PopeWatch: Spare the Rod




Pope Francis is capable of surprises every now and then, often to the dismay of some of his fans:

A group of child abuse experts summoned by Pope Francis to help tackle priestly abuse in the Roman Catholic Church has criticized remarks made by the pope himself in which he suggested that it was permissible for parents to spank their wayward children.

Two members of the 17-strong commission, holding its first full meeting at the Vatican, said Saturday they objected to Francis’ comments, made last Wednesday, in which he backed corporal punishment.

Leading British anti-abuse campaigner Peter Saunders, abused by two Catholic priests as a child, said the committee would ask the pope to reconsider his remarks.

“It might start off as a light tap, but actually the whole idea about hitting children is about inflicting pain,” Saunders said at a news conference at the Vatican.

“That’s what it’s about and there is no place in this day and age for having physical punishment, for inflicting pain, in terms of how you discipline your children,” he said.

Fellow commission member Dr. Krysten Winter-Green, a New Zealand native who works in the U.S. with young abuse victims, said any physical punishment of children was unacceptable. “There has to be positive parenting, in a different way,” she was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Speaking about responsible fatherhood at a general audience on Wednesday, Francis recalled a meeting with a father who told him he hit his children when they misbehaved.

“Once, in a marriage counseling session, I heard a father say ‘Sometimes I need to hit my children a bit, but never in the face, to avoid humiliating them.’”

The critics have a point.  Spanking is old fashioned and Biblical.  Every one now knows these days that the way to deal with misbehaving kids is to drug them, sentence them to endless counseling or to convince the kids that they are perfect snowflakes and that if anyone finds a problem with their behavior, well then that person must be mistaken or evil, because perfect snowflakes never do anything wrong.  What was the Pope thinking?


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  1. I am REALLY curious how many of those experts are parents…

    I mean I’m not either, but I’ve seen enough adults nowadays that CLEARLY needed to be slapped a couple of times (or weren’t enough growing up).

  2. What is the function of intellectuals, but to tell us things are not as ordinary people perceive them? Or, as Christopher Lasch put it, for many of those in the educational, mental health, and social work trade, the parent is merely the traffic cop between a variety of professionals tasked with actually rearing the child.

    We’d have less trouble with this if people proceeded under the understanding that social science does not answer normative questions and that a psychologist posing as an ‘expert’ on what you should value and what you should not (‘unacceptable’) is just that – a poseur.

  3. To strike a child in any way…must be absolutely avoided…[these punishments] greatly irritate the child and degrade the [parent].~St. John Bosco

    If thou shouldst see him (your son) transgressing this law, punish him, now with a stern look, now with incisive, now with reproachful, words; at other times win him with gentleness and promises. Have not recourse to blows and accustom him not to be trained by the rod; for if he feel it…, he will learn to despise it. And when he has learnt to despise it, he has reduced thy system to nought. ~ St. John Chrysostum

    Maybe you can explain where two saints got it wrong or the Biblical mandate that parents should hit their children?

  4. Deltaflute-
    do you have a source for those quotes? There are an awful lot of elipses in the first one, although I found it can be traced to this:
    The words of St. John Bosco as found in his writings. Condensed by James Hurley, reprinted from The Salesian Bulletin; the Salesian.org page for this is headed: They refer to the treatment of the boys and young men who visited the Oratory every day. That is not a statement on parents, but on teachers.
    The second one is much less edited, but only brings up three links, of identical quote; one of them gave a link to the PDF source, and the context is very much different than how you seem to be interpreting it:
    We must train the child to utter
    grave and reverent words. We must drive many strangers away, so that no corrupt
    men may also find their way in to mingle with these citizens. Wards that are
    insolent and slanderous, foolish, shameful, common, and worldly, all these we
    must expel. And no one save only the King must pass through these gates (cf.
    Ezekiel 44:2). For Him and all that are His this gate shall be open so that one may
    say of it (Psalms cxviii:20): “This is the gate of the Lord into which the righteous
    shall enter,” and, as the blessed Paul says (Ephesians 4:29),20 “speech that is good
    for edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Let their words be giving
    thanks, solemn hymns; let their discourse ever be about God, about heavenly
    29. How shall this be? And in what manner shall we train them? If we are
    zealous critics of those that are growing. The boy is very easily guided. He does
    not fight for wealth or glory — he is still a small boy — nor on behalf of wife or
    children or home. What reason for insolence or evil-speaking should he have? He
    contends only with companions of his own age.
    30. Make a law straightway that he use no one in despite, that he speak ill of no
    man, that he swear not, that he be not contentious. If thou shouldst see him
    transgressing this law, punish him, now with a stern look, now with incisive, now
    with reproachful, words; at other times win him with gentleness and promises.
    Have not recourse to blows constantly and accustom him not to be trained by the rod; for if he feel it constantly as he is being trained, he will learn to despise it.
    And when he has learnt to despise it, he has reduced thy system to nought. Let him
    rather at all times fear blows but not receive them.


  5. So the one is not about parents at all, and the second actually says “make sure you use praise and threats of physical discipline in addition to physical discipline to teach your son to speak in holy ways.”

  6. Sure.

    Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

    Proverbs 29:15 A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.

    2 Samuel 7:14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:

    As for saints, they tend to be all over the mat when it comes to physical discipline, hence the popularity of whipping for offenders as penance in monasteries and convents until the day before yesterday in historical terms.

    My maternal grandmother called my mom a savage back in 1966 when she slapped me for a misdemeanor. My mother responded that I would be a savage respecting no one and nothing unless she disciplined me when young. My mom in my case was correct, and my grandmother was wrong.

  7. My Dad never spared the rod, and I never got spoiled. That said, my Mom was abusive. However, with my horrid behavior I drove her as close to murder as a person can get without going stark raving mad. Indeed, none of the problems that I had in young adulthood were due to her but rather to my willful rebellion against God. Then by means of the consequences of alcoholism and addiction, the Holy Spirit made the punishments which my Mom had delivered onto me pale in comparison. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Eventually I decided to straighten out and fly right. Suddenly the punishment stopped. Imagine that!

  8. “Every one now knows these days that the way to deal with misbehaving kids is to drug them, sentence them to endless counseling… ”

    Exactly, a loving correction is quick, over, and done. I once saw a man refuse to discipline a child for continually running out into the street. That was not loving. A quick slap to the fatty area of the behind was in order and not applied. Discipline is a road, not a destination.

  9. I have sat in public with the “snowflakes” and their flaky parents.
    What a shame. Not on one occasion mind you, but on several. The dinner was constantly being interrupted by the perfect brats…children…and it finally got to a pathetic crescendo. The children ran the show.


    Polite and courteous children in public who benefited from LOVING correction.
    Meaning spanks followed by hugs and explanations that certain behavior is unacceptable.

    The later makes for an enjoyable evening and life for all participants.

  10. We spanked for offenses that harmed persons or property, or for refusal to submit to other punishments for lesser offenses. If the offense was mutual between two combatants they were humiliated by having to hug and chant “I love my brother” until I got tired of it. When they were too old to be spanked, then they held books or cans of food on outstretched arms until they could do so no longer. By having been initiated, these punishments were rare. Very rare. In fact, on my younger children they have barely been used at all because the standard has been set and it has been adhered to. That said, my oldest daughter never responded well to any punishment, nor to positive reinforcement. But I believe we avoided far worse with her than had we not used punishment because her behavior, while not model behavior, conformed more with acceptable behavior when it became clear she would not be allowed to get away with being a horrible person. Personally, I suspect an attachment disorder because my wife was staying out all night getting drunk and stoned when she was a baby, and likely not taking care of her needs while I was at work. I was in poor shape to take care of her after being up all night worrying about my wife who never showed up, then working all day. We recovered from that period but the effects are still there.

  11. “We recovered from that period but the effects are still there.”

    My guess is that the stronger effects of your painstaking love and prayers of that time have also left a immeasurable sign of compassion in her heart. Being the eldest daughter she might of picked up on the happenings and as she matured realized how amazing your sacrifices and love are for your entire family. God bless you Alphatron.

  12. These expert illuminati are arrogant enough to think that their revelations can contradict and supercede millenia of parental experience. Their politically correct creed has gone to their heads. The question to ask of course is how they were selected to be members of a papal commission on clerical child abuse in the first place. Speaking of being hoist by your own petard!

  13. My wife and I brought up five boys. I could rein in their wildest misadventures with a single glance; on the rare occasions that this failed, a sound slap on the back cured the rebellion. My wife’s “I’ll tell your father” also quieted the restless souls and bodies. Frankly, I do not know whether this would have worked with daughters, if we had any; but I am sure all the purified preaching and pop-psychology would not have produced 3 physicians, a judge, a priest, a permanent deacon, and 5 males seeped in teaching and practicing moral behavior to students, doctors, seminarians, and congregations. God be praised!!

  14. it seems to me that these experts provide no sound reason or logic to support their proclamations that corporal punishment is a bad idea.

    these experts, apparently, believe that their feelings and words should be accepted by all as though they have some special insights in to human behavior that is unavailable to the pope. my question is why should anyone have faith in the pronouncement of these self-acclaimed experts?

  15. Mac,

    You beat me to the “spare the rod, hate the child” Bible quote.

    Here goes. Having raised three men, I categorically state that if you don’t use some sort of physical force at an early age, the child never learns that his actions have consequences.


    And, academics have no clue about the real world or its working. It’s the main reason America is rapidly falling down the national rat-hole. The egg-heads are running everything. They have never gotten it right, yet. It’s the main reason big government needs to be limited.

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