In addition, like several Doctors of the Church, Benedict also had the remarkable ability to bring the most profound teachings of the faith down to the level that anyone can understand, a feat possible only when a teacher has absolute mastery of the subject. This places him in the great company of St. Francis de Sales, St. Ambrose, and St. John Chrysostom.
And then there is Benedict’s place as a teacher. A professor of theology whose sweep of knowledge included fundamental, dogmatic, biblical and spiritual theology, Pope Benedict was so gifted as a teacher that his doctoral students established what is called the Schülerkreis (Student Circle) to honor him and celebrate their experience. As a teacher, Benedict shares company with such Doctors of the Church as St. Albert the Great and even St. Thomas Aquinas.
Sainthood comes first
Clearly, Pope Benedict possesses the proper credentials of learned and faithful scholarship for the faith. The other requirement, of course, is that the candidate be a canonized saint. Certainly, at Benedict’s funeral there were signs proclaiming “Santo Subito!” as there were at John Paul II’s funeral. Only time will demonstrate whether such calls and such sentiments lead to a cause for canonization being opened.
Typically, there is a requirement to wait at least five years before a cause can be opened, although this was waived — by Pope Benedict XVI — in the case of Pope John Paul II. A normal cause for canonization would take many years, even centuries. The towering figure of St. Albert the Great, who died in 1280, was only beatified in 1622 and only canonized in 1931, an event that cleared the way for him to be made a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI that same year.
Should Pope Benedict one day be canonized a saint and declared a Doctor of the Church, he would be only the third pontiff (as of today at least), with St. Leo I the Great and St. Gregory I the Great.
There are many obvious and important steps to be taken before Pope Benedict XVI could become a Doctor of the Church. For now, however, there is the opportunity for Catholics and all people seeking the truth to dedicate themselves to his teachings. His gifts to the Church and the knowledge and wisdom of humanity do not need the title of Doctor of the Church to be appreciated and cherished. That he might some day be granted the title would be only the final affirmation of what many have known and believed for a very long time.
For the past 20 years, Dr. Matthew E. Bunson has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including: "The Encyclopedia of Catholic History," "The Pope Encyclopedia," "We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI," "The Saints Encyclopedia"and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.