Title of Address

I just wondered if it would be impolite to say goodnight father to a Monsignor? I did this on Sunday as Ita just automatic I say goodnight father when leaving church and the priest greets the Congregation but Im not sure if he was a little displeased, or just tired and maybe had a long day. He is elderly and I happened to have much respect and admiration of him and would never dleiberatley wish to offend him or any Clergy memer in their vocation or as people. After returning to the faith after lasping since my teens, I only ever called a priest father and never got to meet a bishop (not confirmed but hoping this year to be so)

The monsignors I have known were not going to get all wound up if a parishioner called them “Father”. That would show a great lack of humility on their part, and besides, the fact that they are a Monsignor doesn’t make them any less of a spiritual father to you.

The priest was likely just tired and grumpy over having had a long day, or something else. If he makes a habit of seeming grumpy, perhaps you could say something kind, like “Is anything the matter? Can I help in any way?” If it’s just an occasional thing, don’t worry about it.

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I have only heard deacons correct someone when being called “Father” by saying that “I am deacon NN and it is hard to tell the difference when both deacons and priests wear the same kind of priest´s shirts in the same colours.”

The first Parish I attended (before moving) the Priest was promoted to Monsignor. I forgot one Sunday and greeted him as Father. I caught myself and said, “Oops, sorry, I meant to say Monsignor.” He stated that to him it was of no significance. He said I could address him as Father or Monsignor. If memory serves me, proper etiquette would be to address him as Monsignor or Monsignor (last name). However, I would like to believe that most Monsignors would be of the mindset of my above mentioned experience.

I think Monsignor is more of an administrative title.
I remember my mom, many many years ago, making a comment when I asked her about a particular monsignor who was an aging activist. She said something like, “Him!.. He’s a troublemaker and flaunts that title like he’s someone special.”

Father is never incorrect, in my opinion, if you’re not being uncharitable or especially if you’re uncertain (i.e., you don’t know him or he’s behind the screen in the confessional). After all, both monsignors and bishops are still priests, too. Why not ask him what he prefers?

I can recall when I was a teen (back when the dinosaurs roamed, you know) going to a discernment dinner with our late Archbishop. This one aspiring priest approached him near my table and got down on one knee, kissed his ring, and greeted him with a hearty “your Excellency!”. I glanced over at my pastor next to me after the man walked away and asked how I should greet the Archbishop, and I was told (rightly) that “he doesn’t really go for all that” and to simply say, “good evening, Archbishop”, which is how I addressed him every time I saw him thereafter. He was never less than pleasant and smiling.

A dear friend of mine who is a bishop is often addressed as “Father” when he is out and about. [Note: He was a monsignor before he was a bishop, too.] He never corrects anyone. In many cases, these are older people who knew him first when he was “Father” and who still think of him in that context. People who get hung up on (heir own) titles are, in my opinion, people with the wrong priorities.

One is ordained a “priest forever,” after all.

Oh, and “monsignor” is not just an administrative designation. it is an honorific, and is often (perhaps unfortunately) given to priests who are diocesan or other bureaucrats. Further, many dioceses have discontinued the policy of naming any monsignors…

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I don’t care what you call me, so long as “Father” is in front of it. Where most of the younger priests in my diocese go by “Father Last name,” my last name is a little uncommon and thus hard to pronounce (if you’re not actually from my area, where there are dozens of us). So rather than going around correcting people all day, I’m just “Father Given name.”

I won’t correct people who botch my last name. I will correct people who insist on not calling me Father. I find that to be a bit disrespectful, save from people who are either brother priests or family and friends that have known me long enough to be familiar with me. I still struggle to address some senior priests I’ve known for a while as anything but “Father,” and I have friends who “knew me when” who refuse to continue calling me by my given name. My policy for that class of friends is that they may address me however they feel comfortable doing so.


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I think it is always wise to begin with titles, and let people determine what they want to be called, and respect their choices. I know some priests who really want to be called “Jim” or “Fred,” or whatever. But I would not call them that till they told me to do so. And of course some people feel more comfortable using titles, such as your friends. I have invited my grad students and former grad students to call me by my first name, but some still are reluctant, even after they get their own PhDs. That is their choice. But I hate it when undergrads presume familiarity and call me by my first name!

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I have always wondered about this and wonder if you have any insight into the history or customs surrounding how we address priests. Do younger priests prefer “Father Last name” because it is, or at least seems, more traditional ( in the Latin Rite) ? Is it more traditional? Does this vary from culture to culture?

In the Byzantine Rite, priests generally referred to as “Father Christian/Baptsmal Name” and Bishops as “Bishop Christian /Baptismal Name”. Generally, but not always, the Christian name is the same as the first nane.

I have had friends who attend an FSSP say that it is disrespectful to call a priest “Father First Name”.

To me, it has always seemed a little odd to use the last name of a person that you’re calling “Father”.

My general rule is that I call a priest what he wishes to be called, though I have had a priest introduced himself to me by his first name and I couldn’t quite bring myself to just call him “Bob”.

Believe it or not, when a governor of our state gives his annual budget address to the legislature, in is our state’s version of the State of the Union address, he is introduced as “His Excellency, the Governor…”

A quick check of Wikipedia shows that it might not be as unique as I thought.

Well, in my diocese, it would certainly stand out for a young priest to go by Father “First name”. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with tradition. Going by last name seems to be the norm in my diocese as a whole. Some of the older priests go by Father “first name” or those like Fr. ACEGC have a difficult last name…

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I agree entirely with you.

I do also find it disrespectful when a priest presumes to address me by my first name. I think respect is a two-way street.

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I do not see why someone should be upset over such a trifling matter. The form of address, ‘Father’, is not disrespectful. There is a priest is a parish next to mine. Their parish priest has been there forever it feels like and he’s also been a monsignor since anyone can care to remember. However, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t address him as ‘Father’ or ‘Father + surname’. I can state with certainty his parishioners respect him very much.

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“Father” works - he is, after all, a priest since “Monsignor” is simply an honorific and nothing more (Pope Francis restricted the title to those over 65 for this very reason). “Mons” is also common in some places.

For what it’s worth, I personally go by “Fr [First Name]”. Unlike edward_george my last name isn’t particularly difficult to pronounce but I grew up knowing and calling priest “Fr [first name]”. Being called “Fr [last name]” is way to formal for me. I do prefer to be called “Father” however because, while I’m only too conscious of the risk of liking it too much if you know what I mean, at the same time it reminds me of who I am and what I’m called to - it keeps me level you might say. A lot of priests around my way like to be known by their first names but for me, that’s denying the “set apart-ness” of the priesthood - in other words, it drags it down rather than raising it up. That said, I will call brother priests by their first names and those who knew me before ordination typically call me by my first name (I had to correct a younger relative on this recently - touching but at the same time he is family after all).

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Just to keep on topic this was specifically about using the term Monsignor Vs Father … Not Christian or surnamea or failing to use any title when addressing the clergy in a non formal post mass greeting and farewell situation. But thanks alot everybody for your insights and contributions wich are of most help.

God bless

This. I’m always surprised when priests young enough to be my son call me by my first name without asking—but expect to be called Father Lastname.

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Yes, I am at that age where many people look too young to be doing the job they do. You do get this a lot from younger priests. I think it is a generational thing. But, I find it disrespectful and presumptuous for people to address me by my first name. My mother simply ignores people who do it to her. They eventually find themselves having to say Mrs. [surname].

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I’m ok with the ‘everybody goes by first name’ thing – as long as it’s everybody. For example, if my doctor wants me to call him Dr. Lastname, he had better be calling me Ms. or Mrs. Lastname. Same with priests or anyone else. As you said, respect is a two-way street.

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A good point because doctors are another group who have a tendency to do this. About 10 years ago we got a new, fresh-faced doctor who always addressed me by my forename. So, after a few visits I addressed him by his. I could tell by his face he did not like it but he said nothing. We have been on first name terms since. I am actually doctor, too. I earned the right by doing a PhD. Here, in the UK ‘Dr.’ is just an honorific for the medical profession as they do not hold doctorates.

I do not mind so much if we are all on first name terms but do object to strangers making the assumption they can just address me in a way I believe is for friends and family.

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