A new Gallup poll released on Wednesday shows that the pope’s popularity has taken a steep downward spiral, with only 59 percent of Americans saying they viewed the pope favorably, down from 76 percent in February 2014. Fueling this lower rating are declining opinions of the pope among Roman Catholics and conservatives. Worse still, 16 percent of Americans disapprove of the job the pope is doing, up from 9 percent in the same period.
The Gallup poll was done three weeks after the pope released his much-ballyhooed climate Encyclical, which denounced capitalism (free markets) and criticized humankind for turning the planet into a sewer. Critics say that much of his Encyclical was largely ghost-written by environmental activists and United Nations’ ideologues. Prior to the Encyclical’s release, the Vatican held a controversial climate summit, and invited people like pro-abortionist Jeffrey Sachs and population-control proponent Ban Ki-moon to speak.
Even Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) and PASS, had difficulty trying to explain away why having Sachs and Ki-moon at the climate conference wasn’t antithetical to the church’s teachings and that abortion and population control were not part of the agenda. Sorondo even wrote in one communication to a pro-life group that no one mentioned abortion or population control, but that they did speak of “access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.”
As one pro-life group noted, “phrases such as ‘family planning,’ ‘sexual and reproductive health,’ and ‘reproductive rights’ are euphemisms for contraception, sterilization, and abortion.” According to Life Site, “Sorondo’s response was not only ‘surprising’ but amounted to him ‘openly defy[ing] the position the Holy See has held on these terms for over thirty years because of their association with abortion.'” Much of this was seen by Roman Catholics and pro-life groups as a slap in the face after years of battling abortionists, only to be undermined by the pope’s underlings.
Gallup also wrote that before the February 2014 survey, the pope was being lauded by “gay and lesbian members of the church, the American news media, with accolades including Time magazine naming him the Person of the Year in 2013.” He was quite possibly one of the most popular popes since Gallup started doing these surveys, and then the Encyclical circus came to Vatican City.
The favorability decline among conservatives, Gallup said, “may be attributable to the pope’s denouncing of ‘the idolatry of money’ and linking climate change partially to human activity, along with his passionate focus on income inequality — all issues that are at odds with many conservatives’ beliefs.” Even Americans who identify as liberals gave Francis a lower favorability rating, which dropped 14 percentage points in the same period.
Liberals have “criticized the pope for not embracing ordination of women as priests or allowing priests to marry.” Gallup writes that his “papacy is still relatively new, however, and in time he may address these long-standing doctrinal questions more fully.” That may be wishful thinking, as others have noted that much of what Francis has said gets taken out of context, misappropriated by liberal pundits, or reinterpreted by the mainstream media.
As Luke Coppen of The Spectator wrote in January 2014, in the year since the pope took office, “few left-leaning commentators could resist falling for the foot-washing Jesuit from Buenos Aires. In column after column they projected their deepest hopes on to Francis — he is, they think, the man who will finally bring enlightened liberal values to the Catholic church.” And some of his earlier popularity could also stem from his unpopular predecessor, Benedict. Even with this new survey, Francis’ popularity is still higher than Benedict’s but lower than John Paul’s.
While his image may be going down, his carbon footprint is going up. Way up. Francis is making his first visit to the U.S. this September, and will be traveling to New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. He will also be addressing a joint session of Congress, where most Republicans have largely ignored his Encyclical. This is in addition to Francis stopping in communist Cuba as well as visiting other countries throughout his papacy.
One church historian, Christopher Bellitto, told the Associated Press, “Whether liberal or conservative, you love the pope when he agrees with you. And he’s been saying things that annoy both sides.” Bellitto also said that his decline in popularity was not surprising. “Who can sustain those numbers for that long?” Apparently Pope John Paul II can, who served as the Holy See for nearly 27 years, and “always polled above 60% in the 1990s and 2000s, reaching a high of 86% favorability in late 1998.”