The number of Catholic marriages in the United States is at its lowest point since 1965.
Marriage is not only a social good, but an economic one as well, said speakers on a recent panel on "The Future of Marriage in America."
"Good marriages truly lead to a flourishing society," said moderator Kate Bryan, communications director for the American Principles Project.
It is "statistically proven that children do best" in a traditional, two-parent household, said Wade Horn, who served as assistant secretary for children and families in the Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush.
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."
A day after a fellow Florida prelate warned church employees not to publicly support the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage, Bishop Robert Lynch called Catholics to respond to the state’s new reality with “patience and humility.”
A recent survey found that nearly six in 10 Americans say marriage should not be "defined and regulated by the state."
Prominent U.S. evangelicals Russell Moore and Rick Warren blasted the sexual revolution at a Vatican conference Tuesday, saying it is destroying the institution of marriage.
Moore, the public face of the Southern Baptist Convention, said sexual liberation had created "a culture obsessed with sex" that had simply led to a "boredom of sex shorn of mystery."
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."
The Vatican will host religious leaders from across the religious spectrum for a conference where they are expected to defend traditional marriage.
A pastoral approach that doesn't renounce the indissolubility of the sacrament, yet doesn't automatically exclude the faithful is needed, a canon lawyer said.