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Reverend vs. Father: How Should You Address a Priest?

While Father Dave loves answering questions of faith from listeners, he also enjoys fielding questions from members of Team Busted Halo. In this case, Krista’s husband Clay has a question of faith regarding how one refers to a priest.

Krista recalls a recent Catholic funeral of a notable person in her city and says, “There was an article about it in our local paper and listed the priest as ‘Reverend Sean Ralph,’ which then begs Clay’s question: when is it ‘Father’ and when is it ‘Reverend?’ I’ve seen ‘Reverend’ written a bunch, but I’ve never said, ‘Reverend Dave Dwyer.’”

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Father Dave notes that other Christian traditions use the term “Reverend” more commonly when referring to their church leaders. However, he says, “In the Catholic Church, the protocol is that in writing, and I would say more formal writing, the protocol is that it’s ‘Reverend’ and abbreviated ‘Rev.’” He continues, “My actual signature for formal things has a ‘Rev.’ at the beginning. But I also put ‘David,’ and I’d never call myself ‘David’ either.”

“You could really just draw the line strictly in half between saying it and writing it: Saying it as ‘Father’ and writing it as ‘Reverend,’” Father Dave explains, but it also depends on the situation and publication. He also notes that he used “Father Dave” on the cover of his book since that is how he is most commonly known. Additionally, he explains that “Reverend” is also used in formal writing for other higher titles in the Church, such as if you’re addressing an invitation to a Monsignor or Bishop.

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While the abbreviation “Fr.” is also common, he says, “If you look at these formal protocols from the Catholic Church, ‘Fr.’ isn’t really a thing. It’s more of a colloquialism or a casual thing that we use less formally.” 

In answering Clay’s question though, Father Dave says, “I’ll modify this because Clay works in local TV news. Like if he’s interviewing a Catholic priest, and they want to put his name up on the screen, that’s less formal enough that I would probably say you can put ‘Fr. Jack Jones of Assumption Parish,’ and put the ‘Fr.’ on the screen.”