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Joanna Talman wrote:

Hi, guys —

We were reading a children's Catholic version of the bible about the story of Noah.

In the first part of the story, it states that people were being disobedient, and God wanted to find a way to punish them — hence the Ark.

  • How is this portion of Genesis to be interpreted?

I am dating a man — we are both Catholic and I teach at a Catholic school — but I am considering leaving him based on his interpretation of these passages from Genesis.

Based on his interpretation, he believes that it is the parents job to discipline disobedient children. I told him that was God's way, but not necessarily ours. He is abusive and yells at his son to keep him good. He then came back to speak of a story when Jesus went into a church to beat everyone up for being disobedient.

  • What does this have to do with us and our children?
  • Does this give a parent a right to spank or demean a child because it was God's way of dealing with disobedience?

This is serious because I have relatives that interpret the bible in the same way.

  • Who has abused their children?
  • Am I the one who is wrong?

Please help me.


  { Does the first part of Noah's story give a parent the permission to harshly discipline his children? }

Mike replied:

Hi Joanna,

We are not priests so we would first recommend you find a good priest that is faithful to the Church who can help and advise you appropriately. That said, I'll give you my two cents.

The man you are dating has an incorrect interpretation of Genesis 6. It is true that God did,
at that time, regret creating man because of his attachments to carnal passions. (Genesis 6:13)

Verse 2 of Genesis 6 of Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary has the following comment for the term "the sons of God":

Verse 2. The sons of God. The descendants of Seth and Enos are here called Sons of God, from their religion and piety: whereas the ungodly race of Cain, who by their carnal affections lay grovelling upon the earth, are called the children of men.
The unhappy consequence of the former marrying with the latter, ought to be a warning to Christians to be very circumspect in their marriages; and not to suffer themselves to be determined in choice by their carnal passion, to the prejudice of virtue or religion. [ought to be a warning to Christians on who they consider as a choice for a life-time marital mate by letting carnal passions, override virtue or religion.]

If you are interested, the rest of Haydock's Commentary is here.

You said:
He then came back to speak of a story when Jesus went into a church to beat everyone up for being disobedient.

I have no idea what he is talking about. The only instance we have in the Gospels that is close to this is when Our Blessed Lord got mad and turned over the tables of commerce in the back of the temple. The reason was because they were using it as a place of commerce, not worship. He did not beat anyone up.

Parental discipline is important in raising children but it has to be balanced with a strong sense of love. Both parental extremes end up harming the children if you are trying to raise them with proper Catholic Christian values.

In one extreme:

  • too many parents today want to be their children's "best friend". This can end up with parents being too permissive on issues that require the children have a well-formed Catholic conscience; one that is morally trained to distinguish good from evil, especially in this sex-saturated culture. The end result is a lack of moral discipline and appreciation for:
    • waiting until marriage
    • a knowledge of the faith
    • the sacramental life of the Church, and
    • having a personal prayer life.

  • on the other hand, a parent who disciplines without love can lead to child abuse.

Parents are the primary educators of their children and are responsible for proper discipline. Whether parents agree or not on using spanking as a discipline, it always has to be balanced with proper love.

If the man you are dating does not come across as being a loving father to his children, this says something about how he will treat you in any future marriage.

  • If the children you are referring to are out-of-wedlock children between the two of you,
    I would refer you to what a pastor or priest would recommend.
  • If they are not, you may want to play the field a little more and keep looking for someone that loves his children as much as he will love you.

Knowing that you have a future father that truly loves his children is so important. I once heard an expert on homosexuality, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi RIP (1947 - 2017), say,

If fathers don't hug their sons, another man will.

  • Yelling at a five-year-old to stop can be loving discipline, if he is running into oncoming traffic.
  • Yelling at him due to personal vices, bad habits or to relieve stress and rationalizing it with a false justification from the Scriptures is not proper. Prayer is proper.

Think of proper Catholic Christian discipline like a wood-carver who is making a wooden spear out of a block of wood. If he starts with a 6 foot wooden piece of pole:

  • and just saws off 2 feet from the end, it's like child abuse;
  • yet if he carves just a bit here and there, but still has a blunt end with no sharpest,
    he's like the permissive parent.

It's tough, but parents have to learn to:

  • carve away the natural and cultural bad habits from their growing children
  • while molding the needed Christian virtues into them while
  • keeping a loving [Father/child] and [Mother/child] relationship with them so they know they are loved very much in the family.

The Church has often refers to the family as the domestic church, where, in a spiritual sense:

  • the husband represents, God, the Father
  • the wife represents, Jesus, His Divine Son, and
  • the children of their conjugal, bonding love, represent the Holy Spirit, so that:
    • In the same way the children proceed from the father and mother,
    • so the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, like we say each Sunday at Mass in the Nicene Creed.

I've appended appropriate sections from the Catechism that also may help.

the duty of parents

2221 The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children, but must extend to their moral education and their spiritual formation. "The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute." (Vatican II, Gravissimum Educationis 3) The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable. (cf. Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio 36)

2222 Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons. Showing themselves obedient to the will of the Father in heaven, they educate their children to fulfill God's law.

2223 Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery - the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the "material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones." (Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus 36 § 2) Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them:
    He who loves his son will not spare the rod. . . . He who disciplines his son will profit by him. (Sirach 30:1–2)

    Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

2224 The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies.

2225 Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the "first heralds" for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church. (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 11 § 2) A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one's life.

2226 Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child's earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. (cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 11) The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents.

2227 Children in turn contribute to the growth in holiness of their parents. (cf. Vatican II, Gaudium et spes 48 § 4) Each and everyone should be generous and tireless in forgiving one another for offenses, quarrels, injustices, and neglect. Mutual affection suggests this. The charity of Christ demands it. (cf. Matthew 18:21–22; Luke 17:4)

2228 Parents' respect and affection are expressed by the care and attention they devote to bringing up their young children and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. As the children grow up, the same respect and devotion lead parents to educate them in the right use of their reason and freedom.

2229 As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. (cf. Vatican II, Gravissimum Educationis 6) Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.

2230 When they become adults, children have the right and duty to choose their profession and state of life. They should assume their new responsibilities within a trusting relationship with their parents, willingly asking and receiving their advice and counsel. Parents should be careful not to exert pressure on their children either in the choice of a profession or in that of a spouse. This necessary restraint does not prevent them - quite the contrary from giving their children judicious advice, particularly when they are planning to start a family.

2231 Some forgo marriage in order to care for their parents or brothers and sisters, to give themselves more completely to a profession, or to serve other honorable ends. They can contribute greatly to the good of the human family.

I hope this helps,


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