Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
The forgotten new evangelization
By Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
March 12, 2015

The Church for good reasons has stirred up a pot of discontent about marriage and remarried Catholics. Many in the church posit a polarity between church teaching and pastoral care of the remarried. There are, after all, so many divorced and remarried Catholics if not a majority then a near majority of Catholics. What are we to do? What are we to do!

I believe as many Catholics that the Synod on the Family which reconvenes in October will reaffirm its perennial teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the Sixth Commandment, "Thou shall not commit adultery," married or not. Jesus Christ was uncompromisingly clear on the matter: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." And "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.' But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." (Matthew 5: 27-32).(Italics mine). Were that not clear enough we read further in the Gospel of some scholars of the law who disputed Jesus' teaching:
    [They] approached him, and tested him, saying, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?" He said in reply, "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate." They said to him, "Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?" He said to them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery." (Matthew 19:3-9).
I am compelled in my writing to extensively refer to Sacred Scripture particularly the Gospels because many church 'scholars' today do not. I remember, for instance, meeting a candidate for the priesthood before his ordination and discovered that he had not read any of the four books of the Gospel front to back, first to last chapter. Perhaps he had been too busy with theology, the human science of discerning God's Word. Had he gone with Jesus, for instance, "to the neighboring towns so I may proclaim the message there; for that is what I came out to do" he would have learned more from Jesus Christ himself and "teach with authority and not as the scribes." (Mark 1:38-39; ibid.22)

The road ahead without Jesus' guidance is fraught with confusion, "What are we to do?" I have seen many church innovations borne in the last half center in "the spirit of the Second Vatican Council" with no relevance to the Documents of Vatican II and many so-called 'pastoral innovations' which have not borne any good fruit. We have had, however, from the time of the Second Vatican Council to today including Pope Francis extraordinary Pontiffs who have steered the barque through troubled waters. Saint John Paul II, was a premier teacher of Catholic faith and morals. In his Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio John Paul II proffered the establishment of "Associations of Families for Families" which as I can see has been largely ignored. He exhorted that the Church accept the
    "task to foster among the faithful a lively sense of solidarity, to favor a manner of living inspired by the Gospel and by the faith of the Church, to form consciences according to Christian values and not according to the standards of public opinion; to stimulate people to perform works of charity for one another and for others with a spirit of openness which will make Christian families into a true source of light and a wholesome leaven for other families." (72. Familiaris Consortio, Rome: 1981).
John Paul II would make this an 'apostolate of the family, for the family and by the family' as "small scale Churches" within the "large scale Church." (Ibid. 48.) I have begun "the task" myself and encourage others to do the same. I see my role, "the task," comparable to the role of chaplain. There are no prohibitions who may participate in the apostolate including remarried individuals. An essential tenet of an association of families, John Paul II explained, is repentance and conversion for all who join an association of families. I explain the apostolate I have instigated in and can be contacted there.

© Fr. Tom Bartolomeo


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Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

I am the founder and director of the Families For Families Retreat House, a refuge for anyone who wants to rethink his or her life in a quiet non-demanding environment in an historic house c.1709 when life was less complicated. I am also and primarily a Catholic priest having been a college and university teacher, business-owner and executive among other things. I received my Bachelor's and Master's degrees in English literature from Saint John's University, Jamaica, New York and completed post-graduate studies at Kansas State University. Contact me at (Fr. Bartolomeo passed away on September 18, 2018. His obituary can be found here.)


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