Since 2000, Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais has expressed his opinion on a variety of faith topics. These texts were initially published in the "Ask the Religion Experts" column which appears every Saturday in The Ottawa Citizen. As of June 2005, Msgr. Patrick Powers, Vicar General, will be taking on the responsibility of the weekly articles.

How should religiously-slanted theories such as creationism be handled in public schools?

It is our belief that parents have the right and duty to choose a school for their children which corresponds to their own faith convictions. This is a fundamental right. As far as possible, parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as those primarily responsible for the Christian education of their children. And we believe that public authorities have a duty to ensure that right.

In the province of Ontario, we are fortunate to have a Catholic school system which ensures that the official teachings of our faith are taught to our children. In this sense, the school system assists the parents in their fundamental duty to educate their children. However, if parents find themselves in a place where their children do not have access to Catholic education (or as they are called in the U.S. "Parochial Schools") then it is the duty of parents to see that their children are brought up in the faith - and this is especially true when the public system might teach theories which are not in keeping with our own beliefs.

The education of children in the faith by their parents must begin in their earliest years, way before they enter the school system. This happens gradually as family members help each other to grow in the faith by living lives which are faithful to the Gospel. This work is then supported and enhanced by the parish and the Catholic school. When only public schools are available, and on the rare occasions they teach things which do not reflect our beliefs, then it is up to parents and the faith community to see to it that the children are taught the true teachings of our faith. That responsibility ultimately rests with us.