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.

If a parishioner asked whether it is goes against God's will to have a face lift or breast augmentation, how would you reply?

We have no specific prohibition of any type of cosmetic surgery. Some believe that it can be justified. Not long ago, a parishioner in his forties lost his job. He could not find another so he could contiune to provide for his family. He suspected that age was a factor, so he coloured his gray hair. Coincidentally, within three weeks, he received two good offers. Many believe appearance was a factor, as it could be when considering surgery. We must reflect on the true value of such actions. Is younger better?

We are all created in the image and likeness of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 364), states "the human person shares in the dignity of the image of God: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul". The unity of body and soul is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the human body.

It is what is deep within each of us that is more important than what is on the outside. We need to preserve and promote these values in society. We all know people who, despite showing signs of ageing, are truly attractive, because of who they are. But there are people who would suggest that their appearance could be improved through surgery. It is up to each of us to make sure that they are given the tools they need to make such a personal decision. Society does exert pressure on people to look young. Some suspect it costs them employment. So, could such action justified in some cases? This must be weighed against the reality that in doing this, we are actually missing out on an opportunity to look deep inside each individual to see their true worth.