His remarks came after a U.N. committee urged the church to renounce corporal punishment for families, schools

By Andrea Billups
Updated February 06, 2015 02:45 PM
Franco Origlia/Getty

Pope Francis weighed in on corporal punishment for children this week, pronouncing that spanking is fine, as long as parents do it with “dignity.”

The outspoken pontiff‘s remarks came as he spoke to his weekly general audience in Vatican City on Thursday, The New York Times reported.

The head of the Catholic Church shared a story from a father who said he sometimes had to smack his children for discipline, “but never in the face so not to humiliate them,” the Pope recounted.

“How beautiful!” Francis, 78, added of the punishment as he talked to the crowd about what makes good fathers. “He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on.”

The Times noted that the Catholic Church had came under fire last year over its position on corporal punishment during a U.N. human rights committee meeting over its treaty on the rights of the child.

The U.N. committee, in its final recommendations, urged the church to changes its laws to prohibit corporal punishment within the family, in Catholic schools, and throughout its institutions worldwide, the Times reported.

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, who works with the Vatican press office, defended the pontiff’s comments via email, according to The Guardian. He noted that Francis was not approving cruelty against children, but rather helping them to mature.

“Who has not disciplined their child or been disciplined by parents when we are growing up?” Rosica said, per The Guardian.

“Simply watch Pope Francis when he is with children and let the images and gestures speak for themselves,” Rosica added. “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.”