Many Bible-only Christians claim that when we Catholics address priests as “father,” we are engaging in a practice that the bible forbade:
“Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven”Matthew. 23:9
Here is our response:
The title “Father” for Catholic priests is rooted in the tradition and teachings of the Catholic Church. The term is primarily based on the idea of spiritual fatherhood and reflects the role of priests as spiritual leaders, guides, and caregivers to their congregations.
Here are some key points in the Catholic argument for calling priests “Father”:
Spiritual Parenthood: The title emphasizes the priest’s role as a spiritual father, responsible for the spiritual well-being of the members of the Church. This spiritual fatherhood is seen as analogous to the role of a biological father in a family, providing guidance, support, and care.
Biblical Basis: The use of the term “father” is seen as biblically grounded. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul refers to himself as a spiritual father to the Christian communities he helped establish. For example, in 1 Corinthians 4:15, Paul writes, “Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”
Tradition: The practice of addressing priests as “Father” has been a longstanding tradition in the Catholic Church, dating back to the early centuries of Christianity. It reflects the understanding of the priest’s role as a fatherly figure within the faith community.
Respect for Authority: Using the title “Father” is also a sign of respect for the authority and pastoral care that priests provide. It acknowledges the priest’s role as a shepherd of the flock, guiding and nurturing the spiritual lives of the faithful.
While this tradition is deeply ingrained in Catholic culture and theology, it is important to note that different Christian denominations may have different practices and beliefs regarding the titles used for clergy. In the Catholic context, the use of “Father” is a term of endearment and respect for the priest’s pastoral role in the community.