A few days ago, Pope Francis endorsed spanking. Believing that one can spank children and leave them with dignity, Pope Francis even called such a means of punishment, “beautiful.” Unless there are records or evidence of the Pope spanking children that are not his own, I don’t think that the Pope has much direct knowledge with this subject. In an age of serial and often unreported abuse of children in the Christian world, I can think of few more ignorant statements than for the Pope to give his blessing to the abuse of children. Some might argue that the language of abuse is too strong. I would argue that abuse always begins with the violent exercising of power over someone who is powerless and this is what the Pope has just endorsed.
I grew up in a Christian context where spanking was normal and often turned into abuse. There was nothing beautiful to me about being hit. I cannot imagine being hit in a way that was not demeaning or abusive. I remember the sting. I remember the lines. I remember the blood. I remember the bruises. I remember the pain. I remember being told that God endorsed and commanded what was happening to me. I remember despising any God that would be for the abuse of children. I almost left God altogether. I could not believe in a God that promoted the hitting and abuse of the innocent. Thankfully, I lived long enough to find out that God has nothing to do with the promotion of violence toward children.
Perhaps unwittingly, Pope Francis has given some parent out there the freedom to keep hitting and abusing a helpless and defenseless child tonight. I wish Pope Francis would follow the example of Jesus and realize how ludicrous it is to tell a child to “love their neighbor as their self” as they are getting hit. What do you think that a hit, spanked or abused child will do when they have to make a decision about hitting, punching, shooting or bombing later on in life? If you begin with violence, you should not be surprised when the violence continues. The abuse of children begins with spanking. The continued violence in our world begins with spanking. “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword,” declares Jesus in Matthew 26. Doesn’t Pope Francis know that those who live by the hand will die by the hand? While I appreciate the many denunciations of violence and abuse proclaimed by this Pope, as a follower of Jesus I cannot endorse the hitting of children. With every fiber of my being, I believe that Christians must act to stop the cycle of violence and take a strong stance against hitting children for any reason. What type of world do we want to live in? What type of God do we believe in?