Hi, guys —
I try to ask questions to Catholics but they
always ignore my questions. They have always
told me that I'm trying to mock them. I
find this a little offensive because I would never try
to mock someone's religion. I only have two
questions. They may be simple to
some, but they aren't for me.
- Why do Catholics refer to Church leaders
as Father when Jesus strictly forbids the
use of that title to designate religious
leaders? (Matthew 23:9)
- Where do you find the word Catholic in
Thank you for taking the time to answer my
questions. If you can't answer them, thank
you for taking the time to read them.
do you call your Church leaders "Father" and where is the word "Catholic" in the Bible? }
- We call them father for the
same reason most people call their
male parent by that name. Jesus
said, call no one father,
not just religious leaders.
Perhaps it is because Jesus' words
need to be interpreted properly.
We should never refer to anyone
as our ultimate Father or Teacher
because that is God. No one can
usurp God as:
- Why then do people, including
priests, ministers, and
the holiest of people, call
their male parent father?
- Why do we call Washington,
Adams, and Jefferson fathers of
our country? and
- Why do theologians call
the very first Christians,
the early Church fathers?
- the Primary Cause of all
- the Father of All, and
- the One from whom All Truth
God is our primary authority
and Father but, because God
is the Father of all fathers,
doesn't mean we can't use the
term in a subordinate way for
earthly fathers, whether they
be physical or spiritual fathers.
Priests are considered spiritual
fathers since they minister
to us God's Life of grace.
- The word Catholic is in the
Bible wherever you see the word universal.
That is what catholic means in
Greek. We've found documented
evidence that the term was being
used to distinguish Christ's Church
from other religious sects as
early as the beginning of the
Thanks for the questions.
Hi, Paul —
Thanks! The second question's answer
makes sense but, I'm still stuck
on the first question.
Designated religious leaders are
different from normal people so referring
to normal people doesn't really help
me. I think he meant that it's OK
to use a term for parental reasons,
and founders, but not religious leaders.
Dear Sydney —
in addition to what my colleague
Paul has said, this posting from our colleagues
at Catholic Answers should help:
You also may be interested in my
list of Catholic Scripture verses
that defend Catholic doctrines:
Under the section titled: Call
No Man Father?,
All human titles are only shadows
of God's authority from which they
derive as understood in Ephesians 3:15. RE: "Call no one on earth
father". Father is
a term sometimes used of the great
Rabbis. Note our Lord is not a grammarian
regulating the use of terms. He forbids
any acknowledgement of fatherhood
that obscures the fatherhood of His Father God,
nothing more. If we make no allowance
for the concreteness and brevity
of His phrases, we either reduce them
to absurdity or reduce Him to being inconsistent.
He would not forbid a human son to
use the word father nor would he
forbid the term if addressed to one
who is God's representative; in this
second case, indeed, it serves to
remind its readers of the fatherhood
of God. Nor must the Christian disciple
pose as an independent spiritual
guide. He himself is subject to one
Teacher and one Guide — to the Lord
- Luke 14:26 - Jesus says, "Anyone
who comes to me without hating father"
- Acts 6:14 to Acts 7:2 - St. Stephen calls the Jewish leaders fathers
- Acts 21:40 to Acts 22:1 - St. Paul calls Jerusalem Jews fathers
- Romans 4:16-17 - Abraham is called "the father of us all"
- 1 Corinthians 4:14-15 - St. Paul says,
became your father in Christ through
- 1 Thessalonians 2:1 -
we treat you as a father treats
- 1 Timothy 1:2 - St. Paul
says, "my true child in faith"
- Titus 1:4 - St. Paul says, "my
true child in our common faith"
- Philemon 10 - whose father
I became in my imprisonment
- Hebrews 12:7-9 - we have
earthly fathers to discipline
- 1 John 2:13-14 - "I write
to you, fathers, because you know
In reference to Romans 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 4:14-15: I think you
will agree that Abraham and St. Paul
were religious leaders.
Althoug the word Catholic is not literally in the Bible, we still see the biblical basis for the word in Oral Tradition, which sadly, many Protestants reject.
The disciples of Jesus were first
called Christians in Antioch. (Acts 11:26) In that same town of Antioch,
less than eighty years after Our
Lord's Ascension into Heaven, they
were first called Catholic. St. Ignatius of Antioch
who lived up to 107 A.D. preaches:
Wherever the bishop shall appear,
there let the multitude [of the
people] also be; even
as, wherever Jesus Christ is,
there is the Catholic Church.
It is not lawful without the bishop
either to baptize or to celebrate
a love-feast; but whatsoever he
shall approve of, that is also
pleasing to God, so that everything
that is done may be secure and
St. Ignatius of Antioch
in 107 A.D. in his letter to the
I would be remiss if I also didn't mention St. Pacian of Barcelona, (c. 310-375 A.D.), bishop of Barcelona. During his lifetime he argues:
"But, under the Apostles, you will say, "no one was called a Catholic".
Grant this to have been the fact; or suppose it to have been so.
- When heresies, after the Apostles days, arose, and, under diverse names, strove to tear and scatter piecemeal the dove of God, and His queen, did not the apostolic people require a peculiar name whereby to distinguish the unity of the people that had not been corrupted, for fear lest the error of a few might tear limb by limb the unstained virgin of God?
- Was it not beseeming that the principal head should be designated by a suitable title?
Suppose I entered, this very day, into a populous city, and found there Marcionites, Apollinarists, Cataphrygians, Novatians, and others of the same sort, all calling themselves Christians.
- By what name should I be able to recognize the congregation of my own people, were it not from its being called Catholic?
Come, tell me, you who bestowed so many names on the other peoples!
- Why have so many cities, so many nations, each their own description?
- The very man who calls in question the name Catholic, will he be ignorant of the cause of his own name, if I shall inquire its origin?
- Whence was it delivered to me?
Assuredly, that which has stood during so many ages was not borrowed from man.
This name Catholic sounds not of Marcion, nor of Apelles, nor of Montanus, nor does it take heretics as its authors. . . . . Christian is my name, but Catholic my surname. That names me, this describes me; by this I am approved; by that designated.
And if at last we must give an account of the word Catholic, and express it, from the Greek, by a Latin interpretation, Catholic is "everywhere one", or, as the more learned think, obedience in all the commandments of God. . . . Therefore he who is a Catholic, the same is obedient to what is right. He who is obedient, the same is a Christian, and thus the Catholic is a Christian.
Wherefore when our people are named Catholic, they are separated by this appellation from the [other] heretical names.
As a side note, the Catechism also tell us:
|CCC 830 The word catholic means universal, in the sense of [the faith] according to the totality or in keeping with the whole.
your interest in getting the facts
on what we believe.
Sometimes you will run into Catholics
who have been poorly catechized and have a poor attitude toward answering
people's questions; it's probably
because they don't know the answer
and are too prideful to admit it.
I do apologize for any poor behavior
on behalf of my brother Catholics.
I hope this helps, if not, just get back to us.
Hi, Sydney —
As for your second question, the
term Catholic comes from
the Greek words katholikos, according
to the whole. In this exact
form, it doesn't appear in Scripture,
but neither does the term Trinity, incarnation,
or, for that matter, bible.
It dates back to the year 107 A.D.
in a letter from Ignatius, bishop
of Antioch and martyr, where he says,
|"Where the bishop is, there
let the people gather; just as
wherever Jesus Christ is, there
is the Catholic Church".
It arose as heresies in the early
Church blossomed as a way to distinguish
the authentic Church from heretical
- Why do we call priests Father?
- For the same reason you call
the man who conceived you father.
- Why you call your professor,
esteemed cleric, or physician, doctor (which
means teacher, another
forbidden title)?, and
- Why you call your cleric, pastor? (which
means shepherd, which
while not expressly mentioned,
certainly seems to fit the passage.)
Mister and Mistress (Mrs.)
are both forms of Master,
also literalistically forbidden.
Either you take it literalistically
and strictly, as you are trying to
apply to us, or you take it more
figuratively and loosely, as we do.
We can get ridiculous with this.
Protestants, then, are rather selective
about this verse. The fact is, Jesus
did not have the Catholic Church
in mind when he said this. What he
meant is that we should not give
to men the glory and honor that belongs
to God alone.
When Jesus says what he says about
calling no man father, he is using
hyperbole. We know this because the
Apostles frequently used this fatherhood
imagery in their letters. Paul regularly
referred to Timothy as his child:
- "Therefore I sent to you
Timothy, my beloved and faithful
child in the Lord, to remind you
of my ways in Christ" (1 Corinthians 4:17)
- "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 Timothy, my beloved
child: Grace, mercy, and peace
from God the Father and Christ
Jesus our Lord" (2 Timothy 1:2)
In Corinthians, St. Paul said:
- "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 Corinthians 4:14-15)
There is such a thing as spiritual
He also referred to Timothy as his
- "This charge I commit to
you, Timothy, my son, in accordance
with the prophetic utterances
which pointed to you, that inspired
by them you may wage the good
(1 Timothy 1:18)
- "You then, my son, be strong
in the grace that is in Christ
Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:1);
- "But Timothy's worth
you know, how as a son with a
father he has served with me in
the gospel." (Philippians 2:22)
Peter does this as well:
"She who is at Babylon, who
is likewise chosen, sends you
greetings; and so does my son
Mark." (1 Peter 5:13)
Occasionally the sacred authors treated
entire churches as their children.
- "Here for the third time
I am ready to come to you. And
I will not be a burden, for I
seek not what is yours but you;
for children ought not to lay
up for their parents, but parents
for their children" (2 Corinthians 12:14); and,
- "My little children, with
whom I am again in travail until
Christ be formed in you!"
- "My little children, I am
writing this to you so that you
may not sin; but if any one does
sin, we have an advocate with
the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1);
- "No greater joy can I have
than this, to hear that my children
follow the truth" (3 John 4).
Paul also referred to one of his
other converts in this way:
- "To Titus, my true child
in a common faith: grace and peace
from God the Father and Christ
Jesus our Savior" (Titus 1:4)
- "I appeal to you for my
child, Onesimus, whose father
I have become in my imprisonment" (Philemon 10)
None of these men were Paul's
literal, biological sons. Rather,
Paul is emphasizing his spiritual
fatherhood with them.
See also Galatians 4:19, 1 Timothy 1:18, 2 Timothy 2:1, Philemon 10, 1 Peter 5:13, 1 John 2:1 and 3 John 4.
You may object that they aren't technically
using titles, just referring to relationships,
but we do see Father used
in this fashion: See Acts 7:2 and 1 John 2:13-14. In any case,
Jesus's objection applies to the
relationship, not just the title.
Also, note that in Ephesians 3:14-15,
14 For this cause I bow my
knees unto the Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole
family in heaven and earth is
What he is saying is that the family,
both the biological families and
the heavenly family of God, are named after
God, the Father. In other words, fatherhood
is patterned after God the Father so there is a legitimate way they
are linked, so long as we don't give
human fathers the honor due to God
I'd also recommend the write-up Mike
suggested you read although I covered
most of it.
Hi, guys —
Thanks for all your help.
I never originally intended for you
guys to give me such long answers,
so I didn't read most of the e-mails
you sent me.
I don't believe in God; I am irreligious;
but I still wanted answers and you
gave them to me, literally.