Church attitude to smacking kids raised with Pope

Corporal punishment resized

Former Irish president Mary McAleese has raised the issue of the Church’s attitude to corporal punishment of children with Pope Francis.

Ms McAleese’s revelation that she did this came as Ireland’s parliament last week removed the common law defence of “reasonable chastisement” of children.

In an interview, the former Irish president said she raised with the Pope “the Church’s support for corporal punishment of children, which is set out in the catechism and which the [UN] Committee on the Rights of the Child regards as a violation of children’s rights, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which the Holy See is a state party”.

She said that Pope Francis has set up a working party on corporal punishment under the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

This working party is chaired by UK child abuse survivor Peter Saunders.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states parents must regard their children as children of God and must respect them as human persons (CCC #2222).

But it also cites the passage from Sirach 30-1-2: “He who loves his son will not spare the rod . . . He who disciplines his son will profit by him.” (CCC #2223)

This is set alongside St Paul’s saying in Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

In May, the Council of Europe released a statement condemning corporal punishment against children.

This was after Ireland was found to be in violation of a European charter which forbids the practice.

Ms McAleese said she has communicated with Pope Francis “occasionally”.

Among the subjects she has raised are problem of youth suicide and self-harm, since the Church provides educational services to a majority of children in Ireland.

She also said she sees her Church as “a major conduit for homophobia which is toxic, a form of hatred that has nothing to do with Christ and is unchristian”.


News category: World.


Thanks to New Zealand’s ‘CATHNEWS’ we have this article describing former Irish Prime Minister, Mary McAleese’s contact with Pope Francis on issues of importance to those seeking justice in the Roman Catholic Church. Among these issues is the Church’s attitude towards the chastisement of children which can be seen to be in conflict. Being a party to the U.N. Charter for Human Rights, which specifically bans such a practice, the Church has to recognise that its Catechism, which provides an excuse for the punishment of children – by use of ‘the rod’ if deemed to be called for  – is in conflict with the U.N. Charter.

The former Irisah President has apparently raisede other issues with the Pope, including that of the problem of homophobia in the Church – a situation that is not exclusive to Catholics but also to many parts of the Body of Christ. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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