Call No Man Father

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Catholics and Orthodox are criticised by Protestants for calling their priests "Father". Of course, their criticism comes from Matthew 23:1-12:

"The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat, so practise and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practise. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honour at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market place, and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have but one teacher, and you all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

Christ is warning against calling men teachers or masters in a way that is proper to God alone, our true and ultimate teacher and master. It does not literally mean that we cannot address others as "Father", even in a religious context. Also, people who object to our calling a man "Father" forget that in the same passage Christ also says, "Call no man teacher."

In Acts 7:2, St. Stephen, deacon and first New Testament martyr, not only refers to other men as "fathers", but directly addresses the Pharisees themselves as "fathers". Clearly, the Holy Spirit would not have inspired this if Christ had forbidden a literal use of the term "father" for human beings.

Look also at 1 Corinthians 4:14-15. Paul expresses the reason why we call priests Father when he says, "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. Therefore I urge you to be imitators of me.

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