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Monday, January 17, 2011

Why do Catholics call priests "Father". Doesn't Scripture specifically say, "Call no man father!"? (Matt 23:9)

 “Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,

and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Question:  Why do Catholics call priests "Father".  Doesn't Scripture specifically say, "Call no man father!"? (Matt 23:9)

This is an odd objection to Catholicism, in my humble opinion.  Clearly, those who criticize the Catholic Church's tradition of calling priests "father" because in their opinion it contradicts Matt 23:9 do not take it literally in other contexts.  That is, we never hear non-Catholic Christians objecting to "Father's Day".  We often have heard a Christian say, "My father used to read the Bible to me."  Indeed, some even teach their children a Bible song about "Father Abraham".

So it does seem inconsistent that there is an objection to the Catholic tradition of calling priests "father".

It appears that the objection is to calling a living man a spiritual father, as it equates a priest with God the Father.

Clearly, when Catholics call priests "father" we are acknowledging his spiritual fatherhood, i.e. his spiritual leadership, to us.  We are not elevating the priest to the level of God the Father.  Catholics, of course, recognize the sovereign Fatherhood of God alone!

There are many, many verses in Scripture in which the inspired writers call spiritual leaders "father".

Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel  -1 Cor 4:15

I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have conquered the evil one. -1 John 2:13

Incidentally, in Matt 23 Jesus also invokes us not to call anyone "teacher" or "master".  Yet many non-Catholics have no problem calling someone "teacher"; and use the word "doctor", which is Latin for "teacher".

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

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