Vatican sex abuse group contradicts Pope, says it's not OK to spank

A Vatican sex abuse committee recommends that Pope Francis revise his remarks on spanking, given that "millions of children around the world are physically beaten every day."

Members of Pope Francis' sex abuse commission have sharply criticized his remarks that it is OK for parents to spank their children, saying there is no place for physical discipline and that the commission would be making recommendations to him about protecting kids from corporal punishment.

The commission met with its full 17 members for the first time this week and announced progress Saturday on drafting policies for holding bishops accountable when they cover up for pedophile priests. It will also be organizing educational seminars for Vatican officials and newly minted bishops on protecting children from predators.

But members got an unexpected and urgent new task when Francis told his general audience this week that it was OK for parents to spank their children if their dignity was respected.

“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,’” the pope said. “How beautiful!”

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

Commission member Peter Saunders, who was sexually abused by a priest as a teen, said the committee would recommend that the pope revise his remarks, given that "millions of children around the world are physically beaten every day."

"It might start off as a light tap, but actually the whole idea about hitting children is about inflicting pain," Saunders told a press conference. "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."

Another commission member, Dr. Krysten Winter-Green, a New Zealand native now working in the U.S. with abused young people, said there was no type of corporal punishment for children that was acceptable.

"There has to be positive parenting, in a different way," she said.

As The Christian Science Monitor reported, the Pope's endorsement of corporal punishment didn't sit well with many. 

"It is disappointing that anyone with that sort of influence would make such a comment," Peter Newell, a coordinator at the Global Initiative to End Corporal Punishment of Children, told The Telegraph.

Peter Saunders, founder of the UK-basedNational Association for People Abused in Childhood, called the pope’s statement “misguided.”

“It is a most unhelpful remark to have made and I will tell him that,” said Mr. Saunders, who was abused by Catholic priests as a boy and whom the pope appointed to a Vatican commission protecting children from abuse.

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