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.

Skeptics often accuse church members, especially clergy, of being hypocrits who are no more successful than anyone else in living a good, moral life, and in fact, stumbling in more spectacular, public ways. How do you respond?

We each become members of the Church through our baptism. That is where our first profession of faith is made. We make it "in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit". Our Creed is divided into three parts The first part speaks of the divine Person and the wonderful work of creation; the second part speaks of the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus, and the mystery of his redemption of humanity; the third part speaks of the third Person, the Holy Spirit, who is the origin and source of our sanctification. We see these as the three elements of our baptismal seal. That is the faith of the Church. Nowhere in all that do we profess to have faith in the members of the Church. Our faith is in the Lord.

It is against this backdrop that we must see the failures of other Church members. Of course we are disappointed, even infuriated at times, when scandal arises, especially when it involves our leaders. As the Lord said, "it would be better for him to have a millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea" (Mt. 18:6). The old saying "Hate the sin, love the sinner" is an important one to remember as we also recall that Christ came to call sinners.

In that sense, we all share a responsibility to help our fellow Church members, when necessary, to rediscover Christ, his forgiveness and his call to repentance. In carrying out this work, our own faith is purified and strengthened. For, we can never forget that we are all on the road to perfection. We all need the Fathers forgiveness - remembering that the only condition for belonging to the Church is that we be a sinner, called to grow in righteousness.