- 1 I. The Elders of the Church are Called “Fathers” and the Faithful “Children”
- 2 II. The Lord, Mary, the Apostles and Others Refer to Spiritual Leaders as “Fathers”
- 3 III. Other Examples Where Jesus Uses the Word “Father” When Teaching
- 4 IV. Celibacy is Church Practice, Not Dogma
- 5 V. Women in the Priesthood
I. The Elders of the Church are Called “Fathers” and the Faithful “Children”
Matt. 23:9 – Jesus says, “call no man father.” But Protestants use this verse in an attempt to prove that it is wrong for Catholics to call priests “father.” This is an example of “eisegesis” (imposing one’s views upon a passage) as opposed to “exegesis” (drawing out the meaning of the passage from its context). In this verse, Jesus was discouraging His followers from elevating the scribes and Pharisees to the titles of “fathers” and “rabbis” because they were hypocrites. Jesus warns us not to elevate anyone to the level of our heavenly Father.
Matt. 23:8 – in this teaching, Jesus also says not to call anyone teacher or rabbi as well. But don’t Protestants call their teachers “teacher?” What about this commandment of Jesus? When Protestants say “call no man father,” they must also argue that we cannot call any man teacher either.
Judges 17:10; 18:19 – priesthood and fatherhood have always been identified together. Fatherhood literally means “communicating one’s nature,” and just as biological fathers communicate their nature to their children, so do spiritual fathers communicate the nature of God to us, their children, through (hopefully) teaching and example.
Eph. 3:14-15 – every family in heaven and on earth is named from the “Father.” We are fathers in the Father.
Acts 7:2; 22:1,1 John 2:13 – elders of the Church are called “fathers.” Therefore, we should ask the question, “Why don’t Protestants call their pastors “father?”
1 Cor. 4:15 – Paul writes, “I became your father in Christ Jesus.”
1 Cor. 4:17 – Paul calls Bishop Timothy a beloved and faithful “child” in the Lord.
2 Cor. 12:14 – Paul describes his role as parent over his “children” the Corinthians.
Phil. 2:22 – Paul calls Timothy’s service to him as a son serves a “father.”
1 Thess. 2:11- Paul compares the Church elders’ ministry to the people like a father with his children.
1 Tim. 1:2,18; 2 Tim. 1:2-3 – Paul calls Timothy his true “child” in the faith and his son.
Titus 1:4 – Paul calls Titus his true “child” in a common faith. Priests are our spiritual fathers in the family of God.
Philemon 10 – Paul says he has become the “father” of Onesimus.
Heb. 12:7,9 – emphasizes our earthly “fathers.” But these are not just biological but also spiritual (the priests of the Church).
1 Peter 5:13 – Peter refers to himself as father by calling Mark his “son.”
1 John 2:1,13,14 – John calls the elders of the Church “fathers.”
1 John 2:1,18,28; 3:18; 5:21; 3 John 4 – John calls members of the Church “children.”
1 Macc. 2:65 – Mattathias the priest tells his sons that Simeon will be their “father.”
II. The Lord, Mary, the Apostles and Others Refer to Spiritual Leaders as “Fathers”
Matt. 3:9; Luke 3:8 – Jesus refers to Abraham as our “father.”
Mark 11:10 – the people cried out blessed is the kingdom of our “father” David that is coming!
Luke 1:32 – God’s angel says Jesus will be great and be given the throne of his “father” David.
Luke 1:55 – Mary says that He spoke to our “fathers,” to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.
Luke 1:73 – Zechariah says the oath which he swore to our “father” Abraham.
Luke 16:24,30 – Jesus, in His parable about the rich man, says our “father” Abraham.
John 4:12 – the Samaritan woman asks Jesus if He is greater than our “father” Jacob.
John 7:22 – Jesus refers to the “fathers” who gave the Jews the practice of circumcision.
John 8:56 – Jesus tells the Jews your “Father” Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day.
Acts 3:13,25; 5:30 – Peter teaches that the God of our “fathers” glorified His servant Jesus and raised Him to life.
Acts 4:25 – Peter and John pray to God and refer to our “father” David.
Acts 7:11-12, 15,19,38,44-45,51-52 – Stephen refers to our “fathers” in the faith.
Acts 7:32 – Stephen calls God the God of our “fathers.”
Acts 13:17,32,36; 24:14; 26:6; 28:17,25 – Paul also refers to the God of our “fathers” in the faith.
Acts 22:3 – Paul says he was educated according to the strict law of our “fathers.”
Acts 22:14 – Ananias says the God of our “fathers.”
Rom. 4:1 – Paul calls Abraham our “forefather.”
Rom. 4:16-17 – Paul says that Abraham is the “father” of us all and the “father” of many nations.
Rom. 9:10 – Paul calls Isaac, a spiritual leader, our “forefather.”
1 Cor. 10:1 – Paul says that our “fathers” were all under the cloud, referring to the Old Testament spiritual leaders.
Gal. 1:14 – Paul says that he was zealous for the tradition of his “fathers.”
2 Tim. 1:3 – Paul thanks God whom he serves with a clear conscience as did his “fathers” in faith.
Heb. 1:1 – the author says God spoke of old to our “fathers.”
Heb. 3:9 – the Holy Spirit says that your “fathers” put me to the test.
Heb. 8:9 – God says not like the covenant that I made with their “fathers.”
James 2:21 – James says was not our “father” Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac?
1 Peter 1:18 – Peter says you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your “fathers.”
2 Peter 3:4 – Peter says ever since the “fathers” fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning.
III. Other Examples Where Jesus Uses the Word “Father” When Teaching
Matt. 15:4-5; 19:19 – Jesus uses “father” when He teaches God’s commandment to “Honor your father and your mother.”
Mark 7:10-12; Luke 18:20 – these are more examples of Jesus using “father” when teaching about honoring our fathers and mothers.
Eph. 6:2,4 – Paul also teaches to honor your “father” and mother, and says “fathers,” do not provoke your children.
Matt. 10:21; 35,37; Mark 13:12 – Jesus says “father” will deliver up his child in the last days.
Matt. 19:5; Mark 10:7,19 – Jesus says a man shall leave his “father” and mother and be joined to his wife. See also Eph. 5:31.
Matt. 19:29; Mark 10:29-30 – Jesus says whoever has left mother or “father” for His sake shall receive a hundredfold.
Matt. 21:31 – Jesus uses “father” when he teaches about the parable of the two sons and asks, “who did the will of his “father?”
Luke 6:23,26 – Jesus speaks about reward and punishment with reference to what their “fathers” did to the prophets.
Luke 11:11 – Jesus says what “father” among you will give his child a serpent when he asks for a fish.
Luke 11:47-48 – Jesus tells the lawyers they are witnesses to the deeds of their “fathers.”
Luke 14:26 – Jesus says we must leave our “fathers” and mothers and come to him, or we cannot be His disciple.
Luke 15:12,17-18,20-22,27-29 – Jesus repeatedly uses “father” when teaching about the prodigal son.
Luke 16:27 – Jesus uses “father” when teaching about the rich man in purgatory.
John 6:49,58 – Jesus says your “fathers” ate the manna in the wilderness and died.
IV. Celibacy is Church Practice, Not Dogma
Matt. 19:11-12 – Jesus says celibacy is a gift from God and whoever can bear it should bear it. Jesus praises and recommends celibacy for full-time ministers in the Church. Because celibacy is a gift from God, those who criticize the Church’s practice of celibacy are criticizing God and this wonderful gift He bestows on His chosen ones.
Matt. 19:29 – Jesus says that whoever gives up children for the sake of His name will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life. Jesus praises celibacy when it is done for the sake of His kingdom.
Matt. 22:30 – Jesus explains that in heaven there are no marriages. To bring about Jesus’ kingdom on earth, priests live the heavenly consecration to God by not taking a wife in marriage. This way, priests are able to focus exclusively on the spiritual family, and not have any additional pressures of the biological family (which is for the vocation of marriage). This also makes it easier for priests to be transferred to different parishes where they are most needed without having to worry about the impact of their transfer on wife and children.
1 Cor 7:1 – Paul teaches that it is well for a man not to touch a woman. This is the choice that the Catholic priests of the Roman rite freely make.
1 Cor. 7:7 – Paul also acknowledges that celibacy is a gift from God and wishes that all were celibate like he is.
1 Cor. 7:27 – Paul teaches men that they should not seek marriage. In Paul’s opinion, marriage introduces worldly temptations that can interfere with one’s relationship with God, specifically regarding those who will become full-time ministers in the Church.
1 Cor. 7:32-33, 38 – Paul recommends celibacy for full-time ministers in the Church so that they are able to focus entirely upon God and building up His kingdom. He “who refrains from marriage will do better.”
1 Tim. 3:2 – Paul instructs that bishops must be married only once. Many Protestants use this verse to prove that the Church’s celibacy law is in error. But they are mistaken because this verse refers to bishops that were widowers. Paul is instructing that these widowers could not remarry. The verse also refers to those bishops who were currently married. They also could not remarry (in the Catholic Church’s Eastern rite, priests are allowed to marry; celibacy is only a disciplinary rule for the clergy of the Roman rite). Therefore, this text has nothing to do with imposing a marriage requirement on becoming a bishop.
1 Tim. 4:3 – in this verse, Paul refers to deceitful doctrines that forbid marriage. Many non-Catholics also use this verse to impugn the Church’s practice of celibacy. This is entirely misguided because the Catholic Church (unlike many Protestant churches) exalts marriage to a sacrament. In fact, marriage is elevated to a sacrament, but consecrated virginity is not. The Church declares marriage sacred, covenantal and lifegiving. Paul is referring to doctrines that forbid marriage and other goods when done outside the teaching of Christ and for a lessor good. Celibacy is an act of giving up one good (marriage and children) for a greater good (complete spiritual union with God).
1 Tim. 5:9-12 – Paul recommends that older widows take a pledge of celibacy. This was the beginning of women religious orders.
2 Tim. 2:3-4 – Paul instructs his bishop Timothy that no soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim his to satisfy the One who enlisted him. Paul is using an analogy to describe the role of the celibate priesthood in the Church.
Rev. 14:4 – unlike our sinful world of the flesh, in heaven, those consecrated to virginity are honored.
Isaiah 56:3-7 – the eunuchs who keep God’s covenant will have a special place in the kingdom of heaven.
Jer. 16:1-4 – Jeremiah is told by God not to take a wife or have children.
V. Women in the Priesthood
Gen. 3:15; Luke 1:26-55; John 19:26; Rev. 12:1- Mary is God’s greatest creation, was the closest person to Jesus, and yet Jesus did not choose her to become a priest. God chose only men to be priests to reflect the complimentarity of the sexes. Just as the man (the royal priest) gives natural life to the woman in the marital covenant, the ministerial priest gives supernatural life in the New Covenant sacraments.
Judges 17:10; 18:19 – fatherhood and priesthood are synonymous terms. Micah says, “Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest.” Fathers/priests give life, and mothers receive and nurture life. This reflects God our Father who gives the life of grace through the Priesthood of His Divine Son, and Mother Church who receives the life of grace and nourishes her children. In summary, women cannot be priests because women cannot be fathers.
Mark 16:9; Luke 7: 37-50; John 8:3-11 – Jesus allowed women to uniquely join in His mission, exalting them above cultural norms. His decision not to ordain women had nothing to do with culture. The Gospel writers are also clear that women participated in Jesus’ ministry and, unlike men, never betrayed Jesus. Women have always been held with the highest regard in the Church (e.g., the Church’s greatest saint and model of faith is a woman; the Church’s constant teaching on the dignity of motherhood; the Church’s understanding of humanity as being the Bride united to Christ, etc.).
Mark 14:17,20; Luke 22:14 – the language “the twelve” and “apostles” shows Jesus commissioned the Eucharistic priesthood by giving holy orders only to men.
Gen. 14:10; Heb. 5:6,10; 6:20; 7:15,17 – Jesus, the Son of God, is both priest and King after the priest-king Melchizedek. Jesus’ priesthood embodies both Kingship and Sonship.
Gen. 22:9-13 – as foreshadowed, God chose our redemption to be secured by the sacrificial love that the Son gives to the Father.
Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19 – because the priest acts in persona Christi in the offering to the Father, the priest cannot be a woman.
Mark 3:13 – Jesus selected the apostles “as He desired,” according to His will, and not according to the demands of His culture. Because Jesus acted according to His will which was perfectly united to that of the Father, one cannot criticize Jesus’ selection of men to be His priests without criticizing God.
John 20:22 – Jesus only breathed on the male apostles, the first bishops, giving them the authority to forgive and retain sins. In fact, the male priesthood of Christianity was a distinction from the priestesses of paganism that existed during these times. A female priesthood would be a reversion to non-Christian practices. The sacred tradition of a male priesthood has existed uncompromised in the Church for 2,000 years.
1 Cor. 14:34-35 – Paul says a woman is not permitted to preach the word of God in the Church. It has always been the tradition of the Church for the priest or deacon alone (an ordained male) to read and preach the Gospel.
1 Tim. 2:12 – Paul also says that a woman is not permitted to hold teaching authority in the Church. Can you imagine how much Mary, the Mother of God, would have been able to teach Christians about Jesus her Son in the Church? Yet, she was not permitted to hold such teaching authority in the Church.
Rom. 16:1-2 – while many Protestants point to this verse denounce the Church’s tradition of a male priesthood, deaconesses, like Phoebe, were helpers to the priests (for example, preparing women for naked baptism so as to prevent scandal). But these helpers were never ordained.
Luke 2:36-37 – prophetesses, like Anna, were women who consecrated themselves to religious life, but were not ordained.
Isaiah 3:12 – Isaiah complains that the priests of ancient Israel were having their authority usurped by women, and this was at the height of Israel’s covenant apostasy.