So, calling priests “Father” is technically incorrect by Church law

JIMMY AKIN.ORG: Calling Priests “Father” In Latin

So it seems that calling priests “Father” is something that happens in vernacular languages like English (Father) or Spanish (Padre) or Arabic (Abunah) but not (at least not typically) in the Church’s official documents.


I said to my friend: “I bet there are a bunch of priests who don’t know they are ‘Lord So-and-So’ in Latin.”

My friend: “Let’s not tell them.”

The tradition of calling priests Father is likely a testament to their spiritual fatherhood of all they care for. Many people criticize the Church for this tradition, citing Jesus word’s in Matthew 23:9: “Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.” (Make me wonder how some of those who cite this verse refer to their male parent.) But Saint Paul himself refers to himself as the father of 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.” (1 Cor 4:15) Plus, there are numerous references to Abraham as the fathers of all the Jews.

We obviously can’t ignore what Paul wrote, and just cast it off as an error, unless we want to deny the inspiration of the first letter to the Corinthians. At the same time, we can’t ignore Jesus words, either. So how to reconcile these passages.

Let’s begin by taking a closer look at the context of Jesus’ remark:

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples,

saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Seen in the full context, this verse is an admonition against pursuing earthly honors and giving someone the honor and respect properly due only to God, not an admonition against honoring someone as having had a deep impact on your life or faith. So while it turns out that “Father” isn’t an official title for Catholic priests, it’s still an appropriate one given their proper role in our lives.