The pope met Friday with the bishops of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, Catholic News Service reported. The bishops, headed by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, were at the Vatican for "ad limina" visits, when they report on the state of their dioceses.
Benedict urged the bishops to continue to make a stand against the push for same-sex marriage.
"The church's conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution," he said.
The pope indirectly addressed the battle between church leaders and the Obama administration over insurance coverage for contraception. He said he was aware of "threats to freedom of conscience, religion and worship."
Benedict urged the bishops to move past the scandal over clerical sexual abuse.
"It is my hope that the church in the United States, however chastened by the events of the past decade, will persevere in its historic mission of educating the young and thus contribute to the consolidation of that sound family life, which is the surest guarantee of intergenerational solidarity and the health of society as a whole," he said.