Call No Modernist “Father”…

Call No Modernist “Father”…

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? 

Comments (43)

  • sarto2010

    I have voted NO in the poll.
    However, I have been criticised, on occasion, on these very pages by Her Serene Highness The Editor, for refusing to apply the appropriate honorific to characters such as Mr K P O’Brien, Señor Bergoglio, Old Mother Murphy-O’Connor, Herr Kasper, Fräulein Gänswein, Signorina Coccopalmerio et al.
    I was informed that these characters are ordained priests and deserve their appropriate titles and not to accord them such shows a sede vacantist attitude.
    Well … ordained priests? Are they? Titles? Do they? Sede attitude? I hope not.
    [Editor ransacks her office in search of dunce’s cap for poor old Sarto].

    March 7, 2018 at 8:24 am
    • editor


      Two things; I think you will find the word “re-considering” [my position] in the introduction, but only up to a point.

      Personally, I will continue to either use the honorific titles in conversation and writing OR I’ll avoid calling “Fr Joe” or “Cardinal Marx” anything in conversation (at least not out loud 😀 ) I’ve been writing a short piece on Cardinal Marx which is what brought the subject to the forefront of my (insert adjective) mind. I have to be honest, of all the things I’ve ever lost, I miss my mind the most 😀

      I would certainly never say “Mr Joe” or “Old Mother Murphy-O’Connor”, “Señor Bergoglio” etc because there’s a fine distinction that you appear to have missed… Read on…

      It’s one thing to be reluctant to use an honorific title when speaking to or writing about an ordained man who has caused immense scandal (as I currently do, one can avoid calling them anything) but quite another to speak DIS-respectfully of them. Get it?

      As for “sedevacantist attitudes” – I think you’ll find that I was referring to failure to address Pope Francis with HIS title, “Pope” because not to do so in the current crisis where too many are insisting that he is NOT a true pope, implies agreement with that position. You will never find me writing or saying “Bergoglio” or even “Pope Bergoglio” – something about it that I just do not like, specifically that it smacks of sedevacantism. The fact that the Pope himself doesn’t like being called “Pope” – he prefers to be known as “Bishop of Rome” – indicates that there is much significance in that particular title, not to be confused with the simple “Father” (sorry, Fathers, no offence intended) or the other titles, such as “Monsignor” or “Cardinal” / “Your Grace”, “Your Eminence” etc. I never DO use those last two – when I write to a bishop or cardinal, which I do less and less these days, I write “Dear Bishop X ” or “Dear Cardinal X”.

      So, no need to hunt for the Dunce’s cap, Sarto – a simple misunderstanding. When I raised the issue of using honorific titles to address the ordained, I pointed out that these were nothing to do with the duties of any office, but merely a mark of respect for the priest. I said nothing about employing titles to indicate DIS-respect. Hope that clarifies things…

      PS – I voted YES in the poll 😀 Am I one crazy, missed up gal, or what?

      March 7, 2018 at 9:56 am
      • RCAVictor


        I congratulate you on your temperate response to perverse and disrespectful sarcasm.

        March 8, 2018 at 12:40 am
      • sarto2010


        March 8, 2018 at 12:43 am
      • editor


        Kettle’s on..

        March 8, 2018 at 9:57 am
      • sarto2010

        Editrix, many thirsty thanks.

        March 8, 2018 at 12:00 pm
      • St Miguel

        Love the gender specific noun Sarto. Learned all that at primary school even to the point that my teacher said that a female executioner would be known as an Executrix (or something like that) as well as a female actor would be an actress. Like your humour !!

        March 8, 2018 at 1:18 pm
      • editor

        RCA Victor,

        “Temperate”? “Temperance”? I haven’t drunk in years and even then I was never so think as you drunk I was… 😀

        March 8, 2018 at 9:55 am
      • St Miguel

        How do you get the little dots and accents above foreign words on a bog standard keyboard, as it intrigues moi?
        Danke schone.

        March 8, 2018 at 1:14 pm
      • sarto2010

        St Miguel, if you have an Ipad, as I do, then it is easy.
        If you are using a standard PC keyboard, then use Alt+000, so you hold down the Alt key then key in three digits.
        You will have to Google the digits under “accents and diacritical marks in Word”: I’m afraid it’s a bit cumbersome, but one gets used to it. The Num Lock key must be OFF and it only works out if you have a separate numeric keyboard.
        As I said, cumbersome.


        El bolígrafo de mi tía está en el jardín.

        March 8, 2018 at 6:13 pm
      • St Miguel

        Using a Chromebook which is probably too basic to do such wizardy…ha ha . Thanks for that though…I like your humour BTW.

        Le crayon de ma tante est sur le table.

        March 8, 2018 at 6:48 pm
  • Lily

    I’ve not thought about this too much but now reading this newspaper report and thinking it over, I couldn’t call any of these priests “Father” – no way. But I wouldn’t want to call them by their names, either, so I’d keep out of their way as much as possible and warn others to do the same. They’re a disgrace to the human race, never mind the priesthood.

    March 7, 2018 at 10:10 am
    • editor


      I’ve edited your post in order to “hide” the link which can be reached through the linked words now – the headline is SO scandalous, so I hope you don’t mind that I’ve “hidden” it. It’s a truly scandalous report, so some readers may want to give it a miss.

      March 7, 2018 at 10:13 am
    • Margaret Mary


      That’s a dreadful report. No, I wouldn’t call any of those priests “Father”. What I’m calling them is unprintable.

      I wouldn’t go near them for anything, including Confession. They’re a total disgrace.

      March 7, 2018 at 1:40 pm
  • St Miguel

    I have post nominals and would like to move to Germany and have Cardinal Marx address me as ‘Herr Engineer’ as I tell him to ‘accompany’ me in my unrepentant determination to NOT pay my tithes.

    March 7, 2018 at 10:48 am
    • Josephine

      St Miguel,

      I wouldn’t pay any attention to the Germans – they have said openly that they are an independent church or whatever form of words they used, I can’t remember. They’re not bothered about Rome, so whatever you tell them, they won’t listen, LOL! If they won’t listen to the Pope, they’ll not listen to you!

      March 7, 2018 at 7:53 pm
      • Faith of Our Fathers

        Am of the same opinion as you and as far as the Germans and Catholic Clergy over there go they are welcome to Cardinal Marx he’s well named . As for calling Priests Father I also wouldn’t call my Priest Joe or Pat or whatever. Of course we now live in the era of the correct pro nouns .

        March 7, 2018 at 8:54 pm
      • St Miguel

        And does that not mean they are Schismatic and Rome should be calling them out?…..But NO…..they are Herr Moneybags and Das Uber Heretics!

        Anyway Rome gave and still gives the SSPX a hard time …for BEING CATHOLIC !

        March 8, 2018 at 8:28 am
  • WurdeSmythe

    Fathers who decline to be called Fathers – spotlights many contemporary problems, doesn’t it?

    I say decline advisedly, because it seems that many of them can’t muster the energy it takes to actively refuse much besides Tradition these days…

    March 7, 2018 at 12:16 pm
    • Josephine


      I agree entirely – priests who decline to be called Fathers reflect the contemporary problems in both the Church and the world – the idea that everyone is equal, and nobody should be in a higher class or status than anyone else. It’s such a nonsense and we are having it rammed down our throats this week due to international women’s day tomorrow or whatever it’s called. I’m bored silly with it, and it’s bad enough taking it from so-called feminists without having priests falling for the same error. We’re just not all equal and it’s a dead cert that nobody is equal to a priest – even Our Lady!

      March 7, 2018 at 7:50 pm
  • Margaret Mary

    This is an interesting question. I don’t know that many priests would not want to be called “Father” or would not say so anyway, but I, personally, couldn’t call them by their first name, any more than I’d call my doctor by his first name. You’re just respecting the office the person holds, not them personally.

    Saying that, though, I wouldn’t want anything to do with truly scandalous priests like the ones in the Daily Mail report in Lily’s comment. I definitely would not be calling them “Father”.

    March 7, 2018 at 1:44 pm
    • St Miguel

      We had one locally (and Ed will remember)…refused to be called Father….and ALSO refused to wear a clerical collar.

      March 8, 2018 at 8:24 am
  • RCAVictor

    I always thought the title of “father” was much more than just honorific, since it indicates spiritual fatherhood for the faithful, whose souls they place in his care.

    If that is true, then I’m not surprised that some modern priests don’t want the title, since they have totally lost the concept of the sacrificial priesthood and have instead become swell guys who rub elbows wif da peeps and do a lot of social work (except on their days off, that is).

    March 7, 2018 at 2:50 pm
    • editor

      RCA Victor,

      As I said in my intro, the priest is given the title, precisely because of his “spiritual fatherhood”. That’s what I was taught at school. However, the title “Father” for priests is of fairly recent origin – at one time priests were addressed as “Mr” and it was only in the 19th century that “Father” came into useage (coming from, I think and would you believe, dear old Ireland. I doubt if many of them are thinking of their priests as spiritual fathers, now, sad to say.)

      Your concluding sentiments are exactly right. Modernist priests are keen to be treated as “one of the lads and ladesses…” unlike other professionals who jealously guard their status.

      March 7, 2018 at 6:01 pm
      • RCAVictor


        I had no idea that the title “Father” was modern. I found this in the article on “Fathers of the Church” in the Encyclopedia (1910?):

        “Similarly (we may notice in passing) the name “Father”, which originally belonged to bishops, has been as it were delegated to priests, especially as ministers of the Sacrament of Penance. It is now a form of address to all priests in Spain, in Ireland, and, of recent years, in England and the United States.”

        As we Americans are wont to exclaim: “Wow!”

        March 7, 2018 at 9:49 pm
      • editor

        RCA Victor,

        “WOW!” indeed. Let’s hope it’s not long before we can say “WOW! the Pope has announced the Consecration of Russia as prescribed by Our Lady!” That’s one “WOW!” we won’t leave simply to the Americans. We’ll all join in – what do you say to that? Oops, silly me…

        March 7, 2018 at 11:05 pm
      • RCAVictor


        I didn’t know the dictator of North Korea spoke English!

        March 8, 2018 at 12:36 am
  • Helen

    Thank you, Lily, for alerting us to that news article although now I wish I hadn’t read it 🙁 I just can’t get my head around WHY a priest or seminarian would want to behave in such a manner. Could it be that they actually become priests so as to be freely able to pursue a clandestine and well paid “vocation” without being suspected? I mean we are ALL called to chastity according to our state in life so why do they think that they are exempt? When I think of the way we struggle to remain faithful, it makes me boke to hear how these so-called clergymen are behaving! It’s scandalous and somebody should put a stop to it. As my husband said: what sort of model are they to young men?

    March 7, 2018 at 5:15 pm
    • St Miguel

      I think that before it was socially acceptable it was a grand old hideout for people to continue a lifestyle without being asked awkward questions. Cushy life, lots of travel, no mortgages or bills, a chance of redundancy. Get in front of audiences and dress up in finery…everyone wanting to be your friend.
      The give away with the article is ‘it is not a crime, only a sin’.I am aghast when I think of my late father working 5 days a week, 2 nights overtime on a Tuesday and a Wednesday to 9:30 PM and all day on a Sunday to bring a large family up on one wage. He would take me to Mass at 9:00 PM on a Sunday to keep him company. We were oblivious in those days to the contempt that they had for us as they creamed the offerings and lived like Lords off the backs of the hardworking ship yard and factory workers, who felt it was their duty to ‘put in the plate’…….my father was enraged back in the early 70’s…..THREE DAY WEEK if you remember for a local priest to demand that working men in those days pay paper money in to the plate…a so called ‘silent’ collection….in order to embarrass the rank and file to cough up more….a £ in those days was still a lot of money as the basic worker was on £30 a week.

      March 8, 2018 at 11:45 am
  • Helen

    Oh, and as for calling them “Father”, I wouldn’t even share breathing space with any of them!

    March 7, 2018 at 5:16 pm
  • Helen

    RCA VICTOR, what does ” wif da peeps” mean?

    March 7, 2018 at 5:19 pm
    • RCAVictor


      That was my reference to American ghetto-speak. Wif = with; da = the; peeps = people. Typical usage went something like this:

      “I’m gettin’ down wif mah peeps.”

      In more intelligible terms, though no less silly: “I’m expressing my solidarity with my peers.” Also, this is often a form of posturing used by politicians, who attempt to spin themselves as just one of the people, rather than as elected leaders of the people.

      March 7, 2018 at 9:55 pm
      • St Miguel

        Yep, we have it here…politicians patronising their constituents, especially in the poor and deprived areas….known as ‘slumming it’….e.g. Ian Duncan Smith touring Easterhouse and patronising the non working and disabled.
        Also in the South side of Glasgow where we still have tenement slums.

        March 8, 2018 at 11:32 am
  • Therese

    I’m afraid I would take a special delight in calling a priest Father if I knew he didn’t want me to, and I am also afraid that I would make a real effort to do this as often as I could reasonably fit it into each sentence. Childish I know, but that’s me.

    March 7, 2018 at 10:21 pm
    • editor


      March 7, 2018 at 11:09 pm
    • RCAVictor


      Hah, I’m afraid I’d be right there with you! I might even be tempted to add “Bubbles” to Father, depending on just how much anti-Catholic, heretical, sinful nonsense he spewed.

      March 8, 2018 at 12:38 am
  • RCAVictor

    So uh, I wonder if we can give a new name to the deliberate Vat.II demolition of the priesthood in favor of the phony Lutheran “universal priesthood of believers,” by calling it “Planned Fatherhood”?

    March 8, 2018 at 12:35 am
  • sarto2010

    To add fuel to the furnace, who intends referring to Saint Giovanni Montini/Paul VI, when the dreaded step is taken? Or Saint Oscar Romero? Or Saint Jorge Maria Bergoglio, as will inevitably be the case one day rather soon? Not I.

    I am increasingly suspicious of VII beatifications and canonisations, especially since 1983, when the rules were changed and the role of the advocatus diaboli was abolished. It may have been in these very columns that I read that JPII reduced the traditional 50-year waiting period to 5 years and BXVI reduced the 5-year waiting period to a shameful zero, so that the canonisation of JPII could begin immediately. Despite some eminently holy men among their number, Maximilian Kolbe perhaps, I personally regard the hurried canonisation of VII as an affront.

    I won’t hold my breath waiting for the canonisation of Pope Pacelli or Ven. Margaret Sinclair, for example.

    March 8, 2018 at 6:30 pm
    • St Miguel

      Or indeed Father Morrow of Humanae Vitae House Braemar !

      Wonder how many unborn children he save…UNLIKE Emma Bonnino, who is fawned over by the Vat Pack……I quite like that phrase I just coined there…THE ‘VAT PACK’….kind of rhymes !

      March 8, 2018 at 6:53 pm
    • editor


      “…who intends referring to Saint Giovanni Montini/Paul VI, when the dreaded step is taken? Or Saint Oscar Romero? Or Saint Jorge Maria Bergoglio, as will inevitably be the case one day rather soon? Not I.

      Nor moi! Definitely not. I will refer to Pope Paul VI as Pope Paul VI as I refer to Popes John XXIII and John Paul II as Popes John XXIII and John Paul II… I always think it looks ridiculous when I’m reading an article in which the author refers to them as “Saint” and “The Great”. Yeah, The Great … (I’ve just deleted that part of my own comment, because of the need to add the following prayer…) May the Lord forgive me for my lack of charity. I’m going to work on my lack of charity. Starting tomorrow…

      You are absolutely correct in your assessment, that these hurried fast-track canonisations of recent pontiffs are all about canonising Vatican II (and the “Vat Pack” – love it, St Miguel!) and less about holding up models of sanctity which is just as well, considering…

      March 8, 2018 at 7:33 pm
      • Theresa Rose


        They must have been in a big hurry to get rid of the Devils Advocate in order to fast track such canonisations.

        March 8, 2018 at 9:18 pm
      • sarto2010

        Indeed. The requirement for four miracles was reduced to two by JPII and the requirement for two miracles was reduced to one by Mr [sic] Bergoglio for the canonisation of JXXIII/Roncalli.
        The whole thing stinks … from the head down!

        [Sarto runs for cover!]

        March 8, 2018 at 10:32 pm
    • St Miguel

      And while all this goes on, the Catholic Herald comes up with piffle…and they can’t even spell the word MITRE…what happened to proof reading? However this overfussed blend of religion and showbiz makes my teeth feel funny.

      Can’t reply to questions from Cardinal Burke (too busy maybe?),but always TIME for this claptrap.

      And in Liverpool we have a poodle that can tap dance.

      March 8, 2018 at 10:52 pm

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