In the Lord’s Prayer we address God as ‘Father’. Catechesis on God the Father is central to our transmission of the faith. Catechists are often asked about the analogy between earthly fathers and our heavenly Father – is God our Father like an earthly father? Less often do catechists think of the priest, this other earthly ‘father’ that Catholics have, and ask: Can the priest, whom we also call ‘father’, help us appreciate and understand God’s fatherhood more fully? Yet I believe this is a valuable key.
Many say that the father of a family is a ‘real’ father and the fatherhood of the priest is only ‘something similar’. It is also common to think that the word ‘father’ really applies to the father of a family and only by analogy do we apply the term to God, that God is also ‘something similar’.
The view is frequently heard, too, that married Catholic priests are, at last, able to be fathers in the true sense of the word and that rather than this be an exception, it should be an open possibility for all priests of the Catholic Church. Celibacy is understood here in negative terms as renunciation of ‘real fatherhood’.
I, however, would argue that not only the fatherhood of the Catholic priest but celibate fatherhood is the fullest form of fatherhood possible for man because this is closest to the Fatherhood of God. Let me explain.