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Germany Clashes with Pope over Child Discipline


Germany has on Friday rejected as “unacceptable” the pope’s comments that it’s OK to spank your children to discipline them, as long as their dignity is maintained.

Francis made the remarks this week during his weekly general audience, which was devoted to the role of fathers in the family.

Francis outlined the traits of a good father: one who forgives but is able to “correct with firmness” while not discouraging the child.

“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!” Francis remarked. “He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on.”

Verena Herb, a spokeswoman for Germany’s Families Ministry, told reporters on Friday that “there can be no dignified hitting,” and by comparing child discipline with violence, she added, “any form of violence against children is completely unacceptable.”

Completely unacceptable is what the German government does.

German parents who homeschool or spank their children can lose their custody. In contrast with its harshness with parents, Germany is extraordinarily lenient with bad behavior, in children and adults. While Germany was condemning the pope for showing support for child discipline, American Jewish Committee was criticizing a German court for concluding that two Muslims who firebombed a synagogue last July weren’t anti-Semitic.

Leniency for criminal behavior. Cruelty for parents fulfilling their family duties. This is the U.N. way in Germany.

One lunacy just leads to another. In Germany, corporal punishment of children is crime. Apparently, firebombing a synagogue is not crime or even anti-Semitic in Germany. The terrorist Muslims who firebombed the synagogue were sentenced to perform 200 hours of community work.

Leniency for terrorist Muslims, and no leniency for the pope and parents.

Not only Germany has not been harsh with the Vatican over child discipline, but the U.N. too.

Last year, the U.N. human rights committee “recommended” that the Holy See amend its own laws to specifically prohibit corporal punishment of children, including within the family.

In its written response, the Vatican argued that it in no way promoted corporal punishment, that the term “punishment” isn’t even used in the section of Catholic teaching and that according to Catholic teaching, parents “should be able to rectify their child’s inappropriate action by imposing certain reasonable consequences for such behavior, taking into consideration the child’s ability to understand the same as corrective.”

All the nations that are signatory to the U.N. Children’s Rights Convention (CRC) are required to enforce the repealing of their laws allowing parents to spank their children. Because the Vatican is a signatory, it is not known if the pope will be able to keep supporting parents and their right to discipline their children.

Some 39 countries signatory to CRC prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, including by parents at home. Those nations range from Sweden and Germany to Brazil. Even the pope’s native socialist Argentina prohibits all physical punishment of children, including in the home.

In the United States, which is the only great Christian nation that, by pressure of pro-family evangelical groups, has not ratified the CRC, parents can legally spank their children as long as the force is reasonable.

With information from the Associated Press.

Portuguese version of this article: Alemanha entra em choque com o papa sobre disciplina de crianças


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