Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples, Saying: The scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy and insupportable burdens, and lay them on men's shoulders; but with a finger of their own they will not move them. And all their works they do for to be seen of men. For they make their phylacteries broad, and enlarge their fringes. And they love the first places at feasts, and the first chairs in the synagogues, And salutations in the market place, and to be called by men, Rabbi. But be not you called Rabbi. For one is your master; and all you are brethren. And call none your father upon earth; for one is your father, who is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters; for one is your master, Christ. [Matthew 23:1-10]
Woe unto us Catholics who call our priests, “Father”! How blatantly anti-Biblical can you get?
First point to make, is that a Catholic priest being called “father” does not refer to his position on earth, because he is a father in the Church, which is not of this world but of Heaven. Acting in persona Christi means that the several roles filled by the Catholic priest are all supernatural, because he has received the sacrament of Holy Orders.
Point number two is that the Catholic priest acts in the person of God in the confessional. The confessional is where the “title” Father come from, because we pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, with the priest acting in the person of Christ. We’re not really calling the priest “father”, we’re referring to him as a confessor in an ongoing manner, so that we remember that all our communications with him are, as it were, a continuation of that recognition of “the Father” hearing us through the priest. The priest is a conduit. Whenever we address our priest we always address the Father through him, who is acting in the person of the Son, whether in the confessional, on the altar, or at lunch. Anytime a priest is with us, he will always say the prayer. He will always give the blessing. For someone else to give a blessing when a priest is present is unheard of in any Catholic gathering. He is always the priest. He is always in persona Christi, who is the image of the Father. So, even though they go by the title, that became a convention, but it isn’t entirely accurate. The answer to the danger of a priest thinking how special he is, since everyone calls him “father”, is this- we are speaking to the Father through the priest. We should not be on familiar terms with “Father Bob,” we should always treat him as consecrated, as one who is set aside. And this answers another issue we run into nowadays.
There is this unfortunate trend amongst Catholic clergy that there are those who have lost the sense of moral authority which they must have. There are priests and bishops and cardinals who have gotten so out of touch that they are afraid to speak to those who are living in states of mortal sin because of whom they live with and have active physical relations with. There are priests who have trouble counseling those in active homosexual relationships, or active premarital relationships, and even the “divorced” and “remarried” (I put those in quotes because there is no such thing as Catholic divorce or remarriage). And what has happened is the priest has forgotten that he, like the Christ whom he acts in the person of, is a sign and a stumbling block to the world. The priest is celibate. He has consecrated his life to the service of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. If he ever feels unable to speak to those myriads in sexual sin, his first line is to refer to himself, that he is the example of one who has given up the possibility of any sexual relationship. From there he can take the spiritual direction where it needs to go. But if he isn’t confident in his celibacy, if he engages in relationships, even homosexual relationships, then of course he is on shaky ground. This is the great scandal of all the homosexual priests who have infiltrated the priesthood, even on top of the pederasty scandal that has tainted the sight of the Roman collar.
Jesus said to the multitudes, ”If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” [Luke 14:26] I am afraid I must dissent from the standard apologist answer that this is an example of Jesus using ‘hyperbole’ to make a point. I disagree, and my reason is just a reading of history. The Jewish high priest and all the leadership had called for the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they proclaimed a blasphemer, and that man was considered publicly disgraced. Membership in the Temple and in the synagogue reflected one’s social standing in first century Judea. I think it is safe to say that just about everyone participated in these institutions. For a son or daughter, wife or husband, brother or sister of Jews in first century Judea to proclaim faith in Jesus as Messiah would have been a threat to the family’s standing. The animosity would have been raised to a level of hatred in some families, and to align oneself with the followers of Jesus no doubt caused more than one family to break apart. The entire nation would be conquered by the Romans in one generation.
Some of you have heard the ‘hyperbole’ argument too many times to give it up so easily. What about this one:
You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell. And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell. [Matthew 5:27-30]
Now, surely Jesus didn’t mean we should pluck out our eyes and cut off our hands? My answer, Are you sure? Would you rather be cast into hell? Jesus may not have expected us to do this, but that doesn’t mean He didn’t mean it. I think He wanted us to take the danger of hell so seriously that we would consider even these acts.