The number of Catholic marriages in the United States is at its lowest point since 1965.
Just Catholic: The New York Times paints a cold, hard picture of the church. But the church can fairly easily end a marriage for substantial or administrative reasons.
Pope Francis on Friday warned the Vatican's top marriage judges that they should not "lock the salvation of persons within the straits of legalism" and indicated he wants the church to no longer charge for the sometimes onerous and expensive annulment process.
"This is a point I want to emphasize: the sacraments are free," Francis told jurists of the Roman Rota, the church's final court of appeals for annulments.
"The sacraments give us grace," he said. "And a marriage proceeding" -- like an annulment -- "touches on the sacrament of marriage."
Pope Francis said the church's marriage annulment process should be more efficient and perhaps even free of charge, and he decried any attempts to exploit it for profit.
"Some procedures are so long and so burdensome, they don't favor [justice], and people give up," the pope said. "Mother church should do justice and say: 'Yes, it's true, your marriage is null. No, your marriage is valid.' But justice means saying so. That way, they can move on without this doubt, this darkness in their soul."
A small c catholic: When marriages have broken down irretrievably, what's needed is not words of harsh judgment and punishment, but words of love and acts of compassion.
Analysis: The American Procedural Norms of the 1960s streamlined the church's judicial process for tens of thousands of American Catholics.
Bishops meeting at the Vatican to discuss issues of family life have to relearn how to do theology in order to address contemporary concerns, one archbishop said.
NCR Today: This change in attitude is fueled by a pastoral concern for the huge number of divorced and remarried Catholics who are not allowed to go to Communion.
Faith and Justice: Divorce is a sad reality with multiple and varied causes. Blaming the victims is no solution. No one gets married just so they can get a divorce.
Cardinal Raymond Burke said Pope Francis can't change current church teaching because he and all bishops "are held to obedience to the truth" about marriage, and that cannot change.