“Cardinal John Dew of New Zealand wrote a missive to Catholics of the Pacific archipelago urging them to not address priests as ‘Father.’
In providing a synopsis of an article by Fr. Jean-Pierre Roche that appeared in La Croix, Cardinal Dew said he joined the French priest in wondering why priests are called ‘Father.’
He continued, ‘In August last year Pope Francis wrote a Letter to the People of God, to all of us. The Holy Father appealed to all of God’s people to take action against ‘clericalism’ which he sees as the source of abuse perpetrated by priest and bishops.’…
Cardinal Dew has been criticized in the past for arguing that divorced and ‘remarried’ Catholics should be admitted to the Eucharist. He has also taken liberties in the liturgy of the Mass.
Catholic theologians and commentators have noted in the past the reasons why Catholics generally refer to priests personally as ‘Father.’ For example, as the apologists at Catholic Answers explain, to take the words of Jesus Christ literally would mean that no one would call his own paternal parent ‘Father.’ The use of the term in the Old Testament was not limited to one’s natural father. For example, in the book of Genesis, Joseph tells his brothers that God had given him a fatherly relationship with the Pharaoh of Egypt: ‘So it was not you who sent me here, but God; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt’ (Gen. 45:8). The Prophet Job says: ‘I was a father to the poor, and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know’ (Job 29:16). And the Lord told King David’s steward, Eliakim: ‘In that day I will call my servant Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah … and I will clothe him with [a] robe, and will bind [a] girdle on him, and will commit … authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah’ (Is. 22:20–21).
In the New Testament, protomartyr St. Stephen refers to ‘our father Abraham’ (Acts 7:2), while St. Paul speaks of ‘our father Isaac’ in Romans 9:10. Also, various early writers, such as St. Clement of Rome and St. John Chrysostom, are known as ‘Fathers of the Church.’
It has been suggested that Jesus was engaging in rhetoric in order to make a point. The entire passage of Matthew 23 reads: ‘But you are not to be called ‘rabbi,’ for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called ‘masters,’ for you have one master, the Christ’ (Mt. 23:8–10).”