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 do you respond to or to people who say religion causes more harm than good?

A common definition of religion goes something like this: it is the service and worship of God or the supernatural and the commitment or devotion to a religious faith or the observance system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices. I am convinced that every single faith group helps its members to know and understand God and to live faithfully with everyone else here on earth.

The values which are developed among the members of all faith groups serve to make our society a much better place. To remove God and the supernatural from our world would have absolutely disastrous results. It is through our faith that we develop a deeper understanding of God as well as an increased self-awareness which is fundamental to the development of any society which leads to greater justice and solidarity among its peoples.

nterestingly, a few years ago, I participated in a conference on, of all things, the taxation of Churches. One of the participants, from Revenue Canada, delivered a truly thought provoking paper in which he argued that the current status should be maintained because all Churches bring out the best in people who, in turn, are committed citizens. He went on to say that churches contribute more in their outreach programmes than they receive in tax breaks! Religions always bring about a greater good.

Harm is never caused by religion. Harm is caused by individuals who claim to be acting in the name of a particular faith and use it to justify acts which are completely foreign to the teachings of that faith - history provides important examples of this. I believe that all the religions of the world can counter such harmful acts by continuing their ongoing fraternal dialogue and deepening their mutual respect and understanding.