lord moved him to speak before the assembled people, filling him with the spirit of wisdom and discernment.

I therefore propose changing the translation to read, In the midst of the Church God opened his mouth, * and filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding. * He heaped upon him a treasure of joy and gladness. Rwflammang (talk) 03:29, 6 January 2016 (UTC)

Your proposed translation is still slightly open to ambiguity (God does not open his own mouth, as these translations [1][2] would suggest), but it's a good translation and clearer than what currently stands, especially when reading the full sentence rather than just the first line. support Beleg Tâl (talk) 18:51, 6 January 2016 (UTC)

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