ROME — Pope Francis on Wednesday backed equal pay for equal work for women, calling it a “Christian duty” to fight to make sure that women receive equivalent compensation for doing the same jobs as men.

The pontiff also called it “chauvinistic” to fault the women’s rights movement for a decrease in marriages in recent decades, calling that accusation a thinly disguised way to “control the woman.”

The pontiff said that “the Christian seed” of equality between men and women must generate new fruit, through a more persuasive witness to the social dignity of marriage.

“As Christians, we must become more demanding in this regard,” Francis said, citing support for the right to equal pay for equal work as an example.

In the United States, although women today make up half the workforce and two-thirds of primary and co-breadwinners, they still make only 77 cents, on average, for every dollar a man makes. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, women are losing out on $11,000 in income every year, on average, as a result.

“The disparity [in the compensation] is pure scandal!” Francis said during his weekly audience, which he dedicated to reflecting on the sacrament of marriage.

The pontiff has dedicated his recent audiences to the family, in preparation for an upcoming Synod of Bishops on the issue to take place in Rome this October. On previous occasions, he has spoken about children, the elderly, and the “complementarity” between man and woman.

“The masterpiece of society is the family,” Francis said Wednesday, meaning “the man and woman who love each other.”

The pontiff also said that society is called to reflect “with great seriousness” upon the reasons behind the lowering rates of marriage among young people, as well as the increase in divorce rates and decreases in the number of children couples are having.

He said that “the difficulty of staying together, both as a couple and as a family,” leading to more frequent and faster divorce, turn children into “the biggest victims in the breakup of a marriage.”

“Why don’t young people marry? Why do they often prefer to live together, and often with an ‘expiration date’?” he asked.

“Why do so many, even among the baptized, have little confidence in marriage and family?” Francis asked the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square, adding that it’s important to understand the causes behind the lack of faith in marriage.

The pope said that even though money is one of the reasons, it’s not the only one.

“If you experience as a child that marriage has an expiration date, you’ll inadvertently grow up thinking like that,” Francis said.

He didn’t give other reasons, but he did say that blaming the decline in young people wanting to marry on movements that promote women’s rights and female emancipation is “chauvinistic,” a way to “control the woman.”

The Catholic Church has long been on record supporting equal pay for equal work.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church denounces “sinful inequalities that affect millions of men and women” and that “are in open contradiction of the Gospel …. Excessive economic and social disparity between individuals … is a source of scandal and militates against social justice, equity, [and] human dignity.”

In his 1995 Letter to Women, St. John Paul II wrote that “there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements … This is a matter of justice, but also of necessity.”