What the Pope’s Popularity Says about American Culture


As if we needed one more reason to love Pope Francis. On Monday, the pope said the Catholic Church should “weep and make reparation” for the sexual abuse crimes. In a series of strong comments made at a Mass with abuse victims, he said the church’s actions had taken on the dimensions of a “sacrilegious cult.”

The pope’s actions are only the latest to be praised by both secular and religious journalists and commentators who join the masses of adoring fans around the world. He always seems to be hugging a disabled child, washing the feet of prisoners, embracing a disfigured person, or making uncommonly compassionate comments about a marginalized people group, and scooping up people’s adoration as a result.

late 2013 CNN poll found that 88 percent of American Catholics approve of Francis’ handling his role. But most notably, three in four Americans said they view him favorably. Even many atheists have expressed their affection for the leader. Not only was the pope the most talked about person on the Internet in 2013, he was also named person of the year by The Advocate, a leading LGBT publication.

What does the pope’s popularity—even among secular populations—say about broader culture? For one thing, it says that American society is actually more open and amenable to Christians and the Christian faith than some assume.