Monday, May 21, 2018

Capital and Corporal Punishment

I am going to come right out at the beginning and say that I hold to the historic position of the Catholic Church, the position of the Catholic Catechism (before it was "updated"), and the position of the Church Fathers, in saying that capital punishment is not evil, and, in fact, it can often be a definite good. Now, I am fully aware of much of the rhetoric today that goes against this, but this modern rhetoric is going against the almost unanimous position of the Church for the last 2000 years (not a small matter in Catholicism). I am not here going to attempt to prove what the Church has always taught (and is only being denied in very recent history) regarding the appropriateness of capital punishment; that is not in the scope of this small essay. The Church's historic position always takes precedence, and modern opinions hold no weight.

What I am aiming at pointing out, is that I find it more than an odd coincidence that right along with the common rejection of capital punishment, we find many parents rejecting corporal punishment (what used to be called "the rod of discipline") with their children. So that no one misunderstands me (though it is sad that I have to clarify this!), I am not advocating abusing children. A controlled, non-angry, spanking, which is done in love, is not the same thing as an outburst of fury that results in the abuse of a child (and I hold this in perfect confidence that Holy Scripture says the exact same thing).

I can only guess in this--because it is virtually impossible to find the exact root of every idea--but I think there is good reason to see a clear connection in the source of these two practical errors. The rejection of proper discipline for a murderer and the rejection of proper discipline of a child are not entirely disconnected points of view. In ministering to parents for many years now (even longer than I have had children of my own, and my oldest is 22 years old), I am sad to say that the vast majority of parents today do not take advantage of proper discipline for their children. Yes, many of them do "discipline", but not all "discipline" is necessarily proper.

Giving a rebellious child a "time out" does not do much more than frustrate the child, and that always ends up in encouraging more disobedience rather than discouraging it. A child who talks back to his parent should never be argued with (or worse, reasoned with), he should be disciplined. To allow children to continue in disrespect of a parent's authority is not proper discipline by a long shot, and if the method of discipline does not effect a continued change in behavior in the child, then discipline has not been done properly (i.e. if it does not work, then it is broken!). Many parents follow the "path of least resistance" in their disciplinary methods. This means that they have been led to believe that allowing bad behavior seems to be "easier" than to discipline it. Not true; never was, never will be.

With this continued error in parenting being perpetuated for the last few generations, we should not find it odd that suddenly there is a growing number of people who also want to support an error in societal discipline. One error encourages another error, and the vicious cycle continues. The solution will not be just to argue the truth back into people, but truth does need to be spoken, and many people do need to change their pattern of parenting. All it takes is a simple straight forward reading of some of the wisdom literature in the Old Testament (Proverbs, Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes) to see that there is a manner of discipline that is genuinely effective and leads to success in parenting.

No, I am not advocating a "single magic bullet" methodology, because the wisdom literature itself does not tighten this kind of a clamp on us. Yet, there are principles that all parents are capable of implementing in their homes. I have seen it firsthand (and I am not just speaking of my own five children that I have raised), and it is not that difficult if we commit ourselves to it (in fact, it is actually amazingly easier than the so-called "path of least resistance" methodology).

Just like the consequences of undisciplined children are sad to watch, also the ramifications of proper discipline are truly a wonder to see. When discipline is not brought about, we can see large societal results. Punishment of the innocent, and permissiveness towards the guilty in the court system did not come about merely because someone made a mistake. If you do not understand what proper discipline is in the first place, then you are going to make mistakes in every area it touches on. Just because someone has a degree in Law does not mean that he understands how discipline works!

What is your view of discipline? Do you use the principles and points given throughout God's written word? Or have you fallen into the error of assuming you are doing so because this is what you are used to? It may seem like it is too difficult to read all of those books of the Bible and actually implement what they say. Yet, all of the baptized are given the strength of the Spirit to be able to make a penitential turn for the better. Do you really want to discipline properly? Could you commit yourself to helping your children to learn self-control and holiness? Are you willing to change any mistakes in parenting that you have made? What would it look like if every parent began today to enact a godly and proper discipline of their children?