Washington D.C., Jun 13, 2019 / 14:09 pm
Faculty at US seminaries have emphasized that spiritual fatherhood is an essential component of priestly identity, amid calls in some corners for priests not to be referred to as “Father”.
“Priests [are] like the father of a family – the spiritual family of the Church. It [is] a reminder to priests that they [are] to be like a father to a family,” said Fr. Pius Pietrzyk, O.P., chair of the pastoral studies department at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, Calif.
The priest “exercises authority in a paternal that is a loving way and does so in a way in which God the Father himself exercises his authority over creation, that is, out of love,” he told CNA.
Cardinal John Dew of Wellington has said he no longer wants to be called “Father”, but “John”, suggesting that dropping the title Father could combat clericalism: “All I am trying to do is get guys to look at what clericalism might look like and what attitudes might need to change.”
Cardinal Dew, who in an Oct. 4, 2005 intervention at the Synod on the Eucharist suggested that the divorced-and-remarried could be admitted to sacramental Communion, cited an article by a French priest written in La Croix International suggesting that not using “Father” could “transform” the Church amid the clerical abuse crisis.
The New Zealander cardinal also noted the increasingly egalitarian aspect of society.
By contrast, the Second Vatican Council's decree on the ministry and life of priests, Presbyterorum ordinis, while acknowledging priests' role as disciples of the Lord in common with all the faithful, emphasized that “priests of the New Testament … exercise the most outstanding and necessary office of father and teacher among and for the People of God.”
The Vatican II document added that the faithful “should realize their obligations to their priests, and with filial love they should follow them as their pastors and fathers.”