From “Know the Truth” – Why do Catholics call priests ‘father’?

The following bible verses are referenced from the YouTube post of Know the Truth (KTT) Philippines, explaining why we call our priest “Father”. (Notes in parenthesis are added by reporter for emphasis.) For the actual video, please check YouTube:

Why do Catholics call priests ‘father’?

One of the frequently asked questions by some ecclesial communities is “why Catholics call priests ‘father’? It seems very clear in the gospel of Matthew “call no man on earth ‘father’. And most protestants and the so called Iglesia ni Manalo would categorically point a finger that Catholics are basically breaking this obvious command of Jesus. 

Let’s look at some bible passages:

> Matt. 23: 8-9. You must not be called ‘Teacher’. You must not be called teacher because you are equal and have only one Teacher. And you must not call anyone here on earth ‘Father’ because you have only the one Father in heaven.

(With reference to the Pharisees on earlier verses, Jesus was giving them a lesson of humility – because they want to be known, seen, esp. during their fasting.  This verse is certainly read out of context.  One must read to read the verses before 8 & 9 of Matthew 23!)

(For the sake of comparison, if we must not call anyone “father” as these two verses explicitly said, why in practice, the INCs also call their teacher as “guro.”  This is definitely a biased view.)

> Matt. 1: Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac, the father of Jacob, Jacob, the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah….

(Even the days of long ago, “Father” has been used to refer to and/or to call our biological father.  God commands us to honor our father and mother.  Is it also bad to call our own father, “Father”, in Tagalog “Ama”?  If yes, how do you want to call your father?  Hoy?)

> Mal. 2:10: Have we not all the one Father? Has not the one God created us? Why then do we break faith with each other, violating the covenant of our fathers?

(Note: Very clear in the OT that in “the covenant of our fathers” – i.e., Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses – they are spiritual fathers, not as biological fathers.)

> Judges 17: 9-10: “Micah said to him, “Where do you come from? He answered him, “I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and am on my way to find some other place of residence. “Stay with me”, Micah said to him. “Be a father and priest to me, and I will give you 10 silver shekels a year, a set of garments, and your food.” So, the young Levite decided to stay with the man, to whom he became as one of his own sons. Micah consecrated the young Levite, who became his priest, remaining in his house.”

(Note: The word “father” is used here to refer to, not even to a biological father, but a stranger.)

> Rom. 4: 11-12:” And (Abraham) he received the sign of circumcision as a seal on the righteousness received through faith while he was uncircumcised.  Thus, he was to be the father of all the uncircumcised who believe, so that to them righteousness might be credited, as well as the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but also follow the path of faith that our father Abraham walked while still uncircumcised.

(Note:  Abraham is the father of many nations – circumcised and not circumcised.  He is called father – our spiritual “father”).

> Philemon 10:1 “I urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment, who was once useless to you but is now useful to you and me …”

(Note:  Paul became a “father” to Onesimus, though they are not related – taught him the teachings of Christ and even paid for the debts he owed to his former master, Philemon.  Through our faith in Jesus, we become all related. Paul becomes a “father” to Onesimus, and he to him as a servant while he was imprisoned.”

> 1Cor.4:14-15: “I am writing you this not to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 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.”

(Note: Biological fathers share in this fatherhood of God, when we (parents) share our life in Christ. However, calling of priest as “Father” is linked to Baptism – our initiation to the family of God and a new life in Christ. As in the case of Onesimus, he was baptized by Paul who in turn asked Philemon to treat him as fellow worker.  Moreover, we call “priest” our father because of the sacramental relationship that exists in the church.  All fatherhood comes from God because God is the father of all. Spiritual fatherhood is the spiritual participation in God´s fatherhood – who brings grace to us and give us new life.

The priest is “persona in Christi” during the Eucharistic celebration. With his people, the priest praises the Father through the Son in the unity of the Spirit, whom the priest, together with the community, worships. As a priest, he does his duty to take care of God´s flock, and nourish the community with the sacraments and teachings of the church.)

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