Pope Francis thinks it is okay in certain circumstances to hit children.
He’s dead wrong.
He made the remarks in front of his weekly general audience of thousands in St Peter's Square in the Vatican on Wednesday.
The Pope remembered a talk he had with a father, who said he sometimes hits his kids when they have been bad.
Pope Francis recalled: "One time, I heard a father say,'At times I have to hit my children a bit, but never in the face so as not to humiliate them.'
"That's great. He had a sense of dignity. He should punish, do the right thing, and then move on."
Striking a child is never an acceptable act in my book. It is an utterly unequal power relationship between a father and children. Striking is a cowardly way out.
I grew up in an era where corporal punishment especially in schools was widely used. I never saw it having a positive impact, merely fueling a resentment and long term damage.
I saw it used indiscriminately and slip into child abuse at times when a particular child was targeted repeatedly. It never made sense.
The Catholic Church has form on this issue, especially orders like the Christian Brothers who applied force liberally. It was far from their finest hour.
The kid will get enough blows just by walking through life. Explaining to the kid what they have done wrong and taking away a favorite toy or TV program is much more effective.
The pope has put a foot wrong here for the first time. He is evincing old and discredited ways of raising children more typical of “The Great Santini,” Pat Conroy’s tome about his father's abuse than Pope Francis.
Sure the naysayers will cite “spare the rod spoil the child” but that smacks of a Victorian era where children were regarded as little more than chattels, often sent to work at five or six, than the modern era.
Can children be bold, frustrating and very tough to deal with? Yes. Does the act of striking them make them better kids? No—it just plants fear without resolving an issue.
I don’t want to sound like a child expert here but it seems to me using the rod has far more damaging consequences than sparing it. This pope especially should know better.
I’m glad to see Irish president Mary McAleese agrees. In a letter to the Irish Times she stated the pope “has turned the clock back considerably.”
“What faith are we to have now in the Holy See’s commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child?” she asked in the letter.