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.

Do you think the U.S. Government was right to remove children from the olygamous Mormons in Texas?

In spite of the great publicity which was given to this specific case, I am unable to answer this question because there are so many details involved of which I am either ignorant or uncertain. However, this does give each of us an occasion to reflect upon the duties and responsibilities of society towards the human family - and vice-versa.

The family is the basic and original unit of society in which both husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Its foundations are rooted in authority, stability and a series of relationships within the family which constitute the underpinning for freedom, security and fraternity within society. From childhood, its members come to know God and all the moral values he teaches us. Family members take care of each other and assume responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped and the poor. At times, some families need assistance in caring for each other and thus it devolves to other families to provide for their needs. When this occurs, there are times when society must also legitimately provide for their needs - taking into account the common good.

The common good embraces, as we read in the Vatican II document Gaudium et spes, the sum total of all those conditions of social life which enables individuals, families, and organizations to achieve complete and efficacious fulfillment (no. 74). If the authorities in society believe that any childs right to such fulfillment is being threatened, it is justified in taking measures to offer protection. But, great caution must be exercised so that once the threats to individuals are removed - all other members of that family are given the assistance they need to provide the nurturing support which is properly and rightly their own.