A title conferred on students who have completed an advanced course in a faculty, as theology or law. In medieval times, this title was given at first only to professors of civil law, was later “applied also to canonists by a decretal of Innocent III (1198-1216), and in the 13th century some universities granted it to students of grammar, medicine, logic, and philosophy. Three degrees were generally recognized, the baccalaureate and the licentiate being mere steps to the degree of doctor, usually synonymous with that of “master.” The doctorate implies the prerogative jus ubique docendi, or the privilege of teaching everywhere without undergoing further examination. The curriculum, the examination, and the length of the course of study differed in the various universities, Bologna requiring six years for the doctorate in canon law, and Paris five years, according to the statutes of 1215. The essential meaning of the doctorate, implying the ability to teach, is preserved in modern academic usage but the degree is now often conferred as an honorary title. S.T.D. (Sacrae Theologiae Doctor, Doctor of Sacred Theology) and D.D. (Doctor Divinitatis, Doctor of Divinity) can be conferred only by theological faculties approved by the pope, and the candidate must make the profession of faith drawn up by Pius IV.

MLA Citation

  • “doctor”. New Catholic Dictionary. 7 October 2012. Web. 16 September 2014. <>