Only one is your Father
joy3chan asked this question on 8/25/2000:
How come in most Catholic Churches, there are all these idols? Didn't the Bible say to not make any graven images? And why do the clergy dress like that? Also, why do Catholics call their priests, father? In the Bible doesn't it say that Jesus said to not call anyone "Father", because you have only one Father? And why is the Pope regarded so highly to Catholics? Is it right to have a church elaborately decorated, if not, then why do Catholics have them? Also, why aren't priests allowed to marry? Does it say anywhere in the Bible that some men have to live a life of celibacy? Also, why do some people go to priests for confession? Isn’t the only one who is able to forgive, Jesus Christ? Also, why do they have to say Hail Mary's? Does it mention anywhere in the Bible that you have to say this prayer? Also, why do they sometimes pray to different saints? Isn't anyone who does God's will a saint? Wasn't the Catholic Church founded by Apostle Peter and didn't Jesus say to Peter that He shall build the Church or the foundation on him? Did Peter start these traditions in the Catholic Church? If not, then why did it turn out this way? In a KPBS documentary on Apostle Thomas, they interviewed a priest and he said according to one of the books that were not put into the Bible, Jesus’ brothers and sisters weren't His biological ones. Apparently they came from a previous relationship that Joseph had. This whole thing implying that Mary stayed a virgin. Sorry for all the questions, but I have a lot of relatives who are strict Catholics and I have all these questions about their religion.
mscperu gave this response on 8/25/2000:
The joy of the Lord be in your heart.
May I suggest that you post these questions one by one so that we may answer in an orderly fashion?
First my answer to the Father problem
In invite you to have a look at the real Catholic experts on the Catholicism board. (There are some fake ones but the Lord makes them serve in order to have a better Catholic Church). We talk all the same language because we are steeped in the same doctrine and we understand each other at once be they from different cultures, of America, Europe, Asia or Peru.
In many parts of the world throughout the centuries saintly men who loved Christ and knew the Scripture had no misgiving at all to be called "father". Were they disobeying the Lord?
I say no. A Catholic would have understood at once this kind of reasoning. He would have asked how this reality harmonizes with the text we are talking about. It wouldn’t have crossed his mind that there could be a possible disobedience to Christ’s word as you imply. You can’t accept this kind of argument because your only source is Scripture isn’t it?
Now let me pinch back a bit: Have you called father the man that sired you? It says unmistakably in the Scripture "And do not call anyone on earth ‘father’," I suppose you have done so.
May I remind your rejoinder "then it's okay, even though Jesus Christ said not to do it?" It’s unfair to argue like that. I agree. This sort of arguments is called "ad hominem – against the person". We should argue "ad rem – concerning the problem". The scholastics of old have many things to teach us! But you don’t have any other way to argue because your frame of mind is Sola Scriptura. (You could look at the debate of this question). So let’s look at the text in question.
The biblical texts are understood better by the context. Do you agree? What is the context of our passage? The recriminations of our Lord against the Pharisees and Scribes that liked honorific titles.
The interpretation would then be: "You should not give each others honorific titles as the Pharisees do". What are these titles? Rabbi (master), teacher, father, director. Why? "Because you all are brothers". It’s not about the word "father". The teaching is that nobody should exalt himself. This is the intention. Jesus wants to avoid thatch His church be infected by the ferment of the Pharisees.
Now I have to thank you for your post because it made me go back and ask the Church Fathers. What did they think about this question?
I found for you and me a text of St. Augustine (Treatise of faith and creed 4):
"For if, on the ground of His having said, "Who is my mother?" (Mt 12, 48) every one should conclude that He had no mother on earth, then each should as matter of course be also compelled to deny that the apostles had fathers on earth; since He gave them an injunction in these terms: "Call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in heaven." You see it’s not about calling anybody with the name of ‘father’ for Augustine.
And Saint Agustin abounds regarding the reference of Saint Paul you asked for:
1 Cor 4: 14 I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. 15 Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
The ancient knew the Scripture. They knew it by heart. St. Augustine (Comm. In Ps. 78. I hope you know that the Vulgate and the Hebrew differ in numeration by one) knew this text too and shows how it combines with the other one commenting Psalm 78 verse 10/11: "And they forgat His benefits, and the wonderful works of Him which He showed to them; before their fathers the wonderful things which He did".
After some considerations Augustine continues "… do we more suitably understand thereby the fathers Moses and Aaron, and the other elders who are related in the same Scripture also to have received the Spirit, of which also Moses received, in order that they might aid him in ruling and bearing the same people? For why should they not have been called fathers?
It is not in the same manner as God is the One Father, who doth regenerate with His Spirit those whom He doth make sons for an everlasting inheritance; but it is for the sake of honor, because of their age and kindly carefulness: just as Paul the elder saith, "Not to confound you I am writing these things, but as my dearly beloved sons I am admonishing you:" though he knew of a truth that it had been said by the Lord, "Call ye no man your father on earth, for One is your Father, even God."
And this was not said in order that this term of human honor should be erased from our usual way of speaking: but lest the grace of God whereby we are regenerated unto eternal life, should be ascribed either to the power or even sanctity of any man. Therefore when he said, "I have begotten you;" he first said, "in Christ," and "through the Gospel;" lest that might be thought to be of him, which is of God.
Just the explanation the Catholics have for this problem. And… by the permission of St. Augustine you may continue calling your progenitor "father" without disobeying Christ.
mscperu gave this follow-up answer on 8/25/2000:
May I cite additionally a non-Catholic commentator regarding the text we are talking about?
"The Abba of Holy Writ has its equivalent in many Oriental languages, as well as in the Greek and Latin, through which it has passed into all the dialects of Europe. It was originally given to all presbyters, as implied in their name of elders, and was a title of humility when it became peculiar to the bishops, as (1 Peter 5:3) non Domini sed patres. St. Paul (1 Corinthians 4:15) shows that "in Christ"—that is, under Him—we may have such "fathers; "and thus, while he indicates the true sense of the precept, he leads us to recognize a prophetic force and admonition in our Savior’s words (Matthew 23:1), "Call no man your father upon the earth." Then the author grinds his ax against the Pope.
I can’t resist repeating the phrase: "It was originally given to all presbyters, as implied in their name of elders, and was a title of humility when it became peculiar to the bishops".
Ouch! Sorry! It’s like twisting a knife in the wound. But I repeat to myself: "Scripture alone narrows the viewpoint. You have no right to swagger". Will you forgive me?
Now let me take up my personal preference that in my community I be called by my first name. Again it’s a question of way of thinking. You have to make a distinction between theology and pastoral. Theology is doctrine that cannot be changed. Pastoral is the application of this doctrine. The application can be changed according to the circumstances. I don’t want to change the doctrine regarding this question. It’s all right call the Pope, the bishops and the priest father. But we have to look at the situation and act accordingly. Let me give you an example. The missionaries of Britain asked Gregory the Great what to do regarding the sacrifices of animals that was in use during the feasts of the natives. The Pope answered them that you have to move gradually introducing the Christian ways of life. So by all means let them celebrate the feasts of the Lord or the saints with sacrificing and rejoicing as long as they understand that it’s all in honor of the one God.
Now here in Peru many a faithful are very clericalists. They think that the priest is out of their league, a superior being. It’s like in the joke of a nun teaching Sunday class. She talks reverently about the excellence of holy order. Awed little James asks: "Oh sister, the priests do they go to the bathroom?" Blushing the nun answers: "Quite, they do that but not so frequently!" So I try to help my community to discover that I am a brother, a sinner but that I have a special ministry for them in the holy Liturgy. Then I am a special representative with the power of Christ to teach, to baptize and to consecrate and to forgive sins. This is visible. In holy Liturgy I put on the liturgical vestments and preside in front of the whole community. The honor is for the represented not for whom represents. In other meetings I sit between my brothers and sisters and I am taught by them and corrected too thank God. So it’s pastoral procedure not the teaching that I am changing.
Pray for me. I pray for all that do. I ask the Lord that He may bless them hundredfold. So praying for me is good business.