Pope’s remarks on smacking children cause a stir

Pope Francis has seemed to back parents who smack their children, providing the child’s “dignity” is maintained.

He made the remarks during his weekly general audience at the Vatican on February 4, which was devoted to the role of fathers in the family.

The Pope outlined the traits of a good father, as someone 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.”

Some child welfare campaigners have questioned the Pope’s comments.

A spokesman for the United Kingdom’s National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) said it took a zero tolerance approach to the corporal punishment of children.

Referring to the Pope’s comments, NAPAC’s John Bird said: “I don’t know what he had in mind when he said this.

“It’s about interpretation and where you draw the line.”

NAPAC’s founder, Peter Saunders, who is part of a Vatican commission to protect minors, was to attempt to raise the issue with the Pope during a meeting last week.

Mr Saunders said, given the Pope was not and never had been a parent, perhaps he needed advice on the upbringing of children.

He was sure that if the Pope had not chosen life as a priest, that he would have become a good parent and one who would not have used physical violence.

Fr Thomas Rosica, who collaborates with the Vatican press office, said the Pope was obviously not speaking about committing violence or cruelty against a child.

Rather, he was speaking about “helping someone to grow and mature”, Fr Rosica said.

The Church’s position on corporal punishment came under criticism last year during a grilling by members of a United Nations human rights committee monitoring implementation of the UN treaty on the rights of the child.

The Vatican argued that it in no way promoted corporal punishment.

But the head of its delegation said he would take recommendations back to Rome for review.


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , , ,