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Is it proper to address a Catholic priest as "father?"

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BRG253
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I'm having a debate about this on a forum for medical students, or was before I got the ban stick. The following question came up: if you were a doctor treating a Catholic priest, should you address him as "father" if that was his preference? I stated that I would not do so, because to me, that would imply that I consider him a religious mentor, or even acknowledge the respectability of his position. My resposne was very unpopular and I promptly got flamed. Later in the thread I got banned for stating that Catholic priests produce absolutely nothing of any slightest value whatsoever. Am I in the wrong? I think not. I didn't say that I would walk up to a priest and spit in his face. All I said is that he would have to be satisfied with "sir." I would feel that I was degrading myself by calling him "father."

Edited by BRG253
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I would not do so, because to me, that would imply that I consider him a religious mentor, or even acknowledge the respectability of his position.

The title "Father" is associated more with the "profession" or identification, and very little with "respect". It's just like when you exclaim "Oh God", you are not endorsing the presence of Mr. Evasive. So, I would not consider "father" as a sanction of priest's position. You can actually try prefixing it with a swear word :P - I bet no one will notice the contradiction.

Edit: I must add, however, that since you personally dislike using "father", it's OK if you use "Mr." My point is that it would not be immoral if you hear yourself saying "father".

Edited by Rockefeller
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The title "Father" is associated more with the "profession" or identification, and very little with "respect". It's just like when you exclaim "Oh God", you are not endorsing the presence of Mr. Evasive. So, I would not consider "father" as a sanction of priest's position. You can actually try prefixing it with a swear word :P - I bet no one will notice the contradiction.

Edit: I must add, however, that since you personally dislike using "father", it's OK if you use "Mr." My point is that it would not be immoral if you hear yourself saying "father".

Thanks for the reply. Isn't Rockafeller kind of an anti-Capitalist name though?

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I would not address him as Father, and there is no reason why he should mind the Mr.

Father is a sign of respect, on the part of his congregation. You aren't part of it.

I agree with Jake and would add that using the term "Father" is a form of framing the debate, in the sense that in every interaction with a priest, you become either differential, or seemingly rude for not being so.

For example,

Jimmy, you can go to hell!

or

Father, you can go to hell!

The second just feels worse to most people.(unless you hate your father then all bets are off)

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Isn't Rockafeller kind of an anti-Capitalist name though?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_D._Rockefeller

The Monopoly Myth: The Case for Standard Oil (Rockefeller's Company) http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pag...reg_ls_standard

And my notes on this lecture can be found here: http://docs.google.com/View?id=dgtd3qdx_80hfsq9b73

Enjoy.

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I would not address him as Father, and there is no reason why he should mind the Mr.

Father is a sign of respect, on the part of his congregation. You aren't part of it.

In the Catholic tradition, priests are addressed as "father" (and monks as "brother") by everyone, not just their congregation. Use of a title does not imply personal respect for a person or their beliefs--it implies respect for the principles of proper etiquette. If you didn't vote for the President and you personally hate the man's guts, it is still not proper etiquette to address him as "fag" in conversation. His proper address is "Mr. President".

Etiquette is a means of maintaining civility in society. When people cease to care about etiquette and replace the general principles with personal reactions to individuals, you may be sure that a true civil society no longer exists and you cannot expect to demand your rights from people who disagree with you any longer. Of course, this has been the case in the U.S. for some time, now. It may seem that it would be better to begin reform with big issues like the intrusion of government into individual lives, but like the "broken window" approach to policing, if you want to accomplish big things you must frame your reforms in such a way that they encompass the small things as well.

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If you didn't vote for the President and you personally hate the man's guts, it is still not proper etiquette to address him as "fag" in conversation. His proper address is "Mr. President".

Etiquette is a means of maintaining civility in society.

It's one thing to insult someone. Not calling a priest "father" is hardly insulting or uncivilized, though. "Mr. Insertnamehere" is a perfectly polite, respectful and accurate form of address in Western culture. Regardless of a person's job, title or office, they have a name and it's proper to use it in a respectful fashion, IMO.

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While it is a recognition of his "spiritual" authority, I don't think it's necessarily a recognition of any authority over you. Rather, it can also be an acknowledgment of the profession he occupies, as well as some sort of social custom. Do you have to? I don't think so. Especially in a doctor-patient interaction, where the patient is usually referred to by first name or Mr./Mrs. X ("Sir" or "Ma'm" would be fine too). I suppose you could call him "priest" as a recognition of his profession without the authority that "Father" connotes, but that sort of language seems strange outside of DnD or WoW.

In a similar vein (ie about titles), it bugs me when students refer to teachers or professors by first name. I think it's a lack of respect for the effort the professor has taken to be in that position and too familiar, even if the student is a similar age. For a Master's or PhD student I think it would be acceptable, maybe even a 4th year undergrad, because by that time, the student has probably worked with the professor a lot. I'm not saying the student has to idolize or break his back to the authority of the prof, but a first-third year undergrad using a professors first name just seems distasteful, like they're raising themselves to the professor's level of knowledge (or lowering the professor to theirs).

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It's one thing to insult someone. Not calling a priest "father" is hardly insulting or uncivilized, though. "Mr. Insertnamehere" is a perfectly polite, respectful and accurate form of address in Western culture. Regardless of a person's job, title or office, they have a name and it's proper to use it in a respectful fashion, IMO.

In Western etiquette, it's *not* proper to address people by their given name unless they invite the familiarity--it is ALWAYS proper to address someone by title, even if it's only "Miss" or "Mister". Most of the time, people are pretty casual about inviting you to address them by name, so it's not a problem, but in the more stultified sectors of the culture (i.e. religions and academia) this is not the case so you're stuck with the title. :P

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In the Catholic tradition, priests are addressed as "father" (and monks as "brother") by everyone, not just their congregation. Use of a title does not imply personal respect for a person or their beliefs--it implies respect for the principles of proper etiquette. If you didn't vote for the President and you personally hate the man's guts, it is still not proper etiquette to address him as "fag" in conversation. His proper address is "Mr. President".

I disagree that acknowledging the fact that Barack Obama is the President of the US, and not a fag, is just like calling someone who isn't my father, Father. It's more like expecting me to call the President sweetheart, or your majesty. (take your pick)

Catholic priests should've picked some other title than the one I use to address my father, and then everyone could use it freely. Expecting me to call someone I don't care for Father (and agreeing to be called "son", back) is a bit more than expecting me to be polite.

Similarly, I have no objection to calling bishops and cardinals by their title, but I do have an Objection to referring to the Pope or the Dalai Lama as His Holiness. (except if it's done sarcastically)

P.S. John Link, I agree, by refusing to call them by their chosen title, I am expressing disagreement with their choice of a title. It's not quite agression, but there is more to it than a regular greeting.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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In Western etiquette, it's *not* proper to address people by their given name unless they invite the familiarity--it is ALWAYS proper to address someone by title, even if it's only "Miss" or "Mister". Most of the time, people are pretty casual about inviting you to address them by name, so it's not a problem, but in the more stultified sectors of the culture (i.e. religions and academia) this is not the case so you're stuck with the title. :P

There seems to be a misunderstanding here. I agree that addressing people with their given (first) name can show a lack of respect in most Western cultures. Using someone's family name in combination with a generic but polite form of address (Mr./Ms.) should be perfectly acceptable, though.

ETA:

I can see that refusing to use someone's title can be offensive, but it should not be considered a breach of etiquette or even uncivilized. I mean, can anyone decide that the proper way to address them is "Grand Poobah of the Universe and Prettiest Witch in Hogwarts for Life"? I would think so, but am I really uncivilized for being disinclined to call them that?

Edited by Randroid
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In the Catholic tradition, priests are addressed as "father" (and monks as "brother")...

Well, there are monks that are priests. They are addressed as father. Then there are the other guys that are not ordained in the same manner as priests, they are addressed as brother just as nun's are addressed as sister.

As for first names, a whole lot of priests, nuns, etc. got away from using their last names, Father Meister, to using first names, Father Frederick, as examples.

Really, do as you wish. There is no necessary obligation for a title. Just be respectful and professional.

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When I was a young Corporal I was selected to drive the Regimental Padre.

The first time I picked him up he asked me to call him Padre. I never did. He also asked me to be his helper (altar boy or whatever you call it) I refused. He asked me to attend his sermon, I declined. Somewhere in the course of this two weeks I told him I was an athiest and that I thought it was my boss' idea of a joke to put me as his driver.

I believe the crappy assessment I received for that exercise was a reprimanded for not going out of my way to serve as more than this nominal officer's driver.

I never drove the Padre again, and that in itself made it worthwhile.

The term Father is intended to be more than titular. It is intended to capitalize on the respect most people hold for their own fathers. In my opinion that is nothing more than a dirty trick.

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The term Father is intended to be more than titular. It is intended to capitalize on the respect most people hold for their own fathers. In my opinion that is nothing more than a dirty trick.

This is sensible. Personally, I call my (adopted) father "dad", so to me, the word is just empty syllables like "Mister". I can also count on the fingers of one foot the number of times I've actually had to address a priest, myself. Nuns, now, I've dealt with on occasion, and I didn't see that it was odd to call them "Sister".

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This is sensible. Personally, I call my (adopted) father "dad", so to me, the word is just empty syllables like "Mister". I can also count on the fingers of one foot the number of times I've actually had to address a priest, myself. Nuns, now, I've dealt with on occasion, and I didn't see that it was odd to call them "Sister".

Excellent point. I'm on the other side. I was raised in a Catholic household. Even some priests in the family. So, I have addressed plenty of priests as "father", but it is an empty word like "mister".

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Excellent point. I'm on the other side. I was raised in a Catholic household. Even some priests in the family. So, I have addressed plenty of priests as "father", but it is an empty word like "mister".

I don't think it is empty. It shows acceptance of the role a priest is suppose to play in the life of a religious man.

Also, I don't think "dad" is an empty word either. Especially not for those who have good dads - the word has a certain meaning and "prestige" to it, if you will. Words carry with them a certain emotional conotation, and it is a bad habbit to make oneself disregard that meaning by repeatedly using an emotional word in non-emotional situations.

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I don't think it is empty. It shows acceptance of the role a priest is suppose to play in the life of a religious man.

Also, I don't think "dad" is an empty word either. Especially not for those who have good dads - the word has a certain meaning and "prestige" to it, if you will. Words carry with them a certain emotional conotation, and it is a bad habbit to make oneself disregard that meaning by repeatedly using an emotional word in non-emotional situations.

I don't think I stated "dad" as an empty word.

But I cannot state what "emotional words" are to others.

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In the Catholic tradition, priests are addressed as "father" (and monks as "brother") by everyone, not just their congregation. Use of a title does not imply personal respect for a person or their beliefs--it implies respect for the principles of proper etiquette.

I agree. I've never faced the situation myself, but it's simple etiquette and nothing more. There's nothing wrong with being polite, even to one's philosophical enemies.

This reminds me of an annecdote by Isaac Asimov. He ha d adoctorate in biochemistry and he taught the subject at a medical school. One student asked him "Dr. Asimov, are you a real doctor or a PhD?" I can see how doctors, and medical students, would say only medical doctors are real doctors, but that's no reason to call a PhD a "phony doctor" to his face.

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I agree. I've never faced the situation myself, but it's simple etiquette and nothing more. There's nothing wrong with being polite, even to one's philosophical enemies.

This reminds me of an annecdote by Isaac Asimov. He ha d adoctorate in biochemistry and he taught the subject at a medical school. One student asked him "Dr. Asimov, are you a real doctor or a PhD?" I can see how doctors, and medical students, would say only medical doctors are real doctors, but that's no reason to call a PhD a "phony doctor" to his face.

Several of us already explained both why calling someone father is more than etiquette, and why that analogy is weak. If you agree with both points anyway, you should respond to our objections too. Ignoring them is actual lack of proper etiquette.

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In The Letters of Ayn Rand she replied to a letter using the 'father' form of address.

To a Catholic priest, who requested anonymity

March 20, 1965

Dear Father:

Thank you for your letter. No, I have no desire to "tear it up in disgust" nor to "have a good laugh at an enemy." I found it profoundly interesting and I sincerely appreciate it.

(remainder of letter omitted)

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