Reflection: Call No Man Father

by Father Don Thomas

The Bible actually states that we should call no man "father" (Matt 23-v9). Throughout the years, this text has been the source of misunderstanding, rejection, certainly misinterpretation and criticism, especially of Catholics who call the Pope "Holy Father" and the ordinary Priest "Father". From those who have a problem with this, all I would ask for and rightly expect is consistency in interpretation. If it is wrong to call any man "father", what about all those who call their male parent "father". Are they committing a sin or going contrary to the Bible? Don't say "that's different".

It is not different if it says "call no man father". That is why it has to be interpreted properly because people are not doing something out of line at all. The Bible makes it very clear there is only one true Father and that is God. The word "Father" simply means a "giver of life" and God is the giver or generator of all life, and that is why we properly call Him "Father".

We call our male parent "father" because God uses him as an instrument for generating or producing life in the womb of the mother, and thus he is a "giver of life" and he deserves the title "father". No one goes around implying or giving the impression that our "male parent" is equal to God in any way. So in like fashion, when Catholics want to share in the life of God, which is called "grace", they go their Priest for Baptism, Communion, and the other sacraments. The Priest is simply the instrument of God who really is the one who gives life to the soul.

The word "Pope" comes from the Italian word "Papa" which means "father", and Catholics look upon the Pope as an instrument of God who serves as the head or father of the Church Family. He is the one who is ultimately responsible as the Vicar of Christ for the life of that same Catholic Family that numbers some eight hundred million members. By no stretch of the imagination do Catholics think of the Pope as being equal to God. He is His Servant and instrument. Any other interpretation or explanation would pose a problem or a misunderstanding of the biblical text "Call no man father".

The Bible also says that we are to call no man "teacher"(Matt:23-v8). Yet we see and hear people of all faiths and religions speak of men who are their "teachers of history, math, spelling, science, and other subjects. The Hebrew word "Rabbi" means "teacher". Are all these people doing wrong in these situations? Absolutely not, because they are not making them equal to God, the one true Teacher. They know that these men are simply "instruments or conveyors of the truth", for that is what the word teacher means.

Again, if any Rabbi or teacher thinks he is equal to God or is held up as being equal to God, there would be a problem, an abuse or misunderstanding of the text "call no man teacher". Indeed, there is only one true Father and only one true Teacher, and that is God. All the rest are simply His instruments for life and for truth.


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