The M+G+R Foundation

The Fathers and Doctors of the Catholic Faith In Historical Perspective

They Are Not Necessarily the Role Models to Follow

Jesus Christ and Mary Are the Ones to Learn From

Doctors of the Church


The purpose of this brief document is to further de-devinize men who, like the Successors of Peter, have been used to dethrone God and His Holy Word by becoming the reference that should be invoked to prove a point and/or close an argument.


As you read this document, keep very much in mind our position regarding the Catholic Faith:

The Catholic Faith is the one Faith which provides the means for the faithful to benefit from the greatest concentration of Divinely Revealed Truths. No other Faith has as many and effective means to benefit from those Truths in its Spiritual Treasury as the Catholic Faith does. Be it the reality and validity of the Seven Sacraments; be it the validity and practice of Indulgences; be it the reality of Purgatory; be it the truth about the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, True God and True Man; be it the Petrine Ministry; etc. (1)


Many faithful Catholics (East and West) greatly revere those whom the Church has named "Doctor of the Church" or "Church Father." Often, their works are quoted to prove a point or to close an argument, as if the Fathers and Doctors were authors of Scripture. However, the words and deeds of some of these Catholic leaders sometimes were in direct, grievous violation of Divine Law; these men were neither infallible nor impeccable nor examples to follow.


Here are some little-remembered, but easily verified, facts about the deeds of some of these all-too-fallible churchmen.

The era of the Church Fathers

In the "Christian" Roman Empire, during the late 300s and early 400s, the Church went from being persecuted to being a persecutor. Paul Johnson, a historian of the Church, said that "The late empire was a totalitarian state, in some ways an oriental despotism. ... State torture, supposedly used only in serious cases such as treason, was in fact employed whenever the State willed." (2)

Pope Damasus I  |  Augustine  |  Cyril of Alexandria  |  Bernard of Clairvaux

Pope Damasus I

Pope Damasus I (305-384; "Saint", "Church Father", and Pope from 366-384): This alleged defender of the faith began his reign with riot and massacre. As Richard McBrien's Lives of the Popes summarizes the bloody affair:

“...a faction that had been consistently loyal to Liberius [the preceding Pope] met immediately in the Julian basilica of Santa Maria in Trastavere, elected the deacon Ursinus, and had him consecrated Bishop of Rome ... Another, larger faction loyal to Felix [an antipope who had opposed Liberius, and who was Damasus' former employer] met in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina and elected the deacon Damasus, who hired a gang of thugs to storm the Julian basilica, routing the Ursinians in a three-day massacre. Damasus was consecrated by the bishop of Ostia in the Lateran Basilica on October 1, after his supporters had seized the church. Following his consecration, however, bloody fighting continued in the streets of Rome. ...

But the violence continued, and Damasus dispatched his own forces to attack Ursinus's supporters, who had taken refuge in the Liberian Basilica (now St. Mary Major). A contemporary historian reported that
some 137 died in the battle [which occurred on October 27, 366]. ... Although Damasus had badly blotted his ecclesiastical copybook, he enjoyed much favor with the court and the aristocracy, especially women of wealth. Roman gossips nicknamed him 'the matrons' ear-tickler.' His grand lifestyle and lavish hospitality endeared him to the upper-class pagan families. At the same time, he was relentless in opposing heresies and other dissident movements in the Church. ...

Damasus was tireless, in fact, in promoting the primacy of Rome, referring to it frequently as 'the Apostolic See,' and insisting that the test of a creed's orthodoxy is papal approval.”

Another historian of the Papacy described Damasus as "a ruthless power-broker" who "did not hesitate to mobilise both the city police and the Christian mob to back up his rule." (4)

A pagan historian, Ammianus Marcellinus, commented on the zeal with which churchmen sought the Papacy:

“I do not deny that men who covet this office in order to fulfill their ambitions may well struggle for it with every resource at their disposal. For once they have obtained it they are ever after secure, enriched with offerings from the ladies, riding about seated in their carriages, splendidly arrayed, giving banquets so lavish they surpass the tables of royalty.(5)


Augustine (354-430; "Saint", "Church Father" and "Doctor of the Church"): The late Roman Empire used violence against the Donatist heretics, and St. Augustine:

“...became the theorist of persecution; and his defences were later to be those on which all defences of the Inquisition rested. ... He insisted that the use of force in the pursuit of Christian unity, and indeed total religious conformity, was necessary, efficacious, and wholly justified.(6)

In addition to developing the theology of Inquisition, Augustine developed "just war" theology, leading to the punishment of pacifist conscious objectors, and leading to “the anomaly of two Christian states each fighting a "just" war against each other.” (7)

Cyril of Alexandria

Cyril of Alexandria (370-444; "Saint", "Church Father", and "Doctor of the Church") was the Patriarch of Alexandria from 412 to 444. (8) Gruesome events occurred in Alexandria during his reign of the local Church, and the perpetrators went unpunished.

In 414, the first Christian-led pogrom (*) occurred there, wiping out the Jewish community of Alexandria for a time. (9) In 415, a monk-incited mob tortured and murdered the Neoplatonist philosopher Hypatia, blaming her for the dispute between Cyril and the local governor. (10) The killing occurred in the Caesareum, a former pagan site that had been converted into a church building. (11) In Cyril's time, fanaticism (disguised as defense of the faith) grew without hindrance.

(*) Pogrom: Massacre, accepted or promoted by the authorities, of Jews and, by extension, of other ethnic groups.

Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153; "Saint" and "Doctor of the Church") preached the Second Crusade, at the request of the Pope. (12) He also was the chaplain of the Knights Templar, and wrote the following praise of "holy war" to its members:

“But Christ's knights can fight their Lord's fight in safety, fearless of sin in slaughter of their adversaries and fearless of danger at their own deaths, since death suffered or dealt out on Christ's behalf holds no crime and merits great glory. ...

Christ's knight deals out death in safety, as I said, and suffers death in even greater safety. He benefits himself when he suffers death, and benefits Christ when he deals out death. 'He does not wear a sword without cause; he is God's agent for punishment of evil-doers and for glorification of the good.' Clearly, when he kills an evil-doer, he is not a homicide, but, if you will allow me the term, a malicide, and is plainly Christ's vengeance on those who work evil and the defense Christ provides for Christians. When such a knight is himself killed, we know that he has not simply perished but has won through to the end of this life. The death he inflicts accrues to Christ's profit; the death he receives accrues to his own. The Christian glories in a pagan's death, because Christ is glorified; in the death of a Christian, the King's generosity is confirmed, by revelation of the knight's reward. ...

Pagans would not even have to be slaughtered, if there were some other way to prevent them from besetting and oppressing the faithful. But
now it is better that they be killed than that the rod of these sinners continue to imperil the lot of the just, preventing the just from reaching out their hands against iniquity.(13)

Such is the theology of "Christian" jihad. With minor changes, it could have been written by Osama bin Laden or the leadership of today's ISIL.


It may be possible to learn some from studying the works of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Nevertheless, as these instances show, great discernment must be used in the examination of the works of these fallible - and sometimes brutally unholy - men.

Meditation on the Scriptures and direct interaction with God through prayer should always take priority over the study of the acclaimed "Fathers of the Church". There is only one real "Father of the Church" - and only one real "Doctor of the Church": God Himself.

(1) Our Position regarding the Catholic Faith
(2) Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, Atheneum, 1976, p. 116.
(3) Richard McBrien, Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI, Harper San Francisco, 2006, pp. 62-63, 64; see also J. N. D. Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of the Popes, Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 32-34.
(4) Eamon Duffy, Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes, Yale University Press, 2006, p. 38.
(5) Duffy, Saints & Sinners, p. 38.
(6) Johnson, A History of Christianity, p. 116.
(7) Johnson, A History of Christianity, p. 242.
(8) Wikipedia, "Cyril of Alexandria",
(9) James Carroll, Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews, Houghton Mifflin, 2001, pp, 176, 213.
(10) Diarmaid MacCullough, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, Viking, 2009, pp. 220-221.
(11) Wikipedia, "Hypatia",
(12) Wikipedia,"Bernard of Clairvaux",
(13) Bernard of Clairvaux, "De Laude Novae Militiae ad Milites Templi (in English)" ("To the Knights Templar - In Praise of the New Militia"), Section "III. A New Chivalry"

Related Documents

Truth About Some Popes

About Papal Infallibility

The True Petrine Ministry

Politics and Religion: An Explosive Combination - An Index

Dispelling Bernard of Clairvaux's version of the Second Coming

Bernard of Clairvaux's blasphemous Military Theology

En Español:  Los Padres y Doctores de la Iglesia no son necesariamente modelos a seguir

Published on September 20th, 2011

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