Pope Francis says it is OK to smack your children to discipline them — as long as their dignity is maintained. Francis made the remarks this week during his weekly general audience, which was devoted to the role of fathers in the family. He outlined the traits of a good father — one who forgives but is able to “correct with firmness” while not discouraging the child.
The pope said: “One time, I heard a father in a meeting with married couples say ‘I sometimes have to smack my children a bit, but never in the face so as to not humiliate them.’ How beautiful! He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on.”
It’s remarkable that the head of the Catholic Church, an institution whose reputation is in tatters thanks to an epidemic of child abuse, doesn’t exercise a little more prudence when it comes to talking about smacking kids.
The Rev. Thomas Rosica, who works with the Vatican press office, said the pope was obviously not speaking about committing violence or cruelty against a child but rather about “helping someone to grow and mature.” … “Simply watch Pope Francis when he is with children and let the images and gestures speak for themselves!” [said Rosica]. “To infer or distort anything else … reveals a greater problem for those who don’t seem to understand a pope who has ushered in a revolution of normalcy of simple speech and plain gesture.”
So “plain gestures” such as these are fine:
The Catholic Church’s position on corporal punishment came under sharp criticism last year during a grilling by members of a UN human rights committee monitoring implementation of the UN treaty on the rights of the child. In its report, the committee members reminded the Holy See the treaty explicitly requires signatories to take all measures, including legislative and educational, to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence — including while in the care of parents. …
The Vatican had argued it in no way promoted corporal punishment, but that it also had no way to enforce any kind of ban on its use in Catholic schools, over which it has no jurisdiction. It noted it was only responsible for implementing the child rights treaty inside the Vatican City State.
It has the (papal?) ring of evasiveness and duplicity, qualities that often come to the fore when we examine the Catholic leadership’s words and deeds.
(Image via Creative Commons / Boston Public Library)