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Pope's spanking comment sparks alarm

Published:Sunday | February 8, 2015 | 12:00 AM

(AP):

Members of Pope Francis' sex abuse commission have criticised his remarks that it is okay 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 yesterday on drafting policies for holding bishops accountable when they cover up for paedophile priests. Commission members also said they were organising educational seminars for Vatican officials and newly minted bishops on protecting children from predators.

But they got an unexpected and urgent new task when Francis told his weekly general audience this week that it was okay for parents to spank their children if their dignity was respected. The remarks were criticised by Germany, where corporal punishment for children is illegal, and from leading advocacy groups.

Inflicting pain

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.

"It might start off as a light tap, but actually the whole idea about hitting children is about inflicting pain," he said. "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."

Commission head Cardinal Sean O'Malley said members were close to finishing recommendations to send to Francis about how to, "respond in an expeditious way" when bishops cover up for paedophile priests.