Caritas has come out in support of a ‘third way’ amendment to a controversial parliamentary bill on physical punishment of children that seeks to outlaw most cases of spanking.
Scoop reports that Caritas CEO Michael Smith said the Catholic social justice agency was satisfied that the compromise found through cross-party discussion and negotiation met concerns raised by their submission to Parliament.
‘While the media coverage has focused on polarised positions in the debate, Caritas has been among those seeking common ground which both provided more protection for children, and greater clarification for parents,’ Michael Smith said.
‘In our submission, we favoured an amendment to define unreasonable force, but feel that the wording concerning ‘inconsequential’ offending is satisfactory.’
Caritas and the Catholic Church have received some criticism about ‘fence sitting’ on the issue, but Michael Smith said the outcome shows that there was always a third way possible through a debate dominated by two positions.
Catholic social teaching recognises the human dignity of children, and the need to provide special protection for children as among society’s most vulnerable members.
It also recognises the subsidiarity of families, which says that governments should not interfere unnecessarily with decisions that families are able to make for themselves, unless the children’s safety is at risk.
‘In the context of New Zealand’s high rates of violence against children, we did not believe the legal status quo adequately protected children, and we were not satisfied that decisions about the threshold for prosecution should be left entirely to police discretion,’ Michael Smith said.
The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference recent statement on the so-called ‘Section 59’ debate reached a similar position, asking families, communities, and politicians to consider how both the safety of children and family subsidiarity could be protected and valued.