Wikipedia explains the etymology of the word Pope as follows:
The word pope is derived ultimately from the Greek πάππας (páppas) originally an affectionate term meaning "father", later referring to a bishop or patriarch. The earliest record of the use of this title is in regard to the Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope Heraclas of Alexandria (232–248) in a letter written by his successor, Pope Dionysius of Alexandria, to Philemon, a Roman presbyter:
τοῦτον ἐγὼ τὸν κανόνα καὶ τὸν τύπον παρὰ τοῦ μακαρίου πάπα ἡμῶν Ἡρακλᾶ παρέλαβον.
Which translates into:
I received this rule and ordinance from our blessed father/pope, Heraclas.
From the early 3rd century the title was applied generically to all bishops. The earliest extant record of the word papa being used in reference to a Bishop of Rome dates to late 3rd century, when it was applied to Pope Marcellinus.
Eventually the term Pope/Papa was limited to the Bishop of Rome alone and now, in the Roman Catholic church, the term 'Father' is usually used to address priests:
In the early church, members of the clergy generally did not have standard titles. However, an accepted way to address bishops was “papa” or “pappa,” which referred to the role of the bishops as father figures. This name eventually became associated solely with the Bishop of Rome. The highest title in the Catholic Church, that of “Pope,” is derived from those early titles. By the late Middle Ages, priests belonging to various religious orders were called father. This practice has persisted to modern times, as priests are customarily called father today. - Mercy Home
Regardless of whether papa/father is used to refer to the Pope or Bishops or local Priests the idea underneath seems to be a reference to spiritual and familial paternity based ultimately upon the notion that Adam was created to be both High Priest and Father of all humanity:
Adam is the father of the human race, as well as the high priest of humanity. Thus, there is an intimate link between priesthood and fatherhood. The priesthood leading up to Aaron and the Levites is a familial priesthood. What is important to understand during this period of salvation history is that the father of the family is a priest, and the prominence of the first-born son in the family. - Catholic News Agency
In Matthew chapter 9 Jesus is speaking to the crowd and the disciples and He is talking about the Scribes and Pharisees, that is to say the religious teachers and leaders. What he tells everyone is:
But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. - Matthew 23:8-10
Don't allow anyone to call you teacher/guide or Master because Christ is in that role and you are all brothers/equal under Him.
Don't call anyone on earth your Father because only God fills that role
The prohibition appears to be twofold: One is against accepting the designations of teacher or master over another and the second is against assigning the designation of Father to anyone. It should be obvious that these prohibitions are expected to be understood 'spiritually' both from the immediate context and the Bible as a whole (since Jesus has made clear that, spiritually, there are only two fatherhoods: God or the Devil) as well as from common sense ... we all have natural fathers as well as secular teachers, mentors, and bosses.
Taking the Matthew passage at face value there is no clear prohibition against a priest, for example, accepting the designation (spiritual) 'Father' but there is clear prohibition against anyone actually assigning that designation to 'any man on earth'.
Jesus is not forbidding us to call men "fathers" who actually are such—either literally or spiritually. [...] To refer to such people as fathers is only to acknowledge the truth, and Jesus is not against that. He is warning people against inaccurately attributing fatherhood—or a particular kind or degree of fatherhood—to those who do not have it.
With this understanding in mind coupled with the fact that priests in the Catholic Church seem to be called 'Father' by custom rather than according to whether they deserve the title (that is to say, a priest who does not have the heart of a shepherd nor the well-being of his flock as priority will still, by custom, be called 'Father'), how does the Catholic Church interpret Matthew 23:9 so as to normalize priests being called Father irregardless of their performance?