Why Do Catholics Call Priests "Father"?

November 19, 2011
By TWilkerson BRONZE, Jacksonville, Arkansas
TWilkerson BRONZE, Jacksonville, Arkansas
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build My Church." -Matthew 16:18

“Call no man on earth your father; you have but one father in Heaven.” Matthew 23:9

Why does it seem that the Catholic Church is always going against God's Word? Matthew 23:9 clearly says that we should call no man on earth our father, as only God is our Father. So why do Catholics hold the practice of using this title for priests when Christ condemns it?

When reading Scripture, it is essential to keep passages in their original context (both in the context of surrounding verses and in the historical context); otherwise, the meaning is distorted and misinterpreted. This particular verse comes in the midst of the famous “woes” that Jesus uses to condemn the actions of the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day. In doing this, Christ brings up the fact that these men were not living up to what their titles (which they loved so much) called them to be. They loved to be called ”rabbi”, and yet they were not living up to the job of being true teachers because of their hypocrisy. In this context, therefore, Christ is not forbidding His followers to call others “father”; rather, He is condemning those of His time who used titles and privileges to put themselves above others and ignored what their positions called them to do.

It should be noted that the title "father" is claimed by other figures in the New Testament as well. In his letters, St. Paul refers to himself as the father of those to whom he has preached the Gospel and calls all of these believers his children, whom he cares for tenderly (1 Corinthians 4:14-15, Philemon 1:10-11). St. Peter also picks up this theme of spiritual fatherhood (1 Peter 5:13), as does St. John (1 John 2:13-14). Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, Abraham is referred to as our “father in faith” and the ”father of those who believe”. From these passages and the context of Matthew 23:9, it is clear that Jesus’ statement was not a literal command. After all, had this been literal, it would be wrong to call your male parent “father”. The surrounding verses would also forbid calling anyone “teacher”.

Based upon context and evidence from other passages in Scripture, it is easy to see that Christ’s statement in Matthew 23:9 was not meant to be taken literally. Therefore, the Catholic practice of calling priests “father” does not contradict God’s Word in any way.

For more articles such as this one, feel free to check out my blog a www.catholicandlovinit.wordpress.com.

The author's comments:
As a Catholic teenager, I receive many questions from my peers about what the Church teaches on certain topics. Many people are confused by the Catholic practice of calling priests "father", as it seems to contradict Scripture. I hope that what I have written here will help explain this practice and show that it does not contradict God's Word.

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