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.

What is your faith's view of sin? Is it a single reprehensible act, or a pattern of behaviours that take us away from our fullest selves?

Before considering sin, we must underscore that our vision of humanity is fundamentally positive. Humans are people of greatness and nobility, made in the image and likeness of God. We seek God in all things and at all times. Our freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness. Yet that very freedom does lead, at times, to our choosing sin. As we explore the concept of sin, we remember that we are members of a community of sinners, called to dismantle sin through conversion.

Every sin is a rupture of our communion with God. Sin also damages our communion with the Church. The concept of sin is central to our faith. The Gospels abound with examples of Christs victories over sin and the freedom which comes from his forgiveness. The Vatican II document Lumen gentium (no.11) reminds us that conversion includes both Gods forgiveness of us and our reconciliation with the Church, accomplished through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The late Pope John Paul II, wrote eloquently in Reconciliatio et penitentiae, calling it the Sacrament of spiritual direction. In answering the question you ask of us today, the Holy Father said that, while all individual sin must be seen as significant, patterns of behaviour must also be considered. In this encounter with the Risen Lord, this becomes possible with the help of our confessors. We come to understand the various root factors which lead not only to individual but to series of sins. Thus, in this sacrament, the Lord helps us overcome these details which lie beneath the surface, and can prevent us from being the people he created us to be. Remember, in Christ, all sin is forgiven. No matter how great or how powerful it can appear, sin and evil will never have the last word!