Sunday, January 6, 2019

A brief history of Doctors of the Church



The history of official recognition of doctors of the Universal Church begins with a quartet of saints. By the middle of the eighth century, “four figures had emerged as the Latin Church’s preeminent ‘doctors,’ namely, Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory the Great, and Jerome.”[i]  However, it was not until the year 1298 that Pope Boniface VIII recognized them as “doctors” in a decretal letter entitled «Gloriosus Deus 

I.             1298 PROCLAMATIONS
1. St. Gregory the Great, Pope (c. 540 - 604)
2. St. Ambrose, Bishop (c. 340 - 397)
3. St. Augustine, Bishop (354 - 430)
4. St. Jerome, Priest/monk (c. 347 - 420)

The average length of time for these four from date of death until their recognition as doctors in 1298 was 835 years, so from this first proclamation, there was no rush to judgment in proclaiming doctors.  Boniface’s decretal facilitated the liturgical elevation of four already-recognized saints.[ii]  These four were acknowledged because, Boniface explained, they had “revealed the mysteries of the Scriptures, untied knots [i.e., dissolved perplexities], clarified difficulties, and explained what was uncertain.”[iii]
For the next two and a half centuries, the roster of “doctors” remained static, and there were no new doctors named until 1567, when there was a flurry of additions made during a 21-year span:

II.            16TH CENTURY PROCLAMATIONS
5. St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest/theologian (1225 - 1274; recognized in 1567 by Pope Pius V)
6. St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop (347 - 407; recognized in 1568 by Pope Pius V)
7. St. Basil the Great, Bishop (330 - 379; recognized in 1568 by Pope Pius V)
8. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Archbishop (329 - 389; recognized in 1568 by Pope Pius V)
9. St. Athanasius, Archbishop (298 - 373; recognized in 1568 by Pope Pius V)
10. St. Bonaventure, Cardinal/theologian (1221 - 1274; recognized in 1588 by Pope Sixtus V)

These six additions can be broken down into two major movements.  The first was the addition of “Four Greek Fathers” to complement the “Four Latin Fathers” who had been enshrined in 1298.  Thus, in 1568, Pope Pius V added the Three Holy Hierarchs of the East (John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus), plus Athanasius for balance (Four Eastern to Four Western Fathers).[iv]
The second dynamic involved an innovation: the recognition of Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure expanded the parameters beyond the ancient fathers to figures from the second millennium.
The average death-to-doctorate interval for the XVI Century proclamations increased to 888 years (mostly due to the fact the majority of doctors dated from the Patristic Era, and the lapse of time since).  Of the doctors recognized in the XVI Century, all but one were bishops. 
There were no new proclamations during the XVII Century and only four during the XVIII Century:

III.           18TH CENTURY PROCLAMATIONS
11. St. Anselm, Archbishop (1033 or 1034 - 1109; recognized in 1720 by Pope Clement XI)
12. St. Isidore of Seville, Archbishop (560 - 636; recognized in 1722 by Pope Innocent XIII)
13. St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop (406 - 450; recognized in 1729 by Pope Benedict XIII)
14. St. Leo the Great, Pope (400 - 461; recognized in 1754 by Pope Benedict XIV)

By this time, the process of proclaiming doctors had been formalized and assigned to the Congregation of Rites.[v]  Additionally, during the XVIII Century, the requirements for recognizing doctors were articulated in a treatise by Cardinal Prospero Lambertini (later Pope Benedict XIV): 
To become a Doctor of the Church three things are necessary: namely, eminent doctrine, outstanding holiness of life…; and a declaration passed by the supreme pontiff or a legitimately assembled General Council.[vi] 
Those same requirements remain in effect today.
As we can see, all of the doctors proclaimed during the XVIII Century were bishops (including one pope); three dated from the first millennium and one from the second millennium; the average death-to-doctorate interval soared to 1,067 years.
If the formal process was slow to produce results during the XVIII Century, this was about to change.

IV.          19TH CENTURY PROCLAMATIONS
15. St. Peter Damian, Cardinal (1007 - 1072; recognized in 1828 by Pope Leo XII)
16. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Priest (1090 - 1153; recognized in 1830 by Pope Pius VIII)
17. St. Hilary of Poitiers, Bishop (300 - 367; recognized in 1851 by Pope Pius IX)
18. St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop (1696 - 1787; recognized in 1871 by Pope Pius IX)
19. St. Francis de Sales, Bishop (1567 - 1622; recognized in 1877 by Pope Pius IX)
20. St. Cyril of Alexandria, Archbishop (376 - 444; recognized in 1883 by Pope Leo XIII)
21. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Archbishop (315 - 386; recognized in 1883 by Pope Leo XIII)
22. St. John Damascene, Priest/monk (676 - 749; recognized in 1890 by Pope Leo XIII)
23. St. Bede the Venerable, Priest/monk (672 - 735; recognized in 1899 by Pope Leo XIII)

Nine new doctors were recognized in the XIX Century—more than double what had been recognized the century before, and four of the new doctors were men of the second millennium.  The average death-to-doctorate interval remained high at 944 years, buoyed by the growing gap between then and the Patristic Era from whence five of the new doctors originated.  However, the celerity suggested by the XIX Century results is breathtaking: one case in particular, that of St. Alphonsus Liguori, resulted in a proclamation a mere 84 years after the saint’s death—a veritable blink of an eye in Church time!
Additionally, the great majority of the new doctors—seven of them—were recognized during one prodigious run involving just two popes, Pius IX and Leo XIII.  Six of these doctors, beginning with Alphonsus, were recognized in the 30 years immediately following the First Vatican Council.
Then, the Church’s “doctor factory” took a twenty-year hiatus.

V.            20TH CENTURY PROCLAMATIONS
24. St. Ephrem, Deacon (306 - 373; recognized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV)
25. St. Peter Canisius, Priest (1521 - 1597; recognized in 1925 by Pope Pius XI)
26. St. John of the Cross, Priest/mystic (1542 - 1591; recognized in 1926 by Pope Pius XI)
27. St. Robert Bellarmine, Archbishop (1542 - 1621; recognized in 1931 by Pope Pius XI)
28. St. Albertus Magnus, Bishop (1193 - 1280; recognized in 1931 by Pope Pius XI)
29. St. Anthony of Padua, Priest (1195 - 1231; recognized in 1946 by Pope Pius XII)
30. St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest/diplomat (1559 - 1619; recognized in 1959 by Pope John XXIII)
31. St. Teresa of Ávila, Mystic (1515 - 1582; recognized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI)
32. St. Catherine of Siena, Mystic (1347 - 1380; recognized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI)
33. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Nun (1873 - 1897; recognized in 1997 by Pope John Paul II)

Two things jump out from the XX Century proclamations.  The first is the obvious innovation, following the Second Vatican Council: the welcome addition of women (St. Teresa of Ávila, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux).  Only one of the XX Century doctors dated from the Patristic Era.  Resultingly, the average death-to-doctorate interval shrank to 530 years—the lowest ever.  Only two were bishops.
The second thing that stands out is how close the XX Century results hew to the XIX Century results in terms of numbers: only one more doctor during such a busy time.  While John Paul II is said to have canonized more new saints than all his predecessors combined, he only created one new doctor.  Most of the XX Century doctors date from the first half of the century and most of these were created by Pius XI.  And, while Thérèse of Lisieux was recognized as a doctor in just one hundred years, this does not beat the XIX century record set for Alphonsus Liguori (84 years).

VI.          21ST CENTURY PROCLAMATIONS
34. St. John of Avila, Priest/mystic (1500 - 1569; recognized in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI)
35. St. Hildegard of Bingen, Abbess/theologian (1098 - 1179; recognized in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI)
36. St. Gregory of Narek, Monk/theologian (951 - 1003; recognized in 2015 by Pope Francis)

The XXI Century is still green and feels to most of us like an extension of the XX Century.  The three proclamations so far do not distinguish this century from the last.  In fact, all three harken back to the early to middle part of the second millennium.  No new bishops.  The future is unknown, but at least one indicator suggests that higher numbers may be achieved vis-à-vis earlier centuries: in no prior century were new doctors produced in the first twenty years and, here, we already have three!
Additionally, there still has not been a roll-out of doctors put forth as models of the aggiornamento of the Second Vatican Council, or suited to the aims of the New Evangelization heralded under the last three pontificates, or intended to recognize the Church’s Asian, African or American fathers.
Accordingly, we await with baited breath to see what revelations providence has in store for us.



[i] “Something Surprising,” Reflections on the Proclamation of St. Therese of Lisieux as “Doctor of the Universal Church,” Steven Payne, O.C.D., included in A Better Wine: Essays Celebrating Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D., ICS Publications, 2006, pp. 197-230.  See also, Saint Therese of Lisieux: Doctor of the Universal Church, Steven Payne, O.C.D., New York: St. Paul's, 2002.  Fr. Payne also presented a report on the subject in relation to St. Oscar Romero at Notre Dame University in March 2018.
[ii] Fr. Payne, ibid.
[iii] IdOriginal text here.
[iv] Id.
[v] Id.
[vi] Id. 

Un breve historial de los Doctores de la Iglesia


[ English ]

La historia del reconocimiento oficial de los Doctores de la Iglesia Universal comienza con un cuarteto de santos. A mediados del siglo VIII, “cuatro figuras habían surgido como los ‘doctores’ preeminentes de la Iglesia latina, es decir, Ambrosio, Agustín, Gregorio el Grande y Jerónimo.”[i] Sin embargo, no fue hasta el año 1298 que el Papa Bonifacio VIII los reconoció como “doctores” en una carta decretal titulada «Gloriosus Deus».

I.             PROCLAMACIONES DE 1298
1. San Gregorio Magno, papa (c. 540 - 604)
2. San Ambrosio, obispo (c. 340 - 397)
3. San Agustín, obispo (354 - 430)
4. San Jerónimo, sacerdote / monje (c. 347 - 420)

El tiempo promedio para estos cuatro desde la fecha de su muerte hasta que fueron reconocidos como doctores en 1298 fue de 835 años, por lo que a partir de esta primera proclamación, no se reconocieron doctores a la carrera. La decisión de Bonifacio facilitó la elevación litúrgica de cuatro santos ya reconocidos.[ii] Estos cuatro fueron reconocidos porque, según Bonifacio, habían “revelado los misterios de las Escrituras, desatado nudos [es decir, disolvieron perplejidades], aclararon dificultades y explicaron lo que era incierto”.[iii]
Durante los siguientes dos siglos y medio, la lista de “doctores” permaneció estática, y no hubo nuevos doctores nombrados hasta 1567, cuando hubo una serie de adiciones durante un período de 21 años:

II.            PROCLAMACIONES DEL SIGLO “16”
5. Santo Tomás de Aquino, sacerdote / teólogo (1225 - 1274; reconocido en 1567 por el Papa Pío V)
6. San Juan Crisóstomo, arzobispo (347 - 407; reconocido en 1568 por el Papa Pío V)
7. San Basilio el Grande, obispo (330 - 379; reconocido en 1568 por el Papa Pío V)
8. San Gregorio de Naziano, arzobispo (329 - 389; reconocido en 1568 por el Papa Pío V)
9. San Atanasio, arzobispo (298 - 373; reconocido en 1568 por el Papa Pío V)
10. San Buenaventura, cardenal / teólogo (1221 - 1274; reconocido en 1588 por el Papa Sixto V)

Estas seis adiciones se pueden dividir en dos movimientos principales. El primero fue la adición de “Cuatro Padres Griegos” para complementar a los “Cuatro Padres Latinos” que habían sido consagrados en 1298. Así, en 1568, el Papa Pío V agregó a los Tres Santos Jerarcas del Este (Juan Crisóstomo, Basilio el Grande, y Gregorio de Nazianzus), más Atanasio para equilibrar (Cuatro Padres del Este y Cuatro del Oeste).[iv]
La segunda dinámica conllevó una innovación: el reconocimiento de Tomás de Aquino y Buenaventura expandió los parámetros más allá de los padres antiguos para incluir personajes del segundo milenio.
El intervalo promedio entre la muerte y el doctorado para los proclamados en el siglo XVI aumentó a 888 años (principalmente debido al hecho de que la mayoría de los doctores databan de la era patrística, y el lapso de tiempo desde ella). De los doctores reconocidos en el siglo XVI, todos menos uno eran obispos.
No hubo nuevas proclamaciones durante el siglo XVII y solo cuatro durante el siglo XVIII:

III.           PROCLAMACIONES DEL SIGLO “18”
11. San Anselmo, arzobispo (1033 o 1034 - 1109; reconocido en 1720 por el Papa Clemente XI)
12. San Isidoro de Sevilla, arzobispo (560 - 636; reconocido en 1722 por el Papa Inocencio XIII)
13. San Pedro Crisólogo, obispo (406 - 450; reconocido en 1729 por el Papa Benedicto XIII)
14. San León el Grande, papa (400 - 461; reconocido en 1754 por el Papa Benedicto XIV)

Para este entonces, el proceso de proclamación de doctores se había formalizado y asignado a la Congregación de los Ritos.[v] Además, durante el siglo XVIII, los requisitos para reconocer doctores fueron articulados en un tomo del cardenal Próspero Lambertini (después, Papa Benedicto XIV):
Para llegar a ser Doctor de la Iglesia se necesitan tres cosas: en particular, doctrina eminente, santidad de vida sobresaliente...; y una declaración aprobada por el sumo pontífice o por un Concilio General legítimamente reunido.[vi]
Esos mismos requisitos siguen vigentes hoy en día.
Como podemos ver, todos los doctores proclamados durante el siglo XVIII fueron obispos (incluido un papa); tres datan del primer milenio y uno del segundo milenio; el intervalo promedio de muerte a doctorado se disparó a los 1,067 años.
Si el proceso formal fue lento en producir resultados durante el siglo XVIII, esto estaba a punto de cambiar.

IV.          PROCLAMACIONES DEL SIGLO “19”
15. San Pedro Damián, cardenal (1007-1072; reconocido en 1828 por el Papa León XII)
16. San Bernardo de Clairvaux, sacerdote (1090 - 1153; reconocido en 1830 por el Papa Pío VIII)
17. San Hilario de Poitiers, obispo (300 - 367; reconocido en 1851 por el Papa Pío IX)
18. San Alfonso Liguori, obispo (1696 - 1787; reconocido en 1871 por el Papa Pío IX)
19. San Francisco de Sales, obispo (1567 - 1622; reconocido en 1877 por el Papa Pío IX)
20. San Cirilo de Alejandría, arzobispo (376 - 444; reconocido en 1883 por el Papa León XIII)
21. San Cirilo de Jerusalén, arzobispo (315 - 386; reconocido en 1883 por el Papa León XIII)
22. San Juan Damasceno, sacerdote / monje (676 - 749; reconocido en 1890 por el Papa León XIII)
23. San Bede el Venerable, sacerdote / monje (672 - 735; reconocido en 1899 por el Papa León XIII)

Nueve doctores nuevos fueron reconocidos en el siglo XIX, más del doble de los que se había reconocido en el siglo anterior, y cuatro de los nuevos doctores eran hombres del segundo milenio. El intervalo promedio entre la muerte y el doctorado se mantuvo alto en 944 años, impulsado por la creciente brecha entre la actualidad y la era patrística, de donde originaban cinco de los nuevos doctores. Sin embargo, la celeridad demostrada en los resultados del siglo XIX es impresionante: un caso en particular, el de San Alfonso Liguori, resultó en una proclamación apenas 84 años después de la muerte del santo, ¡un verdadero abrir y cerrar de ojos en los tiempos de la Iglesia!
Además, la gran mayoría de los nuevos doctores, siete de ellos, fueron reconocidos durante un tramo prodigioso que involucró a solo dos papas, Pío IX y León XIII. Seis de estos doctores, comenzando con Alfonso, fueron reconocidos en los 30 años inmediatamente posteriores al Concilio Vaticano I.
Luego, la “fábrica de doctores” de la Iglesia hizo una pausa de veinte años.

V.            PROCLAMACIONES DEL SIGLO “20”
24. San Efrén, diácono (306 - 373; reconocido en 1920 por el Papa Benedicto XV)
25. San Pedro Canisio, sacerdote (1521 - 1597; reconocido en 1925 por el Papa Pío XI)
26. San Juan de la Cruz, sacerdote / místico (1542 - 1591; reconocido en 1926 por el Papa Pío XI)
27. San Roberto Bellarmín, arzobispo (1542 - 1621; reconocido en 1931 por el Papa Pío XI)
28. San Alberto Magno, obispo (1193-1280; reconocido en 1931 por el Papa Pío XI)
29. San Antonio de Padua, sacerdote (1195 - 1231; reconocido en 1946 por el Papa Pío XII)
30. San Lorenzo de Brindisi, sacerdote / diplomático (1559 - 1619; reconocido en 1959 por el Papa Juan XXIII)
31. Santa Teresa de Ávila, mística (1515 - 1582; ​​reconocida en 1970 por el Papa Pablo VI)
32. Santa Catalina de Siena, mística (1347 - 1380; reconocida en 1970 por el Papa Pablo VI)
33. Santa Teresa de Lisieux, monja (1873 - 1897; reconocida en 1997 por el Papa Juan Pablo II)

Dos cosas sobresalen de las proclamaciones del siglo XX. La primera es la innovación obvia, después del Concilio Vaticano II: la grata adición de mujeres (Santa Teresa de Ávila, Santa Catalina de Siena y Santa Teresa de Lisieux). Sólo uno de los doctores del siglo XX data de la época patrística. Como resultado, el intervalo promedio de muerte a doctorado se redujo a 530 años, más bajo que nunca. Sólo dos fueron obispos.
Lo segundo que destaca es la cercanía de los resultados del Siglo XX a los del Siglo XIX en términos numéricos: solo un doctor más durante un tiempo tan activo y complicado. Si bien se dice que Juan Pablo II canonizó más santos nuevos que todos sus predecesores combinados, solo creó un nuevo doctor. La mayoría de los doctores del siglo XX datan de la primera mitad del siglo y la mayoría de ellos fueron creados por Pío XI. Y, aunque Teresa de Lisieux fue reconocida como doctora en apenas cien años, esto no supera el récord del siglo XIX establecido para Alfonso Liguori (84 años).

VI.          PROCLAMACIONES DEL SIGLO “21”
34. San Juan de Ávila, sacerdote / místico (1500 - 1569; reconocido en 2012 por el Papa Benedicto XVI)
35. Santa Hildegarda de Bingen, abadesa / teóloga (1098-1179; reconocida en 2012 por el Papa Benedicto XVI)
36. San Gregorio de Narek, monje / teólogo (951 - 1003; reconocido en 2015 por el Papa Francisco)

El Siglo XXI sigue tierno y a muchos nos parece una extensión del Siglo XX. Las tres proclamaciones hasta ahora no distinguen este siglo del pasado. De hecho, las tres se remontan a la primera parte del segundo milenio. No hay obispos entre ellas. Se desconoce el futuro, pero al menos un indicador sugiere que se pueden lograr números más altos en comparación a siglos anteriores: en ningún siglo anterior se produjeron nuevos doctores en los primeros veinte años y, aquí, ¡ya tenemos tres!
Además, todavía no ha habido un despliegue de doctores presentados como modelos del aggiornamento del Concilio Vaticano II, o adecuados a los objetivos de la Nueva Evangelización proclamada en los últimos tres pontificados, o diseñados para reconocer los Padres de la Iglesia asiática, africana o Americana.
En consecuencia, esperamos con entusiasmo para ver qué revelaciones la Providencia nos ha reservado.





[i] “ ‘Something Surprising’, Reflections on the Proclamation of St. Therese of Lisieux as ‘Doctor of the Universal Church’,” del p. Steven Payne, incluido en A Better Wine: Essays Celebrating Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D., ICS Publications, 2006, pp. 197-230.  Ver también, Saint Therese of Lisieux: Doctor of the Universal Church, Steven Payne, O.C.D., New York: St. Paul's, 2002.  El p. Payne también presentó un discurso sobre este tema en relación a San Óscar Romero en la Universidad de Notre Dame en marzo de 2018.
[ii] Op. Cit. del p. Payne.
[iii] IdTexto original aquí.
[iv] Id.
[v] Id.
[vi] Id

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Gloriosus Deus


BONIFACIUS EPISCOPUS
SERVUS SERVORUM DEI 
AD PERPETUAM REI MEMORIAM



LITTERAE DECRETALES
«GLORIOSUS DEUS»






GLORIOSUS DEUS in sanctis suis et in maiestate mirabilis, cuius ineffabilis altitudo prudentiae, nullis inclusa limitibus, nullis terminis comprehensa, recti censura iudicii coelestia pariter et terrena disponit, etsi cunctos eius ministros magnificet, altis decoret honoribus, et coelestis efficiat beatitudinis possessores: illos tamen,ut dignis digna rependat, potioribus attollit insigniis dignitatum, et praemiorum uberiori retributione prosequitur, quos digniores agnoscit, et commendat ingentior excellentia meritorum. Sic et alma mater ecclesia, eius sacra vestigia prosequens, et exemplo ducta laudabili, licet universos in regnis coelestibus constitutos studiis honorare sollicitis, et sonoris efferre praeconiis non desistat, gloriosissimos tamen Christianae fidei principes, athletas Dei electos, iustos saeculi iudices, lumina vera mundi, videlicet Christi redemptoris Apostolos numero duodeno contentos, qui, viventes in carne, praedietam ecclesiam suo pretioso sanguine plantaverunt, ipsam erigendo sublimiter et disciplinis sanctissimis dirigendo, reverendissimos etiam patres virosque clarissimos quatuor Evangelistas Domini, per quorum diligentissima et fidelissima studia eidem ecclesiae sacra evangelia illuxerunt, egregios quoque ipsius Doctores ecclesiae, beatos Gregorium, qui meritis inclytus sedis apostolicae curam gessit, Augustinum et Ambrosium, venerandos antistites, ac Hieronymum, sacerdotii praeditum titulo, eximios confessores summis attollere vocibus, laudibus personare praecipuis, et specialibus disponit honoribus venerari. Horum quippe doctorum perlucida et salutaria documenta praedictam illustrarunt ecclesiam, decorarunt virtutibus, et moribus informarunt. Per ipsos praeterea, quasi luminosas ardentesque lucernas super candelabrum in domo Domini positas, errorum tenebris profugatis, totius corpus ecclesiae tanquam sidus irradiat matutinum. Eorum etiam foecunda facundia, coelestis irrigui gratia influente, scripturarum aenigmata reserat, solvit nodos, obscura dilucidat, dubiaque declarat; profundis quoque ac decoris illorum sermonibus ampla ipsius ecclesiae fabrica, velut gemmis vernantibus, rutilat, et verborum elegantia singulari gloriosius sublimata coruscat. Ideoque circumspecta prudentia dictae sedis, quae, actibus intenta salubribus et operibus exposita pietatis, libenter et sollerter exsequitur quae sunt Dei, praemissa sollicite digneque considerans, et debita meditatione perlustrans, ad divini nominis honorem et gloriam, exaltationem catholicae fidei, salutemque fidelium, merito censuit riteque providit, Apostolos, Evangelistas et Confessores eosdem in universali ecclesia honorificentiae potioris impendiis attollendos, ut ab ea tanto propensius honorari se sentiant, quanto ipsam prae ceteris excellentius illustrarunt. Nos itaque, piis dueti consiliis dignisque studiis excitati,nonnullos praedecessores nostros Romanorum Pontificum, qui, specialis devotionis prosequentes aifectum, aliquorum festa sanctorum sub duplici ordinaverunt officio celebranda, imitari sollicite intendentes, eorundem Apostolorum, Evangelistarum et Confessorum festivitates praecipuas de fratrum nostrorum consilio et assensu sub officio duplici per universas orbis ecclesias volumus, statuimus et praecipimus annis singulis perpetuis futuris temporibus solenniter celebrari.



Bonifacius PP. VIII

Friday, December 14, 2018

Romero for «Doctor»

Receiving Georgetown Honoris Causa.

#SaintOscarRomero #Canonization #Beatification

St. Oscar Romero was able to bring down the high mysticism of the Doctor of the Church St. John of the Cross (1542 - 1591) to a level that was comprehensible to peasants.
In a November 13, 1977 homily, Romero incorporated the symbolism of the “Spiritual Canticle” of the Spanish mystic to explain the Church’s desire to be reunified with her Lord. “This Church is like the wife whose husband is far away and sighs for his presence,” Romero said. Without quoting chapter and verse, he borrowed the literary device of a wife who misses her distant husband that St. John portrays in his “Canticle.” Other times, Romero quoted a favorite phrase of the poet saint, “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.” So Romero presented John of the Cross not as a lofty scholar, but as someone who talks to us about love.
Now that St. Romero has himself been proposed for possible consideration as a future Doctor of the Church, the example of St. John of the Cross offers us three points of departure for the road ahead.
The first consideration is about the message a Doctor of the Church holds for our time. “The Doctorate is a rare honour,” wrote John Howley in 1927, the year after the recognition of the Spanish mystic was promulgated. “It is almost a new canonization, for it is the recognition of one who has not merely edified the Church by his life and labours, but of one who has taught the Church Universal.”
Howley proposed that St. John’s doctorate completed and complemented other instructions issued by the Church. “As the Doctorate of St. Alphonsus Liguori formed the counterpart to the Papal condemnations of rigorism and laxism in morals, the Doctorate of St. John of the Cross completes the Papal censures of quietism and false mysticism,” argued Howley. “The Church not only condemns error, she indicates also the safe guides.”
More recently, Pope John Paul II explained how St. John’s “Dark night” helps us understand the darkness of modernity. “Our age,” wrote the Polish pontiff, “has known times of anguish which have made us understand this expression better and which have furthermore given it a kind of collective character. Our age speaks of the silence or absence of God. It has known so many calamities, so much suffering inflicted by wars and by the holocaust of so many innocent beings. The term dark night is now used of all of life and not just of a phase of the spiritual journey.” (Apostolic Letter «Master in the Faith,» December 14, 1990.)
But—could we say something similar in support of a doctorate for St. Romero? Current San Salvador Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas, began to articulate the argument when he asked Pope Francis, during an audience the day after the canonization, “to authorize the opening of the appropriate process for St. Oscar Arnulfo Romero to be declared Doctor of the Church.” Archbishop Escobar said that “his highly valuable teachings and testimony of life will be a beacon of light that will illuminate the present world, which sadly suffers from darkness; on the one hand, a lack of faith, and on the other, serious social injustices that cause very serious violations of human rights and of the dignity of persons.”
One might argue,” Father Steven Payne said during a presentation at Notre Dame University in March of this year, “that Oscar Romero is precisely the new kind of ‘doctor’ we most urgently need today, one whose ‘doctrinal eminence’ arises out of solidarity with the voiceless; thus, recognizing him in this way would signal a ‘preferential option’ for the teaching authority of the poor and marginalized.”
In a sense, opening a doctoral process for Romero could operate, at least initially, as an interim protective measure to highlight the importance of his teachings and ensure that his warnings are heeded by the entire Church and given force. There is a danger that, having been canonized as a martyr, Romero’s martyrial death would be so emphasized that the content of his prophetic message could be overlooked. The doctoral cause would preserve and enshrine that message with the expectation that the grounds for the proclamation would eventually be fully satisfied.
On the other hand, a doctorate for Romero could be the “counter-point” to the instructions issued by the Vatican on Liberation Theology, the warning issued to Fr. Jon Sobrino, and the companion piece for the implementation of the Second Vatican Council, the teachings of CELAM in the documents of Medellin, Puebla, and Aparecida, as well as a guideline on the role of the bishops according to the Apostolic Exhortation «Pastores Gregis», among others.
A second consideration that emerges from the case of St. John of the Cross is that the process of recognizing a new Doctor of the Church is a long-term project. To illustrate, St. John died in 1591. He was beatified 84 years later, in 1675. (By contrast, Archbishop Romero was beatified 35 years after his death.) St. John was canonized in 1726—51 years after his beatification. (Archbishop Romero was canonized 3 years after his beatification.) Having waited 135 years since his death for his canonization, St. John of the Cross had to wait another 200 years to be declared a Doctor of the Church. By these timescales, we would not expect to see Romero a doctor until the year 2315! (But NB: the “urgency” argument could shorten the timeframe.)
Why does it take so long to obtain the proclamation? Rowley reminds us that the process demands “the fulfillment of three conditions: eminent sanctity, eminent doctrine, and the solemn declaration of the Roman Pontiff.” Romero’s sanctity has largely been proven because he has been canonized, but something more is required: eminent sanctity; that is, holiness that stands out even among other saints. The real delay, however, lays in proving the second requirement: eminent doctrine. As Father Payne explains: it must be shown that his teachings “have exercised considerable influence on the thought of the church” for a considerable period of time, and his teaching should have both contemporary pastoral relevance and perennial value.
The process is comparable to long exposure photography: it is not a snapshot of a given moment in history, but requires measurements from different points in time as inputs. Therefore, we must accept that we probably will not see the final result of the process, and as the famous ‘Romero Prayer’ states, this is a case in which “we are prophets of a future not our own”.
The third and last consideration that we derive from the case of St. John of the Cross flows from the previous one. Given that we are facing a long-term project, what can we achieve at the present time? It would seem advisable to seek some type of «Nihil Obstatduring the current pontificate, perhaps from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—or from the CDF in tandem with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints—declaring that there is no impediment to work on the case of St. Romero, Doctor of the Church. This is because there has never been a martyr declared a doctor, and various scholars consider that it is not possible to have one.
Maybe it would be worthwhile to draft a “Positio” on just that issue and try to resolve this threshold question during the Francis pontificate, which could be more favorable than other conceivable future pontificates. Once the seed is sown, it can become simply a self-fulfilling prophecy; a matter of time before the eventual proclamation. Also the initial question could be posed as a “dubium” signed by some eminent prelates, or even CELAM itself, asking, with favorable arguments included, if St. Romero can be proposed as a Doctor despite being a martyr.

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One of the at least five occasions on which St. Oscar Romero cited St. John of the Cross during the three years of his archbishopric was at the funeral of Fr. Octavio Ortiz on January 21, 1979, in which he preached:
the figure of this world passes away and there remains only the joy of having used this world to sow the kingdom of God. All of the pomp, all the triumphs, the selfish capitalism, all the false successes of life will pass away with the figure of the world. All of that passes away; what does not pass away is love, which means using your wealth, your assets, your profession for the service of others; the joy of sharing and feeling ourselves sisters and brothers with all humanity. In the evening of life you will be judged on love!

Sancti Ioannes a Cruce et Ansgarium Arnolfum Romero, orate pro nobis!

Published on the «Super Martyrio» blog on December 14, 2018, on the Feast of Saint John of the Cross.

A brief history of Doctors of the Church

[ Español ] The history of official recognition of doctors of the Universal Church begins with a quartet of saints. By the middle of...