Holy Father – is he Holy?

by Steve Ray on November 8, 2014

A young man stood up at my conference in the Philippines a while ago and parroted (yelled out) the Fundamentalist mantra: “The Pope is a sinner like everyone else; why do you call him ‘HOLY Father’?”

I leaned into the microphone and said to the young man in front of 2,000 people, “You should really read your Bible more carefully and do your homework before you stand up and embarrass yourself in front of 2,000 people.” I then explained why we call the Pope our Holy Father.

There are several meanings for the word “holy” and that is what the young man did not understand. If holy simply means without sin, it is hard to see why “things” are called holy. For example, the HOLY OF HOLIES is a place. Is it called holy because it has not sinned?

And what about HOLY GROUND? God told Moses to remove his sandals — he was standing on HOLY GROUND. I guess that means that this dirt had not sinned but the dirt in the next gully had sinnned. HUH?

The word HOLY in Hebrew is kodesh and means apartness, holiness, sacredness, consecration, separateness. Holiness can mean without sin. It can also means dedicated or set apart for God.

So, is the Pope holy in the sense of being completely sinless? Of course not. But the Pope is set apart for God in a special way as the HOLY Father, the Vicar of Christ, the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter.

Bottom line, he is the HOLY FATHER and this fits perfectly with the Bible.

So much for a dumb challenge at a conference.

PS Remember that even WE are called holy. Paul considered all of us saints (literally “holy ones” with a small “s”). He writes,

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother. To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints (literally: “holy ones”) who are in the whole of Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:1-2).

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Will August 16, 2008 at 11:37 PM

Hi, Steve.

Might the person who asked the question have done so in a spirit of inquiry and not primarily to antagonise?

If so, you ought not to have been so harsh with him, for that would not be in keeping with the true spirit of Christian charity and fraternal correction.

Of course, if he did ask the question specifically to condescend the holy Catholic faith, a mild rebuke would have been in order.

Your friend,
“Will”

Steve Ray August 17, 2008 at 6:02 PM

When the young man stood up he was dripping with sarcasism and hostility. Filipinos are always getting kicked around by these folks and I take it upon myself to strongly defend them publically when I am with them in the Philippines.

N.W. Clerk August 18, 2008 at 5:24 PM

Good for you Steve! What was the man’s reaction? Was he appropriately chastened?

STEVE RAY HERE: The opposition was silent and embarrassed and the Catholics erupted into appreciative applause. Very seldom are they loudly and publically vindicated.

Brother Ed August 29, 2008 at 5:09 PM

Good job, Brother Steve.

As regards the first comment on this issue, you are much more of a gentleman than I am. May God forgive me, I have neither time, nor patience, nor desire to be polite with such people!!

I am beyond tired of the Swaggarts, MacArthurs, Whites, etc of this land leading people astray, continuing the schism, and creating more generations of confused Protestant kids who think they are pleasing Jesus by spreading lies and misinformation about His Church. In fact, Jesus Himself said that those who are teachers are going to be under a much more intense scrutiny on the Judgment Day. Perhaps we are doing them a favor to “get in their grille” a little bit rather than act like the usual apologetic and no nothing Catholic that these people have been picking off as converts to their heresies for years.

I would have paid good money to have seen the look on his face when you responded.

Brother Ed

Ibrahim August 31, 2008 at 9:53 AM

Steve, you are a convert to Catholicism from the Evangelical church. I am a convert from Islam into Christianity at large. Converts have a tendency to react harshly against their past, thus be fanatic. I love Catholic books; in fact, they are mostly what I read in Arabic Christian books. But if you convert to Catholicism, you don’t have to swallow every phrase of their own. It is okay to be a Catholic convert par excellent and still have reservations on their excesses. To have excesses is human. We as humans like to give big, huge titles such as the Holy Father, the Holy of Holies, the Best in the best or the best of the West, and it even gets more interesting when you deal with a Semitic person like me, we like to exaggerate; we thrive on exaggeration. Unless an Arab like me exaggerates, he hasn’t expressed himself. So, the phrase “Holy Father” while I see it as a title of respect and it is okay, but it is still an excess in expression, and it lends to man more than what he can afford. He is indeed a man like you and me, same thing like our Lord Jesus Christ in His full divinity, a man like you and me.

bro. ER February 12, 2011 at 12:16 AM

Bro. Steve, we filipinos are very sensitive in terms of feelings. Though the people around you praised you for your reasoning, but let us also consider the person’s feeling. Sometimes, as what we observed in our CFD community, they forget the humility our Lord Jesus taught us to have, every time, especially in preaching the truth. Yes, we are preaching the truth, but sometimes, we became like Pharisees unconsciously. So much for that bros., maybe there are some factors in that actual scene who resulted on that reaction(answer). I salute you Bro. Steve for sharing your time with us here in Davao, hope to see you soon. Continue spreading the goodness in your heart! God bless you! Salamat, Ingat and Mabuhay!

STEVE RAY HERE: HELLO BROTHER ER: Thanks for writing. I have been to the Philippines five times now and each time I have loved your country, your people, your profound faith, your good food and friendliness. I have always said the Filipinos are my favorite people in the world. Have you read my Open Letter to Filipino People?

I understand what you are saying and I have to agree and disagree. Yes, we should be charitable and kind, but that does not = being nice. Jesus was the most aggressive and harsh of anyone in dealing with those who opposed the true faith. He railed at the Pharisees and called them “white washed tombs full of dead men’s bones, clean on the outside and rotten on the inside” (Matt 23:27). And he declared it publicly — seemingly not worried about their feelings.

I try to follow the example of Jesus and not be so worried about feelings but about truth. Jesus was loving but he was not nice. Sometimes he was loving enough to be very harsh and even offend someone’s feelings. When I stood up to the young man and was strong against him, it built up the faith of 2,000 people.

What I found in the Philippines and what people told me is this: “We have been beat up by these vicious Protestant, anti-Catholics and that no one has ever defended us before. We didn’t even know our Catholic faith could be defended.”

So that was the spirit of the confrontation and though I am kind as much as possible, there are times where, like Christ, I don’t mind confronting someone strongly.

bro. ER February 13, 2011 at 7:06 PM

Thank you for your answer Bro.
Steve. Yes, indeed you’re right. thanks for an eye opener. Hope I will become like you. God bless!

Concerned Catholics August 8, 2012 at 11:50 PM

Lovin’ It in Las Vegas, Steve.
Ibrahim: Keep reading those Catholic books. Steve said the TRUTH.

God Bless.

John August 9, 2012 at 3:14 PM

I agree with Brother Ed above about being tired of the Swaggerts etc…. I often listen to the Catholic answers open line show on the radio and they just answer question after question after question. It is very uplifting to hear someone defend the faith and I hope one day I can be better at it myself. God Bless you for your witness!

De Maria August 9, 2012 at 5:30 PM

Ibrahim, you said:
Steve, you are a convert to Catholicism from the Evangelical church. I am a convert from Islam into Christianity at large. Converts have a tendency to react harshly against their past, thus be fanatic.

Perhaps you are projecting. I have found that converts to Catholicism from Evangelicalism or Protestantism tend to be very charitable towards their former peers.

I love Catholic books; in fact, they are mostly what I read in Arabic Christian books. But if you convert to Catholicism, you don’t have to swallow every phrase of their own. It is okay to be a Catholic convert par excellent and still have reservations on their excesses. To have excesses is human. We as humans like to give big, huge titles such as the Holy Father, the Holy of Holies, the Best in the best or the best of the West, and it even gets more interesting when you deal with a Semitic person like me, we like to exaggerate; we thrive on exaggeration. Unless an Arab like me exaggerates, he hasn’t expressed himself. So, the phrase “Holy Father” while I see it as a title of respect and it is okay, but it is still an excess in expression, and it lends to man more than what he can afford.

Respectfully, I disagree. Perhaps you didn’t read the entire explanation which Steve gave. But I thought it was excellent. The title does not imply that the Pope will never sin. It means that he has been set apart, as have all of us who are Baptized. We are set apart and in that sense “holy”. The Holy Father is set apart in a more exclusive sense, since Jesus set him apart to shepherd His people (John 21:17).

He is indeed a man like you and me, same thing like our Lord Jesus Christ in His full divinity, a man like you and me.

I’m not quite following that one. Are you saying that Jesus Christ was a man like you and I? You have not left Islam behind completely, it seems. In Christianity, we believe that Jesus is God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

Sincerely,

De Maria

De Maria August 9, 2012 at 5:45 PM

There were comments made concerning that Steve may have been “harsh” in his response.

It seems to me, when someone yells out “The Pope is a sinner….” in the middle of a Catholic conference, that person is not being especially caring about Catholic sensitivities. Therefore, Steve’s response seemed perfectly attuned to the nature of the communication. That was not a question of inquiry. It was a question wrapped in an insult.

Just my two cents.

Sincerely,

De Maria

eve August 11, 2012 at 2:16 AM

hello

i am from the Philippines

i know Filipinos are very sensitive

but I fully agree with Mr. Steve’s approach to that man

we are a Catholic country and sadly protestants such as Born Again are poisoning the hearts and minds of the faithful Catholic Pinoys

they even tell us that Mama Mary is now rotting and she is not in heaven

they even make fun of the sign of the cross

can you imagine the sarcasm and insults?

for me, if they have the guts to ask sarcastic questions

then they must be prepared to receive “harsh” rebukes

Tate August 14, 2012 at 2:23 AM

Hello Mr. Ray, I hope you can come to Cebu, Philippines and if you do so, I hope I can buy copies of your books Catholicism and Fundamentalism and Crossing The Tiber from you.

dorota October 12, 2012 at 7:32 AM

dear Stephen,
thank you so much for your input you had recently in our wounded catholic church in ireland in your coming here.i loved your talk(s).im currently facing my faith’s challenge.Im polish myself and have a friend who is oryginally polish catholic but married to an egyptian copt.they are strongly defending the ant-pope in rome policy and say that jesus appointed all the apostles to that role not peter alone et.i strongly feel i can not let it go and have to defend our pope and show them the way.please help.i will be forever grateful!!!!!!!!!!!as i think from this can their conversion start.Pray for this please.thank you so much for help!!!.Dorota

Nikki May 6, 2013 at 2:50 PM

Thank you for what you did, you handled the situation well, we need more people like you in the Philippines.

Jewel Atkins May 6, 2013 at 3:04 PM

It was partially the beauty of the Catholic Filipinos I worked among as a piano teacher which brought me to Catholicism. Such joy as I have never seen in Protestantism. The wise-acre young man is just one of many who are in the fold who know more than you, and are willing to tell you all about it. I was no different than this young man, at one time. Snide, proud, arrogant and only 8 years old. That’s how it starts.

Bambi May 10, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Hi Steve,
THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I believe it wasn’t just the kid who needed that explanation and enlightenment, but also most Catholics. I’m a Filipino; I just bought your book Crossing the Tiber. I know it will strengthen my faith and educate me. I will be coming home this May and I intend to give it to my aunt who is a devout Catholic that lost her 6 children to Protestantism.

A. Pablo Garza November 9, 2014 at 7:32 AM

Steve, ….Keep on keeping on. That was what an author wrote as he autographed a book I bought from him. Keep on keeping on. You defend Jesus and his church marvelously.

Mary McIver November 9, 2014 at 8:20 AM

And this is just ONE of the reasons I love Steve Ray. Straight up, no nonsense, adheres to the Truth. The kind of teacher I’ve been looking for for a long time. Godspeed Steve!

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