As the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis is certainly a person in a position of authority and influence.
So when it comes to parenting methods, and just about any area of one’s personal life, the Pope is often a beacon from which inspiration and guidance can come.
Nevertheless, Pope Francis made some surprising comments recently in front of thousands of people at St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, when he said that spanking one’s child is acceptable for bad behavior.
The Telegpraph reported that the Pontiff even recalled a conversation he had with a father, who told him that, on occasion, he hit his children for bad behavior, as he mimicked a father spanking a child on the butt.
“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.”
Dignity indeed, perhaps by Catholic standards, although maybe not by the standards employed by certain children’s rights groups, which are vehemently opposed to the spanking of children in any circumstance.
Those controversial comments come just a few weeks after other comments he made during his visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, when he said that if someone insulted his mother, he could expect “a punch” in the face.
Those comments were directed at the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, suggesting that if someone insults another’s religion, there is bound to be a violent reaction.
In expressing his example, Pope Francis gestured towards a Vatican official who organizes pontifical trips and who was standing next to him at the time, saying, “If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch in the nose.”
The Pope then threw a pretend punch, proclaiming, “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”
But as Peter Newell, coordinator of the Global Alliance to End Corporal Punishment of Children, said, “It is disappointing that anyone with that sort of influence would make such a comment. Now 44 countries worldwide have prohibited all physical punishment, including in the family, and another 45 are clearly committed to doing so.”