Corporal punishment is child abuse from its inception. Paddling, spanking, beating with a bamboo stick or by hand… there are no degrees of wrongness in this. They are all equally wrong.
Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church and spiritual leader to about 1.2-billion Christians worldwide, made a grave error this time last week that triggered an international uproar among anti corporal punishment campaign groups.
He said it is fine for parents to smack their children as punishment for bad behaviour. But before anyone accepts his words as gospel, he is wrong, and I’m hoping he will admit it.
It is NEVER right to hit a child. Corporal punishment is child abuse from its inception. Paddling, spanking, beating with a bamboo stick or by hand… there are no degrees of wrongness in this. They are all equally wrong.
By law in most countries if you lay a finger on a police officer, he/she can arrest you, charge you with abuse and possibly land you in jail… over a mere touch of a finger!
While recalling a conversation he had had with a father who told him that on occasions he hits his children if they have been naughty, His Holiness, smiling and miming the action of slapping a child on the bottom, said: “One time, I heard a father say, 'At times I have to hit my children a bit, but never in the face so as not to humiliate them.’
“That’s great. He had a sense of dignity. He should punish, do the right thing, and then move on.”
Campaign groups worldwide for child protection were horrified and outraged by the remarks that could be misinterpreted as an endorsement of corporal punishment.
I can fully understand being caught up in the moment and wanting to endear himself more to the audience by miming the action of slapping a child on the bottom just as any great raconteur might on such an occasion for greater effect, but his failing to add ‘I’m only joking’ (if he were) will have serious implications for children worldwide, especially within the Catholic church school system, where corporal punishment problems are deep-rooted and profuse.
His off-the-cuff remarks could open wide the floodgates of corporal punishment and promote their torture in Christian schools (especially) throughout the world, whether federal laws to the contrary exist or not. ‘If the Pope said corporal punishment is okay, then it must be okay’ is likely to be catch phrase and all the permission the deranged perpetrators (teachers and ignorant parents) need to execute heinous cruelty upon children.
“It is disappointing that anyone (the Pope) with that sort of influence would make such a comment,” said Peter Newell, the co-ordinator of the Global Alliance to End Corporal Punishment of Children.
Peter Saunders, the founder of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, told The Telegraph (London): “I think that is a very misguided thing to have said and I’m surprised he said it, although he does come up with some howlers sometimes.”
The late American President and staunch Roman Catholic John F. Kennedy once said: “an error only becomes a mistake if it is not corrected”.
His Holiness Pope Francis has so far only made a verbal typographical-type error, perhaps a mere slip of the tongue. I appeal to him, however, to correct this error before it becomes a mistake and I ask this be done for the greater benefit of children in Bangladesh and worldwide irrespective of race, creed, and nationality.
I implore him to issue a statement immediately retracting his unacceptable remarks and to also make mention of his gaffe in his historic speech when he becomes the first Pope to address a joint session of Congress in Washington on Sept 24 and the entire world will be his audience.
Irrespective of what the Pope said, facetious or otherwise, the facts remain unchanged. Corporal punishment is totally wrong and has no place in modern society. It serves no useful purpose whatsoever, but causes untold damage by creating damaged children, broken adults and an appalling society that nobody wants. The rot must be stopped.
Eminent Bangladeshi Supreme Court Justices, Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hassan Arif describes corporal punishment as: “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom”. Truth is inflexible.
English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) wrote, “To err is human; to forgive, divine”. No doubt everyone will forgive His Holiness when his error is corrected.
(The writer is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, humanitarian, and a human rights activist who campaigned for five years to abolish corporal punishment in Bangladesh.)
BDST: 0955 HRS, FEB 10, 2015