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Pope Francis says it is OK to smack children if their ‘dignity is maintained’

(20 Posts)
LurkingHusband Fri 06-Feb-15 10:22:39

Pope Francis told parents it is OK to spank their 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.

Francis outlined the traits of a good father: one who forgives but is able to “correct with firmness” while not discouraging the child.

“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’,” Francis said.

“How beautiful.” he added. “He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on.”

The Rev Thomas Rosica, who collaborates 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”.

“Who has not disciplined their child or been disciplined by parents when we are growing up?” Rosica said in an email. “Simply watch Pope Francis when he is with children and let the images and gestures speak for themselves. 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.”

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 final report, the committee members reminded the Holy See that 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.

It recommended that the Holy See amend its own laws to specifically prohibit corporal punishment of children, including within the family, and to create ways to enforce that ban in Catholic schools and institutions around the globe.

The recommendations were prompted by reports to the committee of widespread physical abuse and use of corporal punishment in Catholic-run schools and institutions, particularly in Ireland, that committee members said had reached “endemic levels.”

The Vatican had argued that 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 that it was only responsible for implementing the child rights treaty inside the Vatican City State.

That said, it stressed that the term “punishment” is not even used in the section of church teaching that refers to parents’ duties to “educate, guide, correct, instruct and discipline” their children.

In its written response to the committee, the Vatican said that according to church teaching, parents “should be able to rectify their child’s inappropriate action by imposing certain reasonable consequences for such behaviour, taking into consideration the child’s ability to understand the same as corrective”.

The head of the Vatican delegation told the committee that he would take the UN proposal to ban corporal punishment in all settings back to Rome for consideration.

The Holy See isn’t the only signatory to the convention that has been singled out on the issue. Britain received a similar recommendation to repeal its law allowing parents to spank their children when it came before the UN committee in 2002.

Some 39 countries prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, including at home, where most abuse occurs. Those nations range from Sweden and Germany to South Sudan and Turkmenistan.

In the United States, parents can legally hit their child as long as the force is “reasonable”. In 19 US states, it’s still legal for personnel in schools to practice “paddling”.

NuggetofPurestGreen Fri 06-Feb-15 12:27:20

What a nice man. I might go back to being a Catholic.

NuggetofPurestGreen Fri 06-Feb-15 12:28:17

Not sure why I'm surprised by this since the pope and his crew think it's okay to abuse other people's kids too.

timer Fri 06-Feb-15 12:34:01

I think that's the least of their problems tbh

ReallyTired Mon 09-Feb-15 07:39:28

The bible is very clear that parents should not spare the rod. I doubt that anyone important from the Abrahamic religions is going to go against the bible.

Frankly it's a non story and whether smacking should be banned is a secular issue.

Bakeoffcakes Mon 09-Feb-15 07:47:32

Well the other week he was saying its ok to smack someone in the face if they insult your religion, so this doesn't surprise me.

And seeing as he's never been a father (well I hope not) he has no experience to go on. Same goes for marriage, abortion, womens rights contraception, I could go on.

Bakeoffcakes Mon 09-Feb-15 07:49:06

The bible says a lot of stupid things ReallyTired. We live in different times now.

Treaclepot Mon 09-Feb-15 07:54:41

It's not a non-story reallyTired. He is in a position of extreme power and influence. In parts of Africa which has a huge catholic population the use of violence against children is commonplace.

I have quite liked this pope but this an awful thing to say. The bible is not interpreted literally in many cases so why in this?

ReallyTired Mon 09-Feb-15 08:21:13

Traeclepot I don't think the pope is advocating violence. Certainly you cannot equate smacking to extreme violence against children. That is plain stupid.

I feel that countries should have the freedom to decide their own laws without papal interference. Its one thing for a country to choose to outlaw smacking, it's another thing for a religious figure to attempt to impose Political correctness.

Inkanta Mon 09-Feb-15 09:09:22

Well what a very nice man indeed.

KleineDracheKokosnuss Mon 09-Feb-15 09:14:15

Certainly you cannot equate smacking to extreme violence against children.

She didn't equate it with extreme violence. She equated it with violence. Given violence is any behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something, then smacking someone, which is intended to hurt them, is violence and treaclepot is correct.

ReallyTired Mon 09-Feb-15 09:33:10

Corporal punishment is legal in most countries and enforcement of smacking bans is laughable in places like South Sudan and Turkmenistan. Looking at the list on Wikipedia many countries than ban smacking have terrible human rights abuses against children rather worse than smacking.

The pope has his right to his personal opinons on any topic. Given his age it's not surprising he is not against smacking.

As I said earlier it is really a non story.

Bakeoffcakes Mon 09-Feb-15 10:19:13

To call it a "non story" is ridiculously dismissive of the Pope's power and influence over millions of Catholics.

PilchardPrincess Wed 11-Feb-15 19:47:05

So it's OK to use physical punishment on a child as long as you don't hit them in the face. In fact deciding not to hit them in the face is "beautiful" as it shows the adult cares about the child's dignity.


Given the church's past brutality to children (and others) I think this comment was pretty off really but telling I guess.

PilchardPrincess Wed 11-Feb-15 19:48:38

& it's really not a non story the Pope is God's voice on earth or something isn't he, if you're RC you are supposed to listen extremely carefully to what he says & adibe by it. At least that's teh gist of what I remember from school.

Of course people will listen to him. It's not like Fred Bloggs from 54 Smith Street said it, the Pope is the head of a major world religion.

PilchardPrincess Wed 11-Feb-15 19:50:14

The school I went to where the nuns gave the cane sometimes (although thankfully never to me) now I come to think of it.

Inkanta Thu 12-Feb-15 14:26:57

How does one do that - maintain a child's dignity whilst you smack them?

JudgeRinderSays Tue 17-Feb-15 10:22:39

It's about in line with Englsih law isn't it? A non-story.

sadcasetoday Tue 17-Feb-15 10:26:28

He can say what he likes but it's still illegal where I live. I doubt "but the Pope said it was OK" would stand up in court the papers would love it though.

BakewellSlice Tue 17-Feb-15 10:44:33

It will be a cold day in hell before I take parenting advice from a priest. wink

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