At school, we were taught to call priests “Father” because they are the father of our souls. They care for our spiritual well-being, and work for our salvation. Easy enough to understand. No problem. Answering the Protestant criticism that the Bible says “call no man on earth your father” was/is also easy – click here to read a very clear explanation of the correct interpretation of that biblical verse.
There are, however, priests who dislike the title, which is purely honorific – that is, it is simply a means of showing respect. It is meaningless in terms of the status, ministry, duties etc of the priest.
When I come across priests who dislike being called “Father” or who fall into the “Call me Joe” category, I simply avoid calling them anything. I cannot bring myself to address them by their Christian names. A deep respect for, and love of, the priesthood is instilled in Catholics and few among us wish to show disrespect for the priesthood, even if we are less than impressed with the aforementioned “Fr Joe” and his ilk.
Lately, however, I’ve been re-considering this – more in terms of writing than speaking. Take Cardinal Marx, for example. Please. Take him. Anywhere. The German cardinal, Reinhard Marx, who is about as Catholic as Sadiq Khan has as much right to a Catholic title denoting honour and respect as Theresa May, if you ask me, which I know you didn’t…
Anyway, what about it. Should Catholics show respect for an individual churchman (by applying honorific titles) simply because he is ordained, no matter how much he abuses his office and betrays Christ by his words and actions? Or, is it acceptable to say “Hi Joe” or to write about “Marx” – what do you think?