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.

Why is it important to be a virgin before marriage? In your faith group, is it equally important for a man to be a virgin?

The sixth commandment precludes any intimate physical relations outside of marriage for all persons, regardless of whether they are male or female. The Vatican II document, Gaudium et spes (in no. 48) defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman through which they establish a partnership of the whole of life and ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children.

The document goes on to say that God himself is the author of marriage who created us out of love and calls us to love, seeing this as the fundamental and intimate vocation of every human being. We were created in the image and likeness of God who is love. In this sense, man and woman, through their mutual love in marriage, become the image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves us. They continue the work of creation in building up their own families, teaching them the faith and encouraging them to contribute to the growth of our society.

However, regardless of our particular state in life, every baptized person is called to follow the example of Christ himself who is our model of chastity, by living a chaste life, marked by purity and sincerity. In that spirit, we love our neighbours - next door and in distant lands; we love our parents and children - and our enemies; we love our country and the entire planet; giving at all times, that which we have received from God himself.