Pope Francis says it is OK to smack 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.
He outlined the traits of a good father – one who forgives but is able to “correct with firmness” while not discouraging the child.
The pope said: “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’.
“How beautiful! He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on.”
The Rev Thomas Rosica, who works with the Vatican press office, said the pope was obviously not speaking about committing violence or cruelty against a child but rather about “helping someone to grow and mature”.
He said: “Who has not disciplined their child or been disciplined by parents when we are growing up?
“Simply watch Pope Francis when he is with children and let the images and gestures speak for themselves!
“To infer or distort anything else ... reveals a greater problem for those who don’t seem to understand a pope who has ushered in a revolution of normalcy of simple speech and plain gesture.”
Meanwhile, Pope Francis will address a joint meeting of the US Congress on September 24, a first for the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics.
During his trip to the US, Francis is also expected to visit the White House and speak at the United Nations. He will participate in a massive Catholic rally for families in Philadelphia.
It will be his first visit to the US in a papacy that began two years ago.