This week on Register Radio, Jeanette De Melo discusses Pope Francis, marriage, family, divorce, and annulments with canon lawyer JD Flynn. Dan Burke talks to Register writer Marge Fenelon about the impact of her recent visit to the Holy Land and why all Catholics should consider a pilgrimage there at least once in their lives.

Marriage, Divorce, and Annulments with JD Flynn

JD Flynn serves as a canonical advisor and Special Assistant to Bishop James Conley in the Diocese of Lincoln. He previously served as chancellor of the Archdiocese of Denver. JD serves as a canonical consultant to dioceses and religious communities, and serves on the board of Endow and of the Cultural Enterprise Foundation. His work has appeared in the National Catholic RegisterFirst ThingsNational Review Online, and various canonical publications. He has a Juris Canonici Licentiate from the Catholic University of America, and Master’s degree in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

In October, bishops will be gathering in Rome for a synod on the family. There’s been controversy surrounding it since it was announced last fall. Flynn blogged about the synod and the unlikelihood of the pope changing Church teaching.

“The Holy Father announced this synod for the family to take place in October really to take a look at the situation of the family in the world today,” Flynn said. Pope Francis released a document in November 2013 planning for the synod and letting everyone know that it was going to happen. At the beginning of that document, Flynn said, the pope “said that the situation of the family today was unimaginable some years ago. Concerns which are commonplace today were unheard of until a few years ago.” 

The pope is referencing, Flynn said, the impact of secularism, radical feminism, pornography, and ubiquitous divorce on the family, but he’s also calling attention to things that are happening in other parts of the world that we don’t think of very often in the West. Flynn cited dowries, the caste system, and a trend toward polygamy. 

“We are living in a time when the family is being attacked on all sides by all kinds of problems, some of which seem so far removed from reality, we can hardly conceive them,” Flynn said. 

The synod, according to Flynn, “is really an exciting thing, because it’s not just about what the rules are for families or what the rules are for communion…it’s really about finding a new way to talk about this basic block of human society, the family, and the model for the Holy Family as an antidote for some of the problems we’re facing in our culture.”

Flynn maintains that, in some ways, “the question for the synod of the family is how can moms and dads, and sons and daughters, be missionary disciples together. How can they know Jesus Christ together? And then how can they bring the love of God into their relationships?” Flynn points out that the Holy Father is trying to get parents to bring their children to the healthiest thing for them: the holiness that comes from a relationship with Jesus.

The confusion over divorce, remarriage, and annulments, Flynn said, is a hard teaching, which has led to confusion. He wrote about it on his blog, citing ways to approach and reach out to people affected by these situations.

Links referenced in this section:

 - JD Flynn’s Register blog

 - The Register interview with Cardinal Maradiaga

 - Pope Francis’ preparatory document for the Synod on the Family

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Marge Fenelon

Marge Fenelon is a Catholic wife, mother, author, columnist, and speaker. She’s a frequent contributor to a number of Catholic publications and websites and is a regular guest on Catholic radio. She’s written several books about Marian devotion and Catholic family life and has touched the hearts of audiences in a variety of venues. Her latest book is Imitating Mary: Ten Marian Virtues for the Modern Mom.

Fenelon’s first approach to her recent trip in the Holy Land was to collect petitions from friends, relatives, and readers. She wrote the names and petitions in a little booklet and carried it in her backpack during her trip. At each stop at the holy places, she prayed, “Lord, remember who’s in my backpack, please.”

“This area of the world is the foundation, not only of our faith, but the Orthodox faith, Jewish faith, [and] it was a very profound experience for me,” she said.

“Standing, being in the Holy Land, for the first time in my life, all of the layers of my faith came together,” Fenelon said. “The Bible stories and all the histories that go back to the Israelites and comes forward. It was as if centuries upon centuries suddenly collapsed into one moment for me.”

“Even if we never go to the Holy Land,” she said, “we have to realize, there was Christ, and there are the foundational points of our faith. We have to preserve this or they’ll be lost.” She spoke of the repairs that she could see were needed in, for example, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. “I was very surprised that it wasn’t all spanky, wonderful, and perfect, which is what I very naively expected. No, you’ve got some poor, as in limited resources, organizations trying to keep these up. Without us, they can’t do it.”

The Church of Saint Joseph was a big stop for Fenelon, after the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. “It’s so completely stark,” she said, and she was surprised by that. 

Listen to this week’s show online or on your mp3 player.