Church attitude to smacking kids raised with Pope

Former Irish president Mary McAleese has raised the issue of the Church’s attitude to corporal punishment of children with Pope Francis.

Ms McAleese’s revelation that she did this came as Ireland’s parliament last week removed the common law defence of “reasonable chastisement” of children.

In an interview, the former Irish president said she raised with the Pope “the Church’s support for corporal punishment of children, which is set out in the catechism and which the [UN] Committee on the Rights of the Child regards as a violation of children’s rights, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which the Holy See is a state party”.

She said that Pope Francis has set up a working party on corporal punishment under the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

This working party is chaired by UK child abuse survivor Peter Saunders.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states parents must regard their children as children of God and must respect them as human persons (CCC #2222).

But it also cites the passage from Sirach 30-1-2: “He who loves his son will not spare the rod . . . He who disciplines his son will profit by him.” (CCC #2223)

This is set alongside St Paul’s saying in Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

In May, the Council of Europe released a statement condemning corporal punishment against children.

This was after Ireland was found to be in violation of a European charter which forbids the practice.

Ms McAleese said she has communicated with Pope Francis “occasionally”.

Among the subjects she has raised are problem of youth suicide and self-harm, since the Church provides educational services to a majority of children in Ireland.

She also said she sees her Church as “a major conduit for homophobia which is toxic, a form of hatred that has nothing to do with Christ and is unchristian”.


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