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Quodlibet 9: Call no one on earth your father

Quodlibet 9: Call no one on earth your father

I attended a social function recently. I noticed that some attendees addressed the Catholic priest as ‘Mr’. They quoted the verse that says call no one Father etc. Could you help me understand the reasoning behind our use of Father as a form of address of our priests?

The passage from Matthew about calling no one on earth your father, as with all scripture, needs to be carefully interpreted. Surely Jesus did not mean that we now have to start calling our parents by their first names. Rather, Jesus is reminding us that there is only one source of our being, our Father in heaven. Titles can be dangerous because they can make us forget this, and they can foster a spirit of superiority and pride. Given this warning, why do we address priests as father? Well, the priest acts in the person of Christ. This means the priest has the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself. Therefore, by calling a priest father, we are really showing reverence to Christ.

Robert Verrill OP

fr Robert Verrill  lives in the Dominican Priory in Cambridge, where he works at the University chaplaincy while completing a Doctorate at Baylor University, Texas.
robert.verrill@english.op.org