top of page

Priests as Fathers

I was explaining to a non-catholic recently that the priesthood is not like an ordinary job. I told him about the fact that priests are not "hired" nor do they have what most would consider ordinary freedoms or restrictions that go with a job. A priest doesn't ever "clock in" and he is not really "on call"; his duties--as assigned by his Bishop--are 24/7 until he dies. I certainly do not expect the world to understand the Catholic faith, so I do not mind explaining this. But it does, however, go to show that people have a very business-oriented understanding of the Catholic Priest.

What is your understanding of it? Do you see priests as hired employees? Do you see them as someone with an administrative responsibility? Sometimes people see priests as entertainers (including some priests themselves!); other times they see them as professional counselors. In a way, it is correct to say that priests are slaves to the Church (that is what the priest's collar represents, after all: a slave's neck shackle).

Priests give up many free choices in life that most other people enjoy. They are given a lot of latitude in the choices that they do make, but they are not in any way what we would call "free". This is the reason why married men who are given permission to be ordained (which is rare, and should be even more rare than it is!), are required to have their wives acknowledge that they will be subjected to the decisions that their husband's vocation entails.

So then, let me ask the question this way: when you think of a priest, do you want a father, or a manager? Some people would say that they prefer a manager: a very business-like role that entails oversight and mere management of Church activities (and also leads to the idea that the priest can get "fired" if the people raise enough of a stink). The Church does, however, tell us to call priests "father" and not "manager" (can you imagine it: "And now, all the way from Houston, Texas, your very own CEO, Manager Lopes!" Yeah, NO). Some might say that they want a "father" but let us make clear what that means.

Being called "father" assumes certain activities of the man. It assumes he will take on a "fatherly" role: to rule the "household" of the parish, and to check in on his "children" regularly to make sure that they are ok. He does this because a father is more than a manager; a father is supposed to love his children, and be concerned for their well being--both temporal and eternal. A good father reminds his children that they are accountable to their Heavenly Father, and helps them to know how to please Him above all else. He does things like this because, unlike a manager, he loves his children and wants to see them living faithfully. This also means that he does, at times, have to tell them that they are wrong and correct them (ewww! yuck!).

Although different jurisdictions of the Catholic Church throughout the world have different manners of priestly activity, the fatherly nature of the priest should be evident in them all. It is the reason that the Church chose to use the term "father" for the spiritual leader of the parish. He is not just an organizer, a ruler, a counselor, or a manager; he is a priest of God.


Recent Posts

See All

An Invitation

"Do not grieve over the temptations you suffer. When the Lord intends to bestow a particular virtue on us, He often permits us first to be tempted by the opposite vice. Therefore, look upon every temp

Understanding the Scriptures

"What does that mean?" he asked me after a certain Scripture reading. With all of my theological knowledge and degrees in the Scriptures, as well as Greek, Hebrew and Latin, I told him with full confi

Men and Women (4)

What I have been saying about the roles of men and women may seem to run contrary to popular opinion among Catholics today (because it is), but that does not mean that it is only my opinion. Furthermo


bottom of page