Full question by anonymous:
Why do Catholics call their priests father, when Jesus specifically forbade this in Matthew 23:9?
Have you ever called the person who is responsible for 50% of your dna as “father?” If you have, then shame on you for breaking the command of Christ!
If however you look at this as not a literal command, but something a spiritual sense, then we can dig a little deeper here. Jesus is using hyperbole to make a point here (hyperbole and parables were common rhetorical devices used by the Pharisees themselves to teach), and the point was to condemn the sinful pride that led the Pharisees to seek people to call them “rabbi” and “father.”
Catholics refer to priests as father not out of some prestigious notion, but because we recognize their spiritual fatherhood over their flock as part of their pastoral duties. St. Paul repeatedly called himself father to people who were his spiritual sons (1 Timothy 1:18, 2 Timothy 2:1, Titus 1:4 and many others)
St. Paul also called himself a teacher on several occasions, and he most certainly was, but if we read Matthew 23 in a strictly literal sense then this is also banned in verse 8 “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren.” After all “rabbi” is Hebrew word for teacher. “For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher” (2 Timothy 1:11)
Abraham is referred to as “father” throughout the Old and New Testaments, sure Abraham is the father of all Jews, and so technically that might not break the Matthew 23:9 prohibition (depending on how stringent you want to read it). But since Gentiles are included in the offspring of Abraham (Galatians 3:29) then this would be calling him the father of people not biologically related to him.
If St. Paul (who by all accounts was a Catholic priest. See this article), St. Peter (1 Peter 5:13) and St. John (1 John 2:1) felt it was ok to call themselves “father” then it mustn’t have been an absolute prohibition as some say it is.
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