Why do Catholics call their priests 'Father?'
The Angelus - April 1984

Ask Me...
answers given by Father Carl Pulvermacher

Q. Catholics call their priests "Father" in spite of the fact that Our Lord says, "Call no man on earth father" (Matt. 23:9). Isn't this breaking Christ's command? V. C., Spokane, Wash.

A. This is a question that causes some Catholics to stutter and blush. However, there should be no need of this. Our Lord commanded us to honor our father and mother (Matt. 15:3-7). Blessed Mary called St. Joseph "Father" to her Son: "Thy Father and I have sought Thee sorrowing" (Luke 2:48). The husband of our mothers we normally call "father," not "pal" or "Joe" or whatever, but "Father." St. Paul 4:16 calls Abraham the "Father" of us all.

No man can stand in any way whatsoever as a father unless God holds him up. So Our Lord tells us never to forget that the power of fatherhood is God's above, and no man in anyway can add or detract from that absolute fact. Surely we know as faithful Catholics that an earthly father shares in the wonderful work of the Heavenly Father's work of creation in bringing a new life into the world.

A priest is surely called "Father" because he too brings spiritual life to souls—in Baptism, Confession and the other Sacraments. In some way God upholds this fatherhood of the priest by the grace of spiritual life which He distributes through the hands of his priests. If the priest does not beget spiritual life, he is not a father, just as an earthly man is no father unless he begets or supports earthly life. Calling anyone a father or master who really does not share the life-giving faculty of God the Father is what Our Lord meant when He forbad the calling of anyone on earth your father. No one reading the Bible carefully should ever wonder about this oft-repeated, stupid question. All fatherhood in earth or in heaven is named after Him, the Heavenly Father (Ephesians 3:14).
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

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