Why are priests called "Father"?

I marvel at many Protestants who greet me with the title: "Father". They do so very much against their principles but out of a loving desire not to cause further division. In the backs of their minds I think they are confounded as to how a Christian could take on such a title in direct violation of Christ's words, "Call no man Father" (Matthew 23, 2-10).

Let me explain. In His life as a servant, Jesus gave us an example of how to be leaders. At the Last Supper, He got down and washed the feet of His apostles. He was opposed to any leader taking on a haughty or superior attitude. Right in line with His actions and His teachings, He told us in Matthew not to call anyone "Father," "Rabbi," or "Teacher."

I think one would do an injustice to Christ to think He was opposed to calling the father of five children a father or the leader of a synagogue a "rabbi" or the young woman who is instructing thirty-five first graders a "teacher." Jesus is not opposed to using words to describe what a person is doing. Christ is opposed to titles that persons use to "Lord it over" (Luke 22:25) others. If a person uses a title to be exempted from service of others or to feel better than others, the titles should not be used.

As a priest who uses the title "Father" before my name, I must listen closely to Christ's words. Am I using the title to consider myself better than others? If so I should not use it.

For me, the title "Father" is closely connected to the vow I have taken to live a life of celibacy. I have chosen not to marry a woman and generate children. That denial for the kingdom of God of what is very natural doesn't eliminate my responsibility to be a father. I must use my love and creativity to serve the needs of others to whom I am committed through the church.
When people call me "Father" they challenge me and remind me to love the people of the kingdom and not shirk my responsibilities of fatherhood,

St. Paul was a celibate. He wrote of his spiritual fatherhood in his letter to the slave owner Philemon about the slave Onesimus, "I urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment" (Phil. 10). He writes to the Corinthians, "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" (1Cor. 4,15).

And if you ever find me using the title "Father" to imply I'm better than you or if I am not loving you in service, call me Mike.


Anonymous said...

Whoever decided to Catholic Priests Father are using the same name as Father in God the Father.That tells me that the Church hierarchy in the Middle Ages could've thought we are G-O-D(same name as Father in God the Father in the Trinity).That's why all the corruption even to this day.I could'nt disagree more.The Father is the Father of us all.Use father like Paul did.

FrankK said...

I understand the scriptural basis for the title 'Father' but does anyone know when this first came to be used as the form of address to priests?

rudyst51 said...

I mean no disrespect, but this is just another worldly explanation as to why it's ok to violate the word of Jesus Christ Himself.

Not falling for it- but not being judgmental either. U love Catholics and non-Catholics the same. But I will reprove anyone...I'm sure you've read that scripture sir-

Anonymous said...

That's the biggest justification of nothing that I have ever heard!

Rachel Anders said...

Thank you Father Mike! I appreciate your "blog" as this very question came up between my cousin, a devout protestant and myself a middle of the road, love to gain knowledge of the Bible seminary student. My cousin's objection hinged solely on Matthew 23.
I think I will share this blog with my cousin!
Thank you again!