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 religion's point of view on cosmetic surgery?

There is no specific prohibition of cosmetic surgery. Some individuals, especially young people, find that such surgery is entirely justified. In several instances, visible deformities were corrected, resulting in great psychological benefits. There are also forms of cosmetic surgery that are necessary to bring about a physical good for the patient. Then there are those which are meant to make us look better, and in some cases, younger. It is here that, in my opinion, we must really reflect on the true value of such surgeries.

Is younger better? We believe that we are all created in the image and likeness of God - as we are! In number 364 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we read that "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.

In that sense, it is what is deep within each of us that is more important than what is on the outside. I think it is important for us to ensure that these values are preserved in our society. We all know many people who are showing signs of ageing who are truly attractive, because of who they are. But there are people who would suggest that their appearance could be improved through cosmetic surgery. It is up to each of us to make sure that all people are given the tools they need to make such a personal decision. If it is for a justifiable medical reason, then it should be considered. But if cosmetic surgery is abused, then we are actually missing out on an opportunity to look deep inside each individual to see their true worth.