Monday, September 22, 2008

Spiritual Fatherhood in the Catholic Church

One anonymous commenter left this comment over the weekend. I'd like to share my response with you so that perhaps with this, we all may be edified.

The original comment:
Hello, Im not going to insult you but I will speak the truth. Jesus said in the Bible "Call no man on earth father for you have only ONE Father who is in heaven.." Matthew 23:9 First of all catholics call this mere fragile old man Holy Father and also bow down to worship him, like Revelation speaks about. Everything about this leader is in fact antichrist and paganism. He is not the substitue for Christ and it is very sad that people believe that their salvation is through this man. Jesus is the ONLY mediator between man and God.. to believe anyone else is (especially a man) is against Christ. Where in the bible does it say that you are supposed to pray to Mary? Nowhere. If so, please show me. And on top of that... Catholics pray to statues of dead saints and a dead Jesus on a cross and Mary... Clearly (that is if you read your bibles), God wiped out whole nations because of idolatry!God Himself spake against the worshipping of graven images and statues in His 10 commandments! So if God commanded you not to do so, then who is the mere man to tell you that it is ok? I hope you people wake up before it is too late because everything about this "leader" is not for God, but completely against Him and he is leading you all astray.. Read your bibles and receive the truth from that source and not this human being. This message is truly out of love...
Dear anonymous friend. I would like to thank you for taking the trouble to speak the truth to us, whom you perceive as being in error. That’s a great and charitable thing to do. In the Catholic Church, admonishing the sinner and instructing the ignorant are among the spiritual works of mercy.’

I have to admit that in my younger and more combative days, my manner of answering might not have been as irenic, but perhaps I have mellowed over time. LOL!

So, if you would permit me to respond to you point by point because I too, as a Catholic, have a duty to instruct the ignorant (no offence intended). Forgive me for the brevity but I do hope you will get the point.

But know several things first. We most certainly do not "bow down to worship him, like Revelation speaks". That's just silly. Please do show where Catholics bow down and intend to worship the Pope like Revelation speaks, if you can. If you can't, then please retract that statement and do not further propagate such errors and calumny. That's a sin, if you read the Bible.

Perhaps in certain cultures, like the American culture where everything is so informal even the President is addressed as Mr. President, the act of bowing may appear alien and might even conjure up images of worship being offered. Brrrr....

In Malay Muslim culture, the custom is for the young to kiss the hand of the elders during weddings and during the festival to mark the end of the fasting month.

But in many more ancient cultures, such as the Middle Eastern culture of Jesus and the Jews as well as the Asian culture of the Chinese, Indian, Thai and Malay Christians, bowing is a polite way of showing deference to our elders. It most certainly does not entail worship! Jeepers!

Moving on to the point at hand, about calling priests Father.

Firstly, the context of Matthew 23 is Jesus’ admonishment of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who ‘do not do what they preach’. They love to accumulate earthly honours and titles (v7). In a hyperbolic counterpoint, Jesus instructs his disciples to do the opposite of the Pharisees because those who humble themselves will be exalted. That’s the context of the verse.

Should the Prodigal have addressed his Father as My Mother's husband, perhaps?

Now, can it be applied literally? As DonAaron had commented, what do you call the person who’s married to your mother? Dad/Father right? I do hope that you don't call him My Mother's Husband or by his first name. In Asian cultures, calling an elder or even worse, your parents by their first name indicates poor upbringing and boorish, uncouth and uncultured behaviour.

And what about the nice lady who taught you in school or even Sunday School (unless you’re an Adventist, the it’s Saturday school)? Teacher, perchance? But remember, dear friend, what the first part of Jesus’ prohibition was:

"But do not be called Teacher; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for (K)One is your Father, He who is in heaven. "–Matt 23:8-9

But the office of Teacher is one of the offices in the Church, along with Apostle and is one of the Spiritual Gifts. Some are called to be teachers. We must not be selective in our interpretation. If you want to be literal, aply it to your mother and father and your teacher as well.

Does my understanding bear out in the Scriptures? Let’s look at the opening of the proto-martyr St. Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin.

And he said, "Hear me, brethren and fathers! –Acts 7:2a

Wow. St. Stephen not only appears to violate Jesus’ apparent command, but uses the title Father on the very people who had Jesus put to death, the same people whom he calls stiff-necked (v51) and who would later stone him to death. And his reward? He sees the Heavens open up and sees Jesus in Glory. Doesn’t quite fit your theory, no? And not to mention the many times the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are named Father.

Anyway, for the Catholic Church, building on the spiritual heritage of Israel, priesthood has always been tied to Fatherhood. For example, in Judges 17, Micah, an older man, says to a young Levite, “Dwell with me and be a father and a priest to me” and later on the whole tribe of Dan says to the priest “be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be a priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?” Thus, you can see that priesthood has always been associated with spiritual fatherhood in the tradition of Israel, a tradition the Church, as the new Israel adopts as her own.

In New Testament times, the Christians are often referred to as spiritual children of the Apostles. St. Paul often refers to Timothy as his spiritual son (1Cor 4:17; 1Tim 1:2; 1Tim 1:18; 2Tim 2:1; Phil. 2:22). He also refers to Titus (Titus 1:4) and Philemon (Philem 10) in the same way. One would imagine that they would have returned his affection and spiritual fatherhood by naming him Father as he had named them sons.

This is not peculiar to St. Paul. St. Peter too names St. Mark the Evangelist as his spiritual son (1 Pet. 5:13). And St. John names the Christians under his charge children too (1John 2:1; 3John 4)

And so, dear friend, you can see that we Catholics are not so ignorant of Scripture as you would suspect. Let me end this by sharing this Scripture which captures the basis of us Catholics calling priests Father.

I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. -1Cor. 4:14–15

We will continue with the other points you have raised shortly. I but suspect that you will see that in these too, the Catholic Church is right. And, as many before you have done over the course of the Church's 2000 year history since it's foundation by Christ Jesus her Head, you too might feel called to enter her embrace =)

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Way to go Andrew! Always wished I could defend the Faith like that.Continue your good work and God bless.

Anonymous said...

Aloha, It is me again, the one who said call no man father. First I would like to say, I am not a protestant-I am nondenominational. I follow the bible strictly for what it says and do not cling to a religious group or denomination.. To do so already causes seperation between Christians because there is always a constant battle to defend that "I am a baptist" or "I am Catholic" etc. So we can drop that assumption of what I am now that I have told you. Now, I never thought or assumed, dearest Andrew, that Catholics were ignorant of what is in the bible. I do know, however, that ALL (not just catholics) religious groups have "omitted" parts of the bible to fit their teachings... Doesn't mean you have not studied it.Now Let's get to the worshipping of Pope Benedict (or pope's/priests in general) first. Just about every picture I've seen of any pope, there were people kissing his hand, priests laying flat on their faces and stomachs to show reverence, people carrying him on a throne and their heads bowed low or bowed down on their knees...Is that not worship? If not then what is it? Why are these people bowing to this man? Is he God? We already know that answer... So what is it exactly? In ACTS 10:25-26 Cornelius falls to the feet of Peter to show reverence and Peter immediately corrects him and says "Get up, I am a MAN just like you are!" Now, if Peter was humble such as this and gives ALL glory to God, who is the Pope? Another example, Revelation 19:10- John falls to the feet of an angel, and even the Angel says "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimoney of Jesus. Worship God!..." So you see.. Even the heavenly angels know its wrong to have any one to bow to them.. I understand showing respect, BUT bowing, kneeling, laying flat on your face, kissing hands and feet,etc.. is going a tad bit too far.. don't you think? I bow to no man but I do bow and worship GOD who is not man. Please look up yourself these photos.. they are all over and will show these extreme acts of "respect". Matter of fact, I've seen pictures of people praying to the statue of the dead John Paul... HUH? LOL.. Seriously... what is THAT about..This may hurt a little, but even you Andrew, worship the Pope. Right there on your little side picture collage on THIS page, you have " I pledge OBEDIENCE to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Jesus Christ." WOW! When you are "obedient" to someone, you are acknowledging that they have power over you or that they are in a "higher" position than you.. kinda like they are your master and you are their slave.. I don't know about you (yes I do, I take that back) but I pledge obedience to ONE and that is God. I think you should change that to something more appropriate like " I pledge obedience to ... GOD."

Now, moving on to the "Call no man father.."... Now Jesus is not referring to the literally tense of "father" as in a man who has biological children.. no not all.. He is talking about someone taking on the TITLE as "Father" as a means to exalt themselves.."Call no one Rabbi because you are all brothers.." Meaning that WE humans are all on the same level (we are brothers), no one is above another as God is above us. Read the rest of that verse and He clearly explains that.. He is referring to the title of "FATHER" as a means of "Lordship"..You took that out of context completely. Now as far the spiritual son, that is not exalting onesself with the title of "father",but as a mentor which is what being a father is and in that context, he was not requesting "father" to be a "title". In my church, I have spiritual mothers, brothers, sisters, and fathers but not in the sense of "HOLY FATHER" as you call the pope or that I exalt them... No not at all.. We are all the same. And to better support this "theory" which is not theory at all but truth, the pope's title is Vicar of the Son of God (Vicarius Filii Dei)... Hmmmm.... WHEW! That's a bit extreme and BLATANT! No need in me going in to what those letters stand for, I'm sure you have already had that conversation.. but to have a title that means the substitute of Jesus on earth is blasphemy!!! Jesus said that you will see Him coming just like you see lightening that strikes in the east is visible from the west. No man is the mediator between man and God. So, we know that the title "Holy Father" is not what we would describe as some one who is a mentor, no. This title is EXACTLY what Jesus Himself was talking about.... This title is used as a means to exalt the title carrier... Vicar means substitute or representativ.. That is why he calls himself "Holy Father" because he believes (as well you all) that he is the substitute of Christ on earth.. Tsk tsk.

I noticed that you did not expound or even defend the question as to why Catholics pray to Mary.. Why not? Is it because you have no biblical backing? Or why is it that Catholics bow to statues of Mary, Jesus, and dead John Paul? You do know that you are not praying to these people but demonic entities right? Why did the Pope change the 10 commandments? You know I read that the pope said that he had the divine power to do so.. power from whom? Satan? Lol.. Please "enlighten" me dearest Andrew.. I beg you. Oh and no I don't go to Sunday school or what have you... I uphold the Sabbath just as God commanded us ALL to do... Please use the bible when you address these questions, if you address these questions.. I don't care for "theories". Thanks much!

I wanted to paste this response in response to your post.. I have not read this article yet, but I will in a few and will respond intelligently.

Anonymous said...

Aloha, It is me again, the one who said call no man father. First I would like to say, I am not a protestant-I am nondenominational. I follow the bible strictly for what it says and do not cling to a religious group or denomination.. To do so already causes seperation between Christians because there is always a constant battle to defend that "I am a baptist" or "I am Catholic" etc. So we can drop that assumption of what I am now that I have told you. Now, I never thought or assumed, dearest Andrew, that Catholics were ignorant of what is in the bible. I do know, however, that ALL (not just catholics) religious groups have "omitted" parts of the bible to fit their teachings... Doesn't mean you have not studied it.Now Let's get to the worshipping of Pope Benedict (or pope's/priests in general) first. Just about every picture I've seen of any pope, there were people kissing his hand, priests laying flat on their faces and stomachs to show reverence, people carrying him on a throne and their heads bowed low or bowed down on their knees...Is that not worship? If not then what is it? Why are these people bowing to this man? Is he God? We already know that answer... So what is it exactly? In ACTS 10:25-26 Cornelius falls to the feet of Peter to show reverence and Peter immediately corrects him and says "Get up, I am a MAN just like you are!" Now, if Peter was humble such as this and gives ALL glory to God, who is the Pope? Another example, Revelation 19:10- John falls to the feet of an angel, and even the Angel says "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimoney of Jesus. Worship God!..." So you see.. Even the heavenly angels know its wrong to have any one to bow to them.. I understand showing respect, BUT bowing, kneeling, laying flat on your face, kissing hands and feet,etc.. is going a tad bit too far.. don't you think? I bow to no man but I do bow and worship GOD who is not man. Please look up yourself these photos.. they are all over and will show these extreme acts of "respect". Matter of fact, I've seen pictures of people praying to the statue of the dead John Paul... HUH? LOL.. Seriously... what is THAT about..This may hurt a little, but even you Andrew, worship the Pope. Right there on your little side picture collage on THIS page, you have " I pledge OBEDIENCE to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Jesus Christ." WOW! When you are "obedient" to someone, you are acknowledging that they have power over you or that they are in a "higher" position than you.. kinda like they are your master and you are their slave.. I don't know about you (yes I do, I take that back) but I pledge obedience to ONE and that is God. I think you should change that to something more appropriate like " I pledge obedience to ... GOD."

Now, moving on to the "Call no man father.."... Now Jesus is not referring to the literally tense of "father" as in a man who has biological children.. no not all.. He is talking about someone taking on the TITLE as "Father" as a means to exalt themselves.."Call no one Rabbi because you are all brothers.." Meaning that WE humans are all on the same level (we are brothers), no one is above another as God is above us. Read the rest of that verse and He clearly explains that.. He is referring to the title of "FATHER" as a means of "Lordship"..You took that out of context completely. Now as far the spiritual son, that is not exalting onesself with the title of "father",but as a mentor which is what being a father is and in that context, he was not requesting "father" to be a "title". In my church, I have spiritual mothers, brothers, sisters, and fathers but not in the sense of "HOLY FATHER" as you call the pope or that I exalt them... No not at all.. We are all the same. And to better support this "theory" which is not theory at all but truth, the pope's title is Vicar of the Son of God (Vicarius Filii Dei)... Hmmmm.... WHEW! That's a bit extreme and BLATANT! No need in me going in to what those letters stand for, I'm sure you have already had that conversation.. but to have a title that means the substitute of Jesus on earth is blasphemy!!! Jesus said that you will see Him coming just like you see lightening that strikes in the east is visible from the west. No man is the mediator between man and God. So, we know that the title "Holy Father" is not what we would describe as some one who is a mentor, no. This title is EXACTLY what Jesus Himself was talking about.... This title is used as a means to exalt the title carrier... Vicar means substitute or representativ.. That is why he calls himself "Holy Father" because he believes (as well you all) that he is the substitute of Christ on earth.. Tsk tsk.

I noticed that you did not expound or even defend the question as to why Catholics pray to Mary.. Why not? Is it because you have no biblical backing? Or why is it that Catholics bow to statues of Mary, Jesus, and dead John Paul? You do know that you are not praying to these people but demonic entities right? Why did the Pope change the 10 commandments? You know I read that the pope said that he had the divine power to do so.. power from whom? Satan? Lol.. Please "enlighten" me dearest Andrew.. I beg you. Oh and no I don't go to Sunday school or what have you... I uphold the Sabbath just as God commanded us ALL to do... Please use the bible when you address these questions, if you address these questions.. I don't care for "theories". Thanks much!

I wanted to paste this response in response to your post.. I have not read this article yet, but I will in a few and will respond intelligently.

Non-denomination said...

Andrew, nice job on the pictures and what not-But uh-Where is your support? I understand that many people bow to show "respect" to elders but this article/response to my comment bears no spiritual or biblical backbone. This page is based off of mere opinion and your OWN insight.. Let's talk BIBLE, let's talk TRUTH here. Like I mentioned earlier, theories and or opinions are invalid. That is why the entire world has been led astray, they don't stick to the source.. Don't you agree? Or not..If bowing wasn't such a "big deal", then why were Meshack, Shadrack, and Abednego willing to be burned alive instead of bowing to show "respect" to the statue of Nebudchanezzer? If it wasn't such a "big deal", then they could've just bowed physically to save their lives and not meant the act in their hearts right? Wrong! Bowing is an act of worship according to the Bible's standards and the Bible is all I need to go by... Not your opinion or trying to understand different cultures-And I don't mean that in a rude way by any means. Addressing a person that is in a authoritative position as "sir" or "mr." is as formal as it should be- What should we call him? Master President? Of course not! You can respect a man's position without offending God, and that's how it should be. Again, as I stated before, when Stephen said "Hear me brethren and fathers.." he was addressing literal fathers..Lol.. The title "Father" that Jesus was talking about is when someone uses that title as a means of lordship-Not a mentor which is what being a father means. Please people, let's not go in circles here. And on top of that, we are not speaking of the different cultures that bow, we are talking about the bowing to the pope... You pledge obedience to him right? Why? While you're at it, answer this as well, why were the 10 commandments changed by the Pope? I guarantee you'll talk yourself into a corner..But i'll give you a chance. Ciao!

Andrew said...

Check out my post in response.

An issue by issue response will follow.