Pope not encouraging smacking of children, says Vatican

‘Correct without humiliating’ is the right way

Pope Francis: had been speaking at a general audience when he said it was okay to smack children to discipline them. Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis: had been speaking at a general audience when he said it was okay to smack children to discipline them. Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images

 

In his comments last week Pope Francis was not encouraging parents to hit their children, a Vatican spokesman has said. In a statement, Fr Federico Lombardi said: “I wish only to point out that the pope was speaking about the responsibility of parents to ‘correct without humiliating’, or rather, to assume the responsibility of keeping their children on the right track and to help them to grow up well, but always to do so with love and with respect for their dignity.” 

Parents’ responsibility

He said: “Finding the right way to ‘correct without humiliating’ is part of the responsibility of good parents in a variety of situations. The pope, for his part, was not encouraging parents to hit their children. As has been correctly observed, the pope always shows great affection and tenderness towards children.”

 

Pope Francis was speaking at a general audience when he said it was okay to smack children to discipline them, as long as their dignity is maintained. He outlined the traits of a good father as one who forgives but is able to “correct with firmness” while not discouraging the child.

He recalled: “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.”

Former president Mary McAleese accused the Vatican of reversing its position on parental corporal punishment and asked:“What faith are we to have now in the Holy See’s commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child?”

UN Convention

She pointed out that the Holy See is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which advocates the universal abolition of corporal punishment of children. Last year, the Vatican responded to the committee saying it did not promote corporal punishment.

 

Mrs McAleese asked: “Is the Holy See now doing what it claimed not to be doing a year ago, namely actively and internationally promoting the corporal punishment of children?”

Germany’s minister for the family, Manuela Schwesig, said: “There is no way of hitting children with dignity”, while two abuse survivors on the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors also strongly objected to what the pope said.