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Pope Francis Supports Smacking Children, Just When We Were Starting To Like Him

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Pope Attends His Weekly AudienceAs far as Popes go, Pope Francis is definitely an improvement on his predecessor. That said, while a lot of people have fallen all over themselves to praise the progressive new papacy, I’m not likely to hand in my atheist card any time soon, and Pope Francis‘s remarks about child discipline during his most recent weekly address definitely don’t help.

From the Guardian, Pope Francis related an anecdote about discipline that he’d heard from a parent:

“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’,” Francis said.

“How beautiful.” he added. “He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on.”

Wow, I didn’t know that the entirety of a child outside of the face was some kind of magical humiliation-free zone! Fascinating. Also, I might ask the kid getting hauled over someone’s knee how dignified she feels before making a pronouncement that her getting smacked is ‘beautiful’. Seriously, is the Pope’s (admittedly awesome) giant hat pinching his head too tightly? What was he thinking here?

This isn’t the first time the Vatican has come under fire for its stance on spanking: last year, a United Nations committee on the “rights of the child” treaty criticized the papal state’s failure to ban corporal punishment. But a Vatican spokesperson, the Reverend Thomas Rosica, doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about when it comes to the Pope’s comments:

“Who has not disciplined their child or been disciplined by parents when we are growing up? … Simply watch Pope Francis when he is with children and let the images and gestures speak for themselves.”

First of all, the idea that “it happened to me and I turned out okay” needs an exorcism even more than poor Linda Blair and her pea-soup vomit. I occasionally got spanked as a child and yes, I turned out fine and no, I didn’t feel abused, but here’s the thing: spanking does not work. If Reverend Rosica’s parents jumped off a bridge, would he do it too?

And while I certainly don’t think the Pope is a child abuser, saying that you can tell he’s not one by looking at how he interacts with kids in public is maybe the most offensive thing about this whole situation. People who hit their kids in an abusive way don’t wear big neon signs saying “I hit my son with a belt multiple times last night”, and they can be just as affectionate, friendly, and doting in public as anyone else. Perpetuating the narrative that you can tell if someone is Good People or Bad People are just by looking at them, especially by looking at their performance in the public eye is dangerous, not to mention dumb as hell.

I’m not surprised that the Pope and the Vatican won’t condemn corporal punishment (and it’s not like I have any stones to throw from my glass house in the USA) but I am a little surprised at its description as “beautiful”. Pope Francis is an okay dude, but that’s about all the accolades I’m prepared to give him. No matter what my parents would say about the guy.

(Image: Franco Origlia/News/Getty Images)