“Don’t call me Father” gets mixed reception


Cardinal John Dew’s call to drop the “Father” title has received mixed results.

As reported by CathNews, Dew first raised the issue of honorifics in an internal church newsletter.

Describing the “Don’t call me Father” call as ‘simple’, Dew however hopes that not using the clerical title might go some way to changing the clerical attitude and transforming the Church.

“Most people already called him by his first name, and lots of other priests had the same experience”, he told Stuff.

Encouraged by priests who have followed his lead, he remains realistic, saying he knew some still “had the attitude that I’m the one in charge”.


Massey University retired professor of religious studies, Peter Lineham thinks Dew has an uphill battle.

Lineham said several priests he has spoken with regarded Dew’s comments as “the oddity of John Dew”.

Lineham, however, disagrees with the priests and said their opposition to Dew’s comments is understandable.

He said some priests were clearly attracted by the high status of the role.

“He’s on to something – the status implied by the title ‘Father’ gives the priest a peculiar exemption,” said Lineham.

“So often families protect people internally, and I suspect John Dew’s reflecting precisely on those grounds.”

However, Lineman told Stuff he is not confident the Catholic Church will change.

“I think it would take an enormous amount to move that language from Catholicism, because at the heart of it is the special status of the priest, and the title is one way to preserve it.

“And deep down there is a deep protectiveness about the priesthood: it’s the essence of the Catholic church.”

Deborah Pead of Pead PR holds less hope for change, calling it “the most terrifying PR job on the planet”.

“They are dreaming if they think dropping the word ‘Father’ is going to deliver anything meaningful for them – that should be just one thing in a whole suite of activities.

“They need not just a re-brand but almost to rebirth the organisation,” Pead told Stuff.



News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

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