A Moscow-based newspaper has published an open letter challenging statements derogatory to women's intelligence made by a top official in the Russian Orthodox Church.
The letter addressed to Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, was published by Novaya gazeta after Archpriest Dmitry Smirnov, the head of a church commission on family issues and the protection of mothers and children, told the Orthodox Christian Radonezh radio station in a July 7 interview that intelligent women "are still rare."
"Women aren't that smart. Of course, there are [smart] women like [Polish-French Nobel Prize winner] Marie Curie, but they are still rare," Smirnov said.
Novaya gazeta called the archpriest's statement "even more baffling since the main duty of his department is to protect mothers, who are women."
"Probably, Dmitry Smirnov is too busy...and unaware that violence against women in our country has reached an alarming level," the newspaper wrote, mentioning several high-profile cases of domestic violence across the country.
"Your Holiness, there are thousands, tens of thousands of such [domestic violence] cases across Russia. In the predominant majority of the cases, the 'smarter' males inflict both physical and moral harm on 'less smart women,'" the letter said.
"However, by considering that some people's intellectual abilities are above those of others because of their sex, the archbishop not only demonstrated his low level of knowledge of human biology, but in fact endorsed a dictatorship of the 'male' in a country where women's rights continue to be violated on a regular basis," it said.
The open letter also asks Patriarch Kirill to clarify if Smirnov's position is also the official position of the church.
"If Archpriest Dmitry Smirnov's statement saying that women are 'not that smart' contradicts the Russian Orthodox Church's official position, do you consider that statement offensive and humiliating?"
The letter, which questions Smirnov's capacity to occupy the post, ends by reminding Kirill that a large part of his flock consists of women.