Pope says it’s OK to spank children if you don’t demean them

Updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri February 6, 2015

Story highlights

Pope Francis recalls a father who told how he sometimes hit his children but not in the face

A good father "knows how to discipline without demeaning," the Pope says

CNN —  

Pope Francis has stirred up a hornet’s nest with remarks in which he said it’s OK for parents to spank children, so long as they do it with dignity.

The comments came in his general audience Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square, when Francis was talking about the importance of a good father within a family.

“I once heard at a wedding a father say, ‘I sometimes have to hit my children a little but never in the face, so as to not demean them.’ How nice, I thought, he has a sense of dignity,” the Pope said.

“When he punishes, he does it right and moves on.”

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The principle of not humiliating the child while doling out the punishment appears to be central to the Pope’s justification of spanking, as is that of forgiveness.

“A good father knows how to wait and knows how to forgive from the bottom of his heart. Of course he can also discipline with a firm hand: he’s not weak, submissive, sentimental,” he said.

“This father knows how to discipline without demeaning; he knows how to protect without restraint.”

The issue of corporal punishment for children is divisive in many countries, and the Pope’s remarks prompted an outpouring of both support and criticism on social media.