I now wonder why priests are called Father


In his recent Newsletter, the Archbishop of Wellington drew attention to an article written by a priest from France, Jean-Pierre Roche, entitled “Stop calling me Father.”

In his article, Roche says that priests may be able to make some small changes to overcome clericalism if they gave up expecting to be called “Father.”

“In August last year, Pope Francis wrote a Letter to the People of God, to all of us,”  said John Dew.

“The Holy Father appealed to all of God’s people to take action against “clericalism” which he sees as the source of abuse perpetrated by priests and bishops.”

“Making a choice to tell the people we serve not to call us Father (or for me “Your Eminence” or “Cardinal”) might seem a very small thing to do, but it may be the beginning of the reform in the Church which we have been asked to do by Pope Francis,” said Dew.

Roche gave three reasons why priests should not be called “Father.”

1. The Gospel 

Priests wish to be disciples of Jesus who said, “You are not to be called ‘Master,’ for you have but one Master, and you are all brothers and sisters.

And do not call anyone on earth ‘Father,’ for you have but one Father, who is in Heaven” (Mt 23: 8-9).

2. Not children, but brothers and sisters

It can make people put others into a relationship of parent and child.

It is not possible to have equal relationships between adults who are brothers and sisters if we call one of them “Father.”

If we want the Church to be a family where we care for and look after one another we need to reflect on these words from the Second Vatican Council: “Even though some, by the will of Christ, are made doctors and pastors for the good of others, in terms of the dignity and activities of all the faithful in the edification of the Body of Christ, there is true equality among all.” Lumen Gentium 32

3. Expression of an emotional dependence 

The practice of calling the priest “Father” can be unhealthy because it can become an expression of dependence which is based on a false and unreal idea of obedience.

Fatherhood is a mixture of affection and authority. But it can be dangerous, especially if it is made sacred.


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News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

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