Monday, August 22, 2011

Doctor of the Church

This eminent title elevates the particularly wise and learned saint above other saints and helps Catholics in their study of Church doctrine/dogma—providing a lamp shedding light for our faith journey—doctrine/dogma being defined by the Catechism's Glossary as:

“Doctrine/Dogma: The revealed teachings of Christ which are proclaimed by the fullest extent of the exercise of the authority of the Church’s Magisterium. The faithful are obliged to believe the truths or dogmas contained in divine Revelation and defined by the Magisterium.”

And within the Catechism it says:

“The dogmas of the faith

88 The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these.

89 There is an organic connection between our spiritual life and the dogmas. Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith.

90 The mutual connections between dogmas, and their coherence, can be found in the whole of the Revelation of the mystery of Christ. "In Catholic doctrine there exists an order or hierarchy of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith."

This article from Chiesa reports on a recent awarding of the title to a saint and examines the title historically.

An excerpt.

“VATICAN CITY, August 21, 2011 – Saint John of Avila (1499-1569) will be the 34th doctor proclaimed by the Catholic Church, the first under the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

“The pope made the announcement at the end of the Mass celebrated on the morning of Saturday, August 20, in the cathedral of Madrid, with the seminarians who had gone there for World Youth Day.

“So the title of doctor of the Church has once again been assigned to a man, after being granted consecutively to the first three women in history to bear it: Paul VI invested Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Catherine of Siena with it in 1970; John Paul II gave it to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux in 1997.

“Currently, the practices regarding new doctors of the Church are being examined jointly by the congregation for the causes of saints and the congregation for the doctrine of the faith.

“There is not much official information available on the subject. Some of it was provided by the Jesuit Giandomenico Mucci in the article "The title of doctor of the Church" published in the last issue of 1997 of "La Civiltà Cattolica."

“In it, Mucci, building on theses formulated by the Franciscan Umberto Betti (made a cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2007, and deceased two years later), spoke out in favor of granting the title of doctor to martyrs as well, but not to popes.

"Because the title of doctor of the Church," he wrote, "is based specifically on the 'eminens doctrina,' it cannot be concealed under any gift of sanctity possessed by the candidate for the title of doctor. So even a martyr in whom the Church recognizes the 'eminens doctrina' (Ignatius, Irenaeus, Cyprian) can be elevated to the doctorate, despite the different historical practice."

“However, "it seems problematic," Mucci then added, "to grant the title of doctor of the universal Church to a saint who was a Roman pontiff. In fact, the documents of his magisterium are authoritative not because of the 'eminens doctrina' possessed as a personal gift of grace, but by virtue of the office that constituted him supreme pastor and doctor of all the faithful."

“In the same article, Mucci listed the saints and blesseds on the waiting list for the title of doctor.

“Six of them are women: Saint Veronica Giuliani, Saint Hildegard of Bingen, Saint Gertrude of Helfta, Saint Bridget of Sweden, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, Blessed Julian of Norwich.

“And twelve are men: in addition to Saint John of Avila, Saint Gregory of Narek, Saint John Bosco, Saints Cyril and Methodius, Saint Lorenzo Giustiniani, Saint Antonino of Florence, Saint Thomas of Villanova, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Vincent de Paul, Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, Saint Bernardino of Siena.”