"I once heard at a wedding a father say, 'I sometimes have to hit my children a little but never in the face, so as to not demean them.' How nice, I thought, he has a sense of dignity," the Pope said.
"When he punishes, he does it right and moves on."
"A good father knows how to wait and knows how to forgive from the bottom of his heart. Of course he can also discipline with a firm hand: he's not weak, submissive, sentimental," he said.
"This father knows how to discipline without demeaning; he knows how to protect without restraint."
Much like the vaccines debate, the spanking debate is a touchy, ongoing topic -- and Pope Francis's remarks seem to fall into the "spare the rod, spoil the rod" side. What makes his comments surprising is that the United Nations recently recommended the Vatican prohibit corporal punishment toward child.
While some have taken to Twitter to express their disappointment, a Vatican spokesperson, Father Thomas Rosica, says the pope wasn't supporting physical punishment so much as proper discipline. "Let us not read into the Pope's words anything other than what is there. He speaks constantly of mercy and tenderness," he said.
"The pope was obviously not speaking about committing violence or cruelty against a child but rather about 'helping someone to grow and mature,'" reports The New York Times.
Which side do you fall in in the spanking debate?
Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com who covers baby-related content. She loves collecting children's picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea
Image: Mother spanking daughter via Shutterstock