Jesus says in Mataio 23:9, “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.”
Some have misused this verse to denounce the Catholic practice of calling priests “Father.” Jesus’ words here are not meant to be taken literally, e ui ina. They are an hyperbole designed to emphasize our heavenly Father’s sovereignty: that He is the true source of life and wisdom (vaai a Paulo Tusi i le Efeso 3:14-15).
We know the Apostles did not take Jesus’ words in Mataio 23:9 literally, mo they called themselves Father!
le Au Paia o Paul, faataitaiga, wrote in his Tusi Muamua i le Korinito, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, e te le maua le tele o tamā. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (4:15).
Paul considered himself the “father” of the Corinthians because he had spiritually begotten them through the Gospel. This is the same sense in which the title is used by Catholic priests today. We call priests “Tama,” not because they somehow take the place of God the Father, but because they are meant to serve as witnesses, living reminders, of His love, guidance and authority in our lives.
O le mea moni o, the interpretation of Mataio 23:9 goes against the overwhelming evidence of Scripture.
faamasino 18:19, o lesi foi mea, Fai mai, “Come with us, and be to us a father and a priest.” In First Thessalonians 2:11, Paul writes, “You know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you.” (See also Matt. 1:2 ff.; 15:4-5; Luka 14:26; Galuega 7:2; 21:40-22:1; Roma. 4:11 ff.; 1 Kori. 4:14-16; Eph. 6:2; Phil. 2:22; 1 Tim. 1:2; Tito 1:4; Philem. 1:10; iai. 12:9; Jas. 2:21; 1 Pete. 5:13; 1 John 2:1, al iā.).
The practice of calling priests Father continued in the early centuries of the Church. i uiga i 107 TA, faataitaiga, le Au Paia o Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch implored the faithful to “respect the bishop as a type of the Father” (Letter to the Trallians 3:1).
i 177, the leaders of the Church of Lyons wrote to Pope Saint Eleutherus, faapea, “We pray, Father Eleutherus, that you may rejoice in God in all things and always” (Letter of the Holy Martyrs of Lyons; Eusebius Pamphilus, History of the Church 5:4:2).
Coincidentally, the title “Pope” (Greek, Papa), which means Father, was for a time commonly used for all bishops, but eventually came to refer exclusively to the Bishop of Rome.
Given the biblical and historical evidence, Catholics might rightly ask why others do not call their spiritual leaders “Father.”