Friday 20 April 2018

'I thought we'd left all this behind us in the Dark Ages' - Liveline chaos as smacking children, masturbation and homosexuality debate hits airwaves

Joe Duffy
Joe Duffy
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

Tempers were frayed on Liveline today as smacking children, masturbation and homosexuality hit the agenda.

The conversation began as a discussion about an article in Catholic magazine 'Alive!' which claimed children who were smacked in their youth grow up to be more successful than those who weren't.

A few guests later on the popular radio show, and all hell had broken loose.

The first caller, who went by the name of Mary, expressed her outrage at the article and said she believed Ireland had moved on from the "Dark Ages".

"I was absolutely outraged to read this headline in big, bold writing," she told RTE Radio One's Liveline.

"The photograph showed a child in shorts and a hand on the child's leg. I really thought we'd left all this behind us in the Dark Ages.

"I thought we'd moved on to proper, authoritative parenting, we should focus on positive parenting," she continued.

"They should have looked at this article and said 'no way', we are not going back to the Dark Ages.

"Smacking is an abuse of power and control over a child and it changes the relationship between a child and a parent," she added.

In defence of the article, 'Alive!' editor Father Brian McKevitt said the angle of the article was that the research still featured on The Telegraph's most-read articles list.

"The article was not so much about parents smacking their children, but the news item was that, although the study was conducted in 2010, it continues to be one of the ten most-shared articles on the Daily Telegraph's website.

"That was the most interesting angle," Fr McKevitt continued.

"People so many years after the study was published are still sharing it with others.

"The thing as well is, part of the reason the article's in the newspaper is to attract attention and to get people talking. You don't have to agree with everything in the article."

Later in the debate, Fr Keviit told the show that masturbation was "morally wrong".

His call sparked a response from Lena, in Co Carlow, who called 'Liveline'.

She said she was aware smacking children is illegal now, but did slap her children when they were younger and they have since thanked her for her strict discipline.

"When I became a parent I wondered what was in, what was out, what used to be, there was no distinct guidance there," she said.

"When this paper [Alive!]was given to me, it changed a lot for me, it gave me clarity, it helped me tremendously.

"A proof of this is my daughter was married a few months ago and my son was home from England. He said, 'when we were growing up  [we thought] you were cruel to us, now I can see I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't what you did and what you told me'.

"It's not a child's fault if they haven't been disciplined," she said.

Lena continued: "Think of open scripture, the Bible is the truth, there is only one truth.

"My children were made to recognise at that particular time and that particular day where they went wrong.

"I often would have used the wooden spoon there, it was more or less if you ever step the line this will be it.

"I'm aware [it's illegal]. When I used it, I would take the child back and say 'I did this because'."

She added: "I wouldn't say I beat them, there's a difference in a slapping a beating.

"Look at scripture - to disciple a child not in anger but for the good of the child.

"No parent wants to see their child suffer but I would rather discipline them in the house than give them grief."

Lena spoke about the 'disorder' in society at the moment and said "the whole system was rotten".

She also said gay marriage "wasn't really marriage" and told another caller she could 'Google' a psychologist who could "cure" her gay daughter.

"It is intrinsically wrong. This will lead to no good, no good comes from disorderly behaviour. Society will not change until you recognise the truth," she said.

The debate also sparked a reaction from psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy who said he felt the need to pull over his car and call in after hearing the debate on air.

"I had to pull in," Dr Murphy told the programme.

"I was quite concerned with some of the messaging going out on this programme.

"Parenting is a very difficult balance at any time. I see it in the therapy room - children brought up with high levels of strictness have good motivation and self-discipline, but have very low self-esteem and are prone to depression."

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