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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Revisit: Why do Catholics call priests "Father" when Scripture specifically says, "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

In light of this Sunday's Gospel which proclaims Matthew 23:9:  "Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven," this is a re-visit of a previously posted discussion.  New/updated comments in green.

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 it seemingly 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".  "
As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.' You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers." Yet many non-Catholics have no problem calling someone "teacher"; and use the word "doctor", which is Latin for "teacher". 

If you want to interpret the above verses to mean that Catholics are woefully sinning by calling their priests "Father," and that Jesus meant we are to never literally call anyone "father," "rabbi," "master," or "teacher," then for consistency's sake you'd better stop using the following words and phrases: Mister (means "Master"), Master of Ceremonies, Maitre d', master of the house, master sergeant, magistrate (from the Latin "magistratus" for "master"), Master of Arts (M.A.), founding father, city father, snake doctor, and witch doctor, teacher, substitute teacher, student teacher, and so forth. And you'd best never let me hear you calling your Dad "father" and you'd better start addressing the guy who works at the synagogue as "hey, you" and wax as indignant toward Jews who won't buy your ideas as you are toward Catholics. You might also want to start getting extremely indignant at the forced blasphemy every time you fill in a government form asking for "Father's Name." source.

Finally, just a little off-the-subject comment related to an earlier passage in this Sunday's Gospel:  "Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example."  This verse, I think, speaks volumes about the command Jesus gives us to obey our leaders (that is, our priests, bishops and pope)--even in their great sinfulness, even if they are as hypocritical as the pharisees.  We understand that they may be great sinners, and perhaps even mistaken, but as the Israelites followed Moses into the desert, even when he was often going the wrong way, we, too, as faithful sheep, must follow the visible Shepherds (the pope/bishops) here on earth. (Note:  this is within the purview of faith/morals.  If a bishop, even in his role as a successor to the Apostles, were to, say,  command us to give him the keys to our car, well, of course we need not obey!)
For more in-depth study visit these websites:
"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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