LONDON, June 30, 2004 ( – The social affairs director of a major Catholic agency, Caritas-social action, has signed a letter to legislators in Britain promoting a total ban on physical discipline by parents. Claiming that it is the mind of the Catholic Church, Sarah Lindsell has signed a letter by a lobby group called “Children are Unbeatable” that calls physical correction by parents “assault.” The letter was addressed to UK Education Secretary Charles Clarke on the Children’s Bill that was introduced in the House of Lords on 3rd March 2004. The letter demands that the bill include a provision that would make spanking by parents a crime of assault. Caritas-social action is an agency of the Catholic Bishops of Britain and Wales.  Lindsell said that her promotion of the restriction of parents’ rights was part of Catholic social teaching. She said, “The Catholic Church promotes values that reflect the respect for the child that Christ revealed in the Gospels.”

However, promoting a political viewpoint as the teaching of the Catholic Church is disingenuous says a Roman Catholic canon lawyer and theologian. Speaking to, Msgr. Vincent Foy said that this is not a matter of Catholic teaching. “There is no magisterial teaching of the Church that supports her views. Assault is an unjust attack; disciplining a child with moderate physical force is permitted.”

Lindsell further said that her intention was not in seeing parents prosecuted, but in social re-engineering. She said she was trying to, “move society along, just as we have moved on from condoning the hitting of children in school”. Pro-family advocates have seen huge incursions of the state into private family life in recent years. The re-definition of physical discipline by parents as “assault” would be a threat to what the Catholic Church teaches is the right of parents to be parents. Msgr. Foy said, “it does indeed move society along; it moves society backwards. It promotes the corrosion of discipline and interference by the state.”

Msgr. Foy said that Lindsell is trying to promote a personal political position as a matter of Catholic doctrine. “The Catholic Church does not ‘promote values,’ it teaches eternal truths,” he said. “It’s a question of taking moral teaching away from the Church and, under the cloak of a Catholic name, giving non-Catholic teaching.”

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales have not issued a statement on the Children’s Bill. “It is happening all over,” said Msgr. Foy. “In Ontario, for example, you see OECTA using their Catholic name to promote same-sex marriage. Caritas is stepping outside the bounds and teaching what even the English bishops would not support.”