Call no man your father…

Just last night, I was listening to a program on EWTN in which a caller rang up and asked about the passage “Call no man your father” (Matt 23:9). The explanation given was that Jesus was talking about the various factions among the Pharisees of his day, who distinguished themselves from one another on the basis of which rabbi they claimed as their “father” or “teacher”. Thus the various human authorities became excuses for divisions among those who should be following God. [Thus also, incidentally, Jesus was not referring to addressing someone “father” as a mark of respect.]

Then a friend alerted me to the following passage in Ratzinger’s Principles of Catholic Theology:

“Thoma Aquinas and the other great Scholastics of the thirteenth century are “Fathers” of a specifically Roman Catholic theology from which the Christian churches of the Reformation consider themselves completely separated and which, for the churches of the East, also express an alien mentality… On the other hand, it is evident that Protestant theology is also not without its “Fathers”, insofar as the leaders of the Reformation have, for it, a position comparable to the role of the Fathers of the Church… Indeed, we must go a step farther and say that the division in the Church is revealed above all in the fact that the Fathers of the one side are not the Fathers of the other. And the ever more observable inability of the one side to understand the other even in language and mode of thought stems from the fact that each has learned to think and speak at the knees of totally different Fathers. The differences among the sects do not have their source in the New Testament. They arise from the fact that the New Testament is read under the tutelage of different Fathers.” (pp. 140, 142-143)

Yes, indeed. Call no man your “father”…

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