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From the end of the talk called Sola Fide by John Martignoni. He invites a 13 year old girl named Leah on stage to talk on the topic of Catholics calling their priests “father.” For this entire recording as well as other free downloads, please visit www.biblechristiansociety.com
A common practice by Protestants and people against the Catholic Church is something called proof texting. Proof texting is when a single verse is taken from the Bible, usually out of context, to try and prove something. People often do this to “prove” that the Catholic Church teaches or does things that go against scripture. One such example is Matthew 23:9. It reads “Call no man your father; you have but one Father in heaven.” Protestants will claim that this proves that Catholics are wrong in calling our priests father. On the surface, this looks like a convincing argument. A Catholic that is unfamiliar with the Bible or this verse may begin to doubt his or her faith. But by digging a little deeper and reading the Bible as a whole (as opposed to pulling out individual verses like so many people do), you will clearly see that this argument is quite shallow.
It should be obvious from reading this verse in context that Jesus does not literally mean to not call any man father. If that were the case, it would be a sin to call your male parent father. The Bible would also be wrong because it tells us to “Honor your father and your mother.” Some will try to argue that Jesus is saying that we should not call any of our spiritual leaders or pastors by the title of father. But that is not what the text is saying. If you insist on interpreting the Bible literally word for word, then you must admit that the text says “Call no man your father” and not “Call no spiritual leader your father.” If you continue reading, it says “Do not be called master.” The word master is where we get our English word mister. So is it a sin if we call someone mister? Verse 8 also says “Do not be called Rabbi,” which means teacher. So is it a sin to call someone on Earth teacher? The word doctor also comes from the Latin word for teacher. So is it a sin to call someone doctor?
When Matthew 23 is read in context, it should be clear that Jesus is not condemning the use of these particular words, but the attitude behind them. He is rebuking the hypocritical Pharisees who “preach but they do not practice” (verse 3). They love the best seats in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect and called rabbi (verses 6-7). The Pharisees were trying to usurp the fatherhood of God by pridefully seeking titles and attention. Jesus is simply telling us in these verses to not put any human being on the same level as God. He is saying to not look at any human as a father in the same way that you look to God as a father. All authority comes from God and not from man, and we should never allow someone on Earth to command what God forbids.
By Catholics calling our priests father, we are certainly not trying to say that they are on the same level as God. Notice in the Bible how Jesus says that He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:14) while at the same time asks other humans to shepherd His people (John 21:15-17, Ephesians 4:11, 1 Peter 5:2). Priests are here to help shepherd God’s people on Earth. Just as a biological father provides food for his family, a priest feeds his spiritual children with the word of God and with Jesus’ body and blood in the Holy Eucharist. A biological father must also provide counsel and encouragement to his family as well as live a good Christian life as an example to his family, much like priests are called to do. As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12, “As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children, exhorting and encouraging you…” The Old Testament shows us that priesthood and fatherhood have always been linked. Judges 17:10 says, “‘Stay with me,’ Micah said to him. ‘Be father and priest to me.’” Judges 18:19 says “Come with us and be our father and priest.”
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