The Bombay Archdiocese on Tuesday said that they would probe the incident where a Catholic priest, during a sermon for children, reportedly said that “boys are more intelligent than girls” and that “girls outshine boys only because they work harder”, which had led to an uproar in the community.
The statements were reportedly made on March 8, International Women’s Day, and reports about the incident soon reached the Archdiocese.
The St Anthony’s church in Vakola had invited Fr Neville Fernandes , a Redemptorist priest (of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer), to give talks after masses during the Lent. The alleged statements were made during the 9 am Sunday mass.
According to those present, Fr Neville also allegedly stated that “parents should send their children during ‘Mission’ so that they do not have to come crying later that their sons are doing drugs or their daughters are marrying Muslims”.
After the mass, some parishioners confronted Fr Neville.
“I was disturbed by these statements especially since they were made in front of impressionable young minds and in at a time when violence against women is at an all-time high. When Fr Neville was confronted, he stuck to his statements and said a majority of achievements, all through history, were made by men, who think with their heads, while women think with their hearts,” said a parishioner.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Fr Neville stated that he made the statements, but that they were being taken out of context. “I’m a priest for 28 years. I made the statement but in context,” Fr Neville said.
“Yes, I will state again. Girls work harder and are more sincere and outshine the boys. Intelligence is not only important. Important is that god has given us gifts,and we must use the gifts. Of course, I made the statement about Muslims. Parents come crying. Muslims people talk about their children marrying other castes. It was in that context. My sister has married a Hindu, so I don’t have a problem,” he added.
The priest is part of a team of three Redemptorist priests preaching ‘The Jesus Encounter’ — a personal invitation for youth, adults and parents from March 8 to 14, according to the parish website.
The Archdiocese has distanced themselves from the alleged statements. “The Catholic Church has always held that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God and are equal, in keeping with the teachings from our Sacred Scriptures. The Catholic Church endorses gender equality and has been constantly working towards sensitising all communities in the area of gender equality and justice.”
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