Radio Show

What Are ‘Doctors of the Church’?

From time to time on the Busted Halo Show, a radio listener joins Father Dave, Brett, and Mike in the studio as a “Congregation of One.” On a recent show, our congregant had a question of faith for Father Dave: “I had a question about ‘Doctors of the Church.’ I really didn’t hear anything about that until five or six years ago … I was hoping you could enlighten me.”

Father Dave says: “Essentially, it’s a title that is bestowed on certain saints … So someone can’t be a Doctor of the Church if they’re not already a saint. So, therefore, [to be a Doctor of the Church, one must have] already died … This is a title that [is bestowed] by the Church — usually the pope is the official one to give the stamp of who is a Doctor of the Church and who is not — to someone who has had a particular importance in contributing to theology or doctrine … We have saints of all different ilks when it comes to academia — the Doctors are those [of the more academic variety]. An obvious example would be Thomas Aquinas, who contributed significantly to [our understanding of] doctrine and theology. Now, doctrine, we believe, is revealed by God, so it’s not like these folks made up doctrine, but you’ve got to be pretty smart sometimes to figure out and explain theology well. So Doctors of the Church are those who have contributed to that. In fact, in Latin, the word [for this title] literally means ‘teacher.’ [Doctor of the Church is just a] particular category — it’s not to say that a Doctor is better than St. Padre Pio or St. John Vianney or St. Francis. It’s not that [the Doctors] are a better quality of saint, it’s just that they’re a theologian saint.” (Original Air 05-19-17)

Note: If you are ever in the New York City area and would like to visit us in the studio to be a Congregation of One, email Brett at

Photo: St. Thomas Aquinas, a Doctor of the Church.