"Call no man your father"


Hello all Catholics,

I’m considering going to an Anglo-Catholic church to check it out but I have a problem.

The priests there want to be called “Father” and in the Bible Jesus says “call no man on earth your father”.

How do Catholics approach this issue, does tradition have anything to say about the use of “father”?

Warm Regards,


This may help.
God Bless



It helps to take the entire verse in context. Jesus is speaking to his disciples about certain scribes and rabbis who take honorary titles for themselves and then act superior to others.

He says not to call any man rabbi either.

The words father can be translated into dad, daddy, father, pappa etc. So, if Jesus did not want anyone to use this phrase, it would be incorrect to call your own father, dad!

Rabbi can be translated into teacher. No, you can’t call anyone teacher.

Actually, Jesus was using hyperbole to make a point. He was saying something extreme to get people to understand his message. Much like he does when he informs us that it would be better to cut off a hand then to sin.

Further in the new Testament, Paul informs Timothy that he is his spiritual father. So, the apostles understood Jesus’ meaning.


Calling Priests Father

From a parable of Jesus
"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ’ Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ "But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ "He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31)

Did Jesus contradict His own teaching against calling someone “father” by using that very phrase in His own parable? Or have you misunderstood what our Lord meant when he said, “Call no man your father.”

From the teaching of Paul
"I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:14–15).

“I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment” (Philemon 10)

“To Timothy, my true child in the faith: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Timothy 1:2)

“To Titus, my true child in a common faith: grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior” (Titus 1:4)

From a Letter of John
"No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth" (3 John 4)

Sounds like Paul and John considered themselves spiritual fathers to all these disciples, doesn’t it? And this is from the Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit, is it not?


Did you know that Protestants used to call their clergy “Father?” Yes, it wasn’t until the mid 19th century that Protestants dropped the term “Father” for their clergy. Here is a portion article referrencing this fact…

…"Such opposition [to the use Father], however, is ironic in the context of church history. For American Protestants regularly called their clergy “Father” 200 and 300 years ago, and some continued to do so a century ago. And during the same years, Protestants addressed venerated women in their churches as "Mother."
The title “Father” was used in four ways in addressing clergy (see my article, “Fathers and Brethren,” *Church History *[September 1968], pp. 298-318). **In early America “Father” was a title of respect for elderly men. Although, for example, “Mister” (the designation of a gentleman and a college graduate) was the normal title for Puritan clergy in colonial New England, Congregationalists. Baptists, Methodists and German Reformed commonly addressed older ministers as “Father” well into the 19th century.
Furthermore, Protestants also employed the title for *younger ministers who influenced Christian commitment and served as spiritual fathers. *This usage is evident in the correspondence between early American ministers and their theological students. The journals of Methodist circuit riders as well as the records of Protestant missions to Indians and seamen also indicate this usage. Herman Melville, for example, based his character Father Mapple – the whaleman-chaplain in *Moby Dick *–onFather Edward Thompson Taylor, the Methodist pastor of Boston’s Seamen’s Bethel.
Protestants of earlier centuries also addressed *founders of denominations and religious communities *as “Father.” American Methodists, for example, referred to John Wesley not only as “Mr. Wesley” but also as “Father Wesley.” Following the custom in both genders, the Shakers called their matriarch ‘‘Mother’’ and their male leaders "Father."
Closely related was the custom of calling *missionary pioneers *“Father.” In the 19th century, Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregationalist, German Reformed, Methodist and Universalist missionaries were given the title throughout the New South and West. And American Lutherans used “Father” for their pioneer pastors, their first missionary to India, and their patriarch, Father Henry Melchior Muhlenberg."


Apologetics 101-15 (Call No Man Father)

Q: The Bible says to call no man Father, so why do we call our priests “Father”?

A: Matthew 23:9, “And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in Heaven.” Notice, however, that this makes no distinction between spiritual fathers, which is what our priests are to us, and biological fathers. In other words, if you interpret this passage to say, absolutely, that no man is to be called father, you cannot distinguish between calling a priest, father, and calling the man who is married to your mother, father.

But, is that actually what this passage is saying? Or is Jesus warning us against trying to usurp the fatherhood of God? Which, in many ways, is what the Pharisees and Scribes were doing. They wanted all attention focused on them…they were leaving God, the Father, out of the equation. Which is why Jesus goes on to call them hypocrites, liars, and whitewashed tombs.

If you interpret this passage from Matthew 23 as an absolute ban against calling anyone your spiritual father, then there are some problems for you in the rest of Scripture. For example, Jesus, in the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16, has the rich man referring to Abraham as “father” several times. Paul, in Romans chapter 4, refers to Abraham as the “father” of the uncircumcised, the Gentiles. That’s referring to spiritual fatherhood, not biological fatherhood.

In Acts 7:1-2, the first Christian martyr, Stephen, referred to the Jewish authorities and elders who were about to stone him as brothers and “fathers,” as does Paul in Acts, chapter 22. This is referring to spiritual fatherhood. So, if you interpret Matthew 23 as saying we cannot call anyone our spiritual father, then you have a problem with Jesus, Paul, Stephen, and the Holy Spirit…they must have all gotten it wrong.

It is okay to call priests “father”, just as it was okay for Jesus and Paul to call Abraham “father” and for Stephen and Paul to call the Jewish elders “father.” As long as we remember that our true Father is God the Father and that all aspects of fatherhood, biological and spiritual, are derived from Him. And as long as we do not allow anyone else to usurp that role in any way, shape, or form, as the Pharisees and Scribes were prone to do.


In addition to the great replies given above, I can only add that Jesus did use hyperbole on occasion. That’s why it’s dangerous to take every statement literally. As has already been mentioned, if Jesus meant what he said: “Call no man on earth your father,” literally, then we could not call our male parent father, nor could we celebrate Fathers Day. We could not call our teachers “teacher.” But, going with a quite literal interpretation of “call no MAN on earth your father,” I suppose we could call our mothers or aunts “father”!


And we could also call our paternal and spiritual progenitors “Mother,” I suppose. :stuck_out_tongue:


PS: The priest’s official title is actually “Reverend.”

The term “Father” isn’t an official title; it’s just a term of affection, relating to the fact that he is the “head” of the spiritual household - the parish.



I’m still working on calling no woman mother, anyway my father is now known as YOU, mother is Hey ! and Gran is Hi !

When I speak to my children now, my official title is WHAT !

:wink: If you believe all that rubbish I just posted, you’ll believe anything. :smiley:


Another thing is that, if you didn’t call your dad father, the term means nothing.

“God is your father” “What’s a father?” “…What God is to you.”

The earthly idea of fatherhood is needed to understand the heavenly idea of fatherhood.


The above are all good posts…

this argument from scripture always leaves me wondering if the people who read it, and then think thre is something wrong with ‘Catholics’ calling their priests ‘father’ have ever read any scripture…

So I am curious to know what Revelation 13_16 thinks about all of the passages that refer to ‘spiritual fatherhood’?

Another scriptural passage from the HEbrew texts [our Old Testament]that is quoted in the New Testament is Isaiah 22. In this passage, where the evil prime minister of the [Davidic] is being replaced with a new prime minister. The prime minister is the ‘holder of the keys’ to the kingdom. It is he, who in the absence of the King, opens and shuts. Isaiah tells how the people know who this person is, they refer to him as “Abba” which means father, daddy, papa. We refer to this temporal head of the church [the earthly kingdom of Jesus, the church founded upon Peter; who was given the keys], as *pope. *Pope is another way of saying ‘Father’.

Back to you…what do the plethora of scriptural passages tll you?


It is quite obvious about this, yet it seems to be a huge problem to many non-catholics. I was wondering if this is easy to understand, yet some don’t, then what else they misunderstand the Scriptures. :confused:

The problem with people, all in general, is to listen to others and they take their words for it without looking into the matter and see if it is true or not.


Firstly, thanks to everyone who knew I was sincere with this and offered me help.

Secondly, YADA & water, I know you guys have probably had bad experiences about this subject with protestants and your frustration shows this, but really you have to see things from the other side.

A question was asked in another thread “who’s a better Christian, Catholics or Protestants”. (or something like that)

This is a difficult question to answer because I think the two are judged to different standards.

What would make a good Catholic is obedience to the Church, partaking of sacraments, The Rosary, etc.

What’s makes a good Protestant is obedience to God’s word.

I would wager that on average, most Catholics do not read their Bible daily, wheras Protestants do. Wheras most Catholics can recite prayers and other things pertaining to the Church.

It’s a different criteria for each, and while no doubt there are Catholics who are well versed with the Bible, I would wager they are no where near the majority.

So what’s the easier road?

I believe it’s much easier to be a Good Catholic than a Good Protestant. This is one of the reasons I’m attracted to Catholicism.

If you have an interpretation problem as a Catholic and need an explanation, there is this organziation you can go to that will give you the right answer (believed so) because it comes from St. Peter, and you are told that all other explanations outside Holy Mother Church are not to be heeded to because they are not of the fold.

But if you are a Protestant, you have to rely on Systematic Theologies and even in many cases learn Ancient Greek to try to deduce the meaning.

  • There are many people who do that and come up with different Theologies.

It’s not as simple as “OMG I can’t believe you don’t get it” if you are a Protestant.

If you are a Catholic and you make an interpretive mistake that leads you to sin unaware, you can be absolved at Confession + gain clarification and go on your way.

And when you die, your relatives can light candles to free you from purgatory, great deal. (if it’s true)

If you’re a Protestant and you make an interpretive mistake, firstly, how do you know it’s a mistake? You can argue it’s a mistake, but others argue it’s not.

So you start using Logic, and Philosophy, and even reading Church Tradition, and learning Koine Greek, all this while your average Catholic is sitting at home watching TV with their kids.

It’s hard, and there’s no clarification to rest upon apart fromgoing through all 66 books of the Bible and seeing what keeps in line with God’s plan.

In short, the average Protestant earnestly seeks God’s truth and devotes pretty much all their life to it to walk in the right way, while the Catholic simply has to walk in the way that Holy Mother Church says, no Greek lessons, no Systematic Theologies, just simple obedience.

So maybe now you can understand why Protestants are extra careful not to disobey Jesus.

Whether they are right or wrong at the end of the day is somewhat moot, but their faith is great in the lengths that they go to.

I don’t believe Catholics should judge Protestants too hard because of this because if the shoe was on the other foot, would they really go through the effort at all to call themselves a Christian?

Difficult question, we can’t say what we’d be in another time or another place.

But in closing, I appreciate that you have frustration from Protestants over issues such as Mary, “Father” etc, but please recognize that I am not your enemy merely hiding behind innocent questions for a counter attack later.

I just don’t want to sin.

Warm Regards,

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