Call no man father


Objection: Why do Catholics call your priests “Father” when Matthew 23:9 clearly states “Call no man father”.

Yes it is true that Matthew 23:9 does say this but we must first look at the context in which it is said. The passage begins by Jesus admonishing the people to not follow the Scribes and the Pharisees who set a bad example with their legalistic interpretation of the law. Then when he makes the statement to “call no man father” later on, he is referring to not putting any man before and above God. In other words all authority and truth ultimately comes from God in heaven. The passage is therefore one not to be taken literally so long as one recognizes the source of all authority and truth, God our father. Otherwise he would be contradicting himself as God and would be violating the fourth commandment to “Honor thy father and thy mother”.

As a matter of fact the title of father is used 124 times in the New Testament. See Luke 11:11; 12:53; 14:26; and Romans 4:12 as examples. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:14-15 states

[14] I write not these things to confound you: but I admonish you as my dearest children. [15] For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, by the gospel, I have begotten you.

The RSV translates verse [15] as “For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel”.  Did Paul really “begot us” or is our literal father?  No, but to the Corinthians he is addressing, he became their spiritual father, just as a real biological father cooperates in nurturing, feeding and raising his children.  Likewise Priests, Bishops and Deacon cooperate with God in acting as spiritual fathers to their flocks by preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments. Catholics therefore have every right to call their priests “Father” out of a mark of respect, stewards as preachers of the Gospel and tradition.

In summary Jesus words in Matthew 23:9 remind us that we have a heavenly father who is truly our father and Lord of all.