"Why do Catholics call their priests Father when the Bible clearly states call no one your father on earth, for you have one father - the one in heaven" (St. Matt. 23, 9).
The above quote from the Gospel of St. Matthew must be read in the context of the whole of Chapter 23, in which Our Lord Jesus Christ denounces in general the pride and hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees: the contrast between their words and their actions (v. 3); the heavy burdens they placed on the shoulders of the people without giving any assistance (v. 4); their love to be seen and praised (v. 5).
Our Lords words were meant to provide a lesson in humility, exhorting His followers to realize that only the Heavenly Father is the genuine Father, while all others simply partake, or reveal a part, of His Paternity. Christ concluded His admonitions, saying: "whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (v.12).
A literal understanding of Our Lords words would lead to an absurd conclusion, prohibiting ourselves from calling our natural fathers "father," while allowing us to call our mothers "mother." Yet, such an interpretation would go against Sacred Scripture itself, where Our Lady says to the Child Jesus: "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously" (St. Luke 2, 48).
St. Paul confirms that there are various types of fatherhood, all of which are based on the Fatherhood of God: "For this cause I bow my knees to the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all paternity in heaven and on earth is named" (Eph. 3, 15 [Douai]). Abraham is acknowledged as the father of all who have faith, both in the Old and the New Law: "He received circumcision as a sign or seal of the righteousness which he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them" (Rom. 4, 11).
St. Paul goes on to apply the term "father" to himself, while on more than one occasion writes to his own as if they were his children:
"I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4, 14-15);
"Here I am, ready to come to you this third time. And I will not be a burden, because I do not want what is yours but you; for children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children" (2 Cor. 12, 14);
"To Timothy, his beloved son in faith. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father, and from Christ Jesus our Lord" (1 Tim. 1, 2 [Douai]);
"To Titus my beloved son, according to the common faith, grace and peace from God the Father, and from Christ Jesus our Savior" (Tit. 1, 4 [Douai]);
"I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment" (Phile. 1, 10).
In similar vain do the Apostles themselves write:
"Your sister church in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark" (1 Pet. 5, 13);
"I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning" (1 John 2, 12).
From these verses it is evident that the title "father" was used not with any sense of pride, but rather to engender tenderness and affection within spiritual relationships. The Catholic Church wishes Her children to act in the same way when addressing those who partake in Gods Fatherhood through preaching Christs Gospel and sanctifying the faithful.
The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp (C. 155 - 157 A.D.) :
(St. Polycarp was called) "teacher of Asia and father of the Christians."
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies (C. 180 A.D.):
"He who has received the teaching from anothers mouth is called the son of his instructor, and he is called his father."
St. John Chrysostom (+ 407 A.D.), In 1 Tim. hom. 6:
"...priests are the fathers of all, it is their duty to attend to all their spiritual children, edifying them first by a holy life, and afterwards by salutary instructions."
St. Gregory the Great (+ 605 A.D.), In Evang. hom. 17:
" Priests are Patres Christianorum (the Fathers of Christians)."
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):
In the first place, the prelates of the Church, her pastors and priests are called fathers, as is evident from the Apostle, who, writing to the Corinthians, says: I write not these things to confound you; but I admonish you as my dearest children. For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers...It is written in Ecclesiasticus: Let us praise men of renown, and our fathers in their generation...Those who govern the State, to whom are entrusted power, magistracy, or command, are also called fathers; thus Naaman was called father by his servants...The name father is also applied to those to whose care, fidelity, probity and wisdom others are committed, such as teachers, instructors, masters and guardians; and hence the sons of the Prophets called Elijah and Eliseus their father.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 1549: Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers. In the beautiful expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the bishop is typos tou Patros: he is like the living image of God the Father.
"Fasting is useless. When one has faith it is useless for salvation or sanctification!"
Protestants generally see no value in fasting due to their doctrine of justification by faith alone. It is sufficient simply to accept Christ as ones "personal Lord and Savior" to be "saved." There is no re-generation of the soul effected by an infusion of sanctifying grace, instead ones sinful nature is just "covered up" by the merits of Christ. In addition, in accord with the Lutheran doctrine of "total depravity" every action of man is sinful, including fasting. Consequently, fasting cannot be meritorious in the eyes of God and thereby earn an increase of sanctifying grace to make us "participants of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1, 4).
Where does Sacred Scripture speak of fasting?
"Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning" (Joel 2, 12);
"Prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving, and righteousness" (Tob. 12, 8);
"And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth" (Jon. 3, 5);
"But as for me, when they were sick, I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting. I prayed with head bowed on my bosom" (Ps. 35 , 13);
"Then I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes" (Dan. 9, 3).
Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself spoke of how and when we should fast:
"But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (St. Matt. 6, 17-18);
"Jesus said to them, The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them...As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day" (St. Mark 2, 19-20).
Christ Himself fasted forty days and forty nights: St. Matt. 4, 1; St. Luke 4.
Fasting has since the beginning been part of the Churchs ceremonial worship:
"While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off" (Acts 13, 2-3);
"And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe" (Acts 14, 23).
Fasting gives added strength to the apostle against the powers of the Evil One:
"Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast them out? Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief...But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting" (St. Matt. 17, 17-20 [Douai]).
Fasting is a sign of the suffering and penitential Christian:
"But in all things let us exhibit ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in tribulation, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in prisons, in seditions, in labors, in watchings, in fastings" (2 Cor. 6, 4-5 [Douai]).
In todays world, smothered by pride and sensuality, the concept of fasting stands out as a great, if not repugnant, contradiction. Yet, fasting disciplines the body and brings into line the wayward desires of the flesh, that is, the unruly inclinations of our lower nature. Fasting raises our hearts and minds to the contemplation of heavenly things, aiding us to fulfil the universal call to sanctity. Conversely, the glutton is equated with being an enemy of Christs Cross (Phil. 3, 18).
The Didache (C. 90 - 150 A.D.):
"...The teaching of these words is this. Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies: fast for those who persecute you...Do not let your fasts be with the hypocrites. They fast on Monday and Thursday; but you will fast on Wednesday and Friday."
Shepherd of Hermas (C. 140 - 150 A.D.):
"On the day of the fast, eat only bread and water and, working out the cost of the food you would have consumed, give a corresponding sum to a widow, an orphan, a needy person...Observe these things with your children and all your household; thus you will be happy."
Tertullian, The Demurrer Against the Heretics, Prayer (C. 200 - 206 A.D.):
"Likewise, in regard to days of fast, many do not think they should be present at the sacrificial prayers, because their fast would be broken if they were to receive the Body of the Lord...Will not your fast be more solemn if, in addition, you have stood at Gods altar?"
St. Ambrose of Milan (+397 A.D.), Ep. 63, 17:
"Those who do not believe in the afterlife indulge in food and drink."
St. Jerome (+420 A.D.), Ep. 54, 105:
"If you wish to be perfect, it is better to fatten the soul than the body."
St. Leo I, Sermon 13, 1 (Ante 461 A.D.):
"The abstinence of him who fasts becomes the nourishment of the poor."
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):
To prayer let us unite fasting and almsdeeds. Fasting is most intimately connected with prayer. For the mind of one who is filled with food and drink is so borne down as not to be able to raise itself to the contemplation of God, or even to understand what prayer means.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 1434: The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others. Alongside the radical purification brought about by Baptism or martyrdom they cite as means of obtaining forgiveness of sins: efforts at reconciliation with ones neighbor, the intercession of the Saints, and the practice of charity "which covers a multitude of sins."
No. 2043: ...The fourth precept ("You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church") ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.
"Ninety-five million people were killed by the Catholic Church throughout history because they believed in Jesus and the Bible. Therefore, it is anti-Christ!"
The Medieval Inquisition
During the 12th and 13th centuries, violent Gnostic sects appeared in southern Europe, attacking the Church and encouraging revolt against civil authorities. These sectarians claimed to possess a secret source of religious knowledge, considered the material world to have been created by an Evil Principle and hence believed all matter to be evil, scorned marriage, encouraged suicide, and forbade the taking of oaths which bound the fabric of Feudal society.
Certain Fundamentalists claim an affinity with these Gnostics simply because they possessed a vernacular translation of the Sacred Scriptures. They conclude from this fact that the Catholic Church was persecuting them because they were "Bible-Believers". Yet, even Henry C. Lea, the most anti-Catholic writer on the Inquisition, had to admit that "the cause of orthodoxy was the cause of progress and civilization. Had Catharism become dominant, or even had it been allowed to exist on equal terms, its influence would have been disastrous."
The Church, together with secular governments, established the Medieval Inquisition in 1184. Its object was to try charges of heresy. If the person charged was prepared to recant his errors a public penance was imposed on him; if he remained obdurate, he was declared guilty of heresy and handed over to the State for punishment. Its punishments were severe and ranged from loss of property, imprisonment or death. The Church approved the severe repression of heresy, and believed that, in the circumstances it faced, was justified in Her approval.
The activity of the Medieval Inquisition contributed greatly to the restoration of order and repression of violence that had plagued Europe for over two hundred years.
The Roman Inquisition
The Roman Inquisition was established in 1542 and was the least active of the three Inquisitions, yet this fact has not spared it from criticism due mainly to the celebrated case of Galileo Galilee. Since this case, the Church has had to suffer the accusation of being anti-scientific and bent on keeping humanity in the darkness of its superstitious beliefs.
Galileo drew attention from the Roman Inquisition because of the manner in which he attempted to defend the "Copernican System" in his book Siderius Nuncius published in 1610. In it he challenged the Churchs traditional interpretation of the following passage from the Book of Joshua - "The sun rose; the sun set; the sun stopped at the command of Joshua" - which inferred that the sun moved around the earth and not vice versa.
Galileo asserted that it was "a fatal and very common mistake to stop always at the literal sense." In this he was correct, but where he erred was in his scientific proofs in support of the Copernican system, which were demonstrably wrong and inadequate. The Church drew support against Galileo from the works of other scientists such as Clavius and Francis Bacon. As the scientific debate was inconclusive, the Church saw no reason at the time to change its interpretation of the Book of Joshua.
Galileo was condemned as a heretic for his obstinence and placed under house arrest. It is patently untrue that he was ever tortured or placed in prison. The Pope at the time remained friendly towards him and actually granted him a life-time pension in 1632, and his blessing on his death-bed in 1642.
As a final point, it is noteworthy that the conclusive proofs for the Copernican System were actually developed by scientists who belonged to the Jesuits, free from any form of harassment or discouragement from the Church.
The Spanish Inquisition
The Spanish Inquisition was established in 1478 and is the most famous, or infamous, of all Inquisitions, depending on which version of history one may read.
In 1492, Spain was finally united as a single country. Queen Isabella knew that Spains unity depended upon a strong Church. She set about halting many abuses, reforming the Church by raising educational and moral standards.
One of the more serious problems faced by Isabella was the number of Jews and Moors who had pretended to convert to the Catholic religion without really believing in it. These false converts had risen to high positions in government and Church, and many were secretly plotting the downfall of Isabella, Spain and the Church.
The method chosen by Isabella to find these agents was the Inquisition. At first, there were abuses, with many people being falsely accused, tortured and imprisoned. The Pope stepped in and appointed new judges, headed by Thomas de Torquemada, a Dominican. He reformed procedures, making them more lenient, improved prison conditions and personally heard appeals. Torquemada was pious and just, and certainly does not deserve the reputation foisted upon him by slanderers who have an "axe to grind" against all things Catholic.
The 16th Century was a brutal period. The use of torture, execution by burning at the stake, was common in Catholic and Protestant Europe. Torture is not justifiable but remained in use even in the United States (the "third degree") well into this century; execution for treason is still recognized by all countries as legitimate.
The Inquisition, in fact, was perhaps the most just court system established before the modern period. It was certainly more just than the Elizabethan courts of Protestant England, where people were hung, drawn and quartered for hearing Mass in their own homes. Only 3000 of the 100 000 put on trial were executed in the Inquisition's 340 year history. By keeping Spain Catholic that country avoided the religious wars that racked the rest of Europe. In addition, the witchcraft hysteria that swept through Germany and England (which saw 130000 women executed on flimsy or no evidence) was found to be baseless by the Inquisition, saving many innocent lives.1
Cardinal Gibbons, Faith of Our Fathers, (TAN Books and Publishers Inc., 1980 Ed.);
Catechism of the Catholic Church, (Society of St. Paul, 1994 Ed.);
Father. Conway, The Question Box, (Paulist Press, 1902 Ed.);
Father Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham, Beginning Apologetics - How to Explain and Defend the Catholic Faith; Beginning Apologetics II: Answering Jehovahs Witnesses and Mormons, (San Juan Catholic Seminars 1996 Eds.);
Father John Laux, Church History, (TAN Books and Publishers Inc., 1989 Ed.);
Father John OBrien, The Faith of Millions, (W. H. Allen, 1952 Ed.);
Fathers. Saadeh and Madros, Faith and Scripture, Challenges and Responses, (St. Sophronius Editions, 1986 Ed.);
Father. Stenhouse MSC, Catholic Answers to Bible Christians, (Chevalier Press, 1988 Ed.);
Father Thomas David Williams, A Textual Concordance of the Holy Scriptures, (TAN Books and Publishers Inc., 1985 Ed.);
Glenn, Apologetics, (Herder Book Co., 1931 Ed.);
Henry Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church, (Oxford University Press, 1967 Ed.);
Henry Bettenson, The Later Christian Fathers, (Oxford University Press, 1970 Ed.);
Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, (Ignatius Press, 1988 Ed.);
Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, (The Mercier Press, Ltd., 1958 Ed.);
Maisie Ward, Catholic Evidence Guidelines, (Sheed and Ward, 1925);
Patrick Madrid, Surprised by Truth, (Basilica Press, 1994 Ed.);
Peter Brookby, Virgin Wholly Marvellous, (The Ravengate Press, 1981 Ed.).
Ramon Garcia de Haro, Marriage and the Family in the Documents of the Magisterium, (Ignatius Press, 1993 Ed.);
Rev. Henry G. Graham, Where We Got the Bible, (TAN Books and Publishers Inc. 1977 Ed.);
Rev. John Laux, Church History, (TAN Books and Publishers Inc., 1989 Ed.);
Rev. M. Sheehan D.D., Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine, (M. H. Gill and Son Limited, 1954 Ed.);
Rev. William A. Kaschmitter M.M., The Spirituality of the Catholic Church, (Lumen Christi Press, 1982 Ed.);
Robert Sungenis, Not by Scripture Alone, (Queenship Publishing, 1997 Ed.);
Rumble and Carty, Radio Replies, (TAN Books and Publishers Inc., 1979 Ed.);
Scott Butler, Norman Dahlgren, David Hess, Jesus, Peter & the Keys, (Queenship Publishing, 1996 Ed.);
Spirago-Clarke, The Catechism Explained, (Benziger Brothers, 1927 Ed.);
St. Charles Borremeo, The Roman Catechism, Pope St. Pius V 1566, (TAN Books and Publishers Inc.,` 1982 Ed.);
Stephen K. Ray, Crossing the Tiber, (Ignatius Press, 1997 Ed.);
William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, (Liturgical Press, 1970 Ed.);
William Thomas Walsh, Characters of the Inquisition, (TAN Books and Publishers Inc., 1987 Ed.);Contents
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Haddad has been actively involved in catechetical and apologetical work since 1990.
Graduating from Sydney University with a Bachelor's degree in Law Robert took up an opportunity to work with a new high school established by the Lebanese Maronite Order of Monks, (St. Charbels College, Punchbowl). Since 1990 he has acquired a Graduate Certificate in Religious Education (Catholic) from Charles Sturt University and set up a Religious Education course for Years 7-12 of uncompromising soundness in doctrine and orthodoxy.
Because of his position as Religious Education Co-ordinator in the school, Robert has been called upon regularly by both students and parishioners to publicly defend and / or explain the Faith. These numerous encounters are the reason for this work.
In 1996, Robert co-founded Lumen Verum Apologetics, an apologetical lecture group meeting and working in south-west Sydney on Friday nights. As well, Robert lectures in Apologetics at the Center for Thomistic Studies based in central Sydney and conducts catechism classes in various parishes around the Sydney metropolitan area. Robert is also a Board member of the Association of Religious Educators, established in 1997 by teachers, parents and friends concerned with the current state of Catholic education. In 1999, Robert plans to commence Theological Studies at Charles Sturt University. This is his first work.
"Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus."
Contents | Catholic Apologetics - The Work of God
Work of God - index