NEARLY FOUR MONTHS ago, Pope Francis decried global warming as a man-made catastrophe requiring immediate ecological activism and blamed modern materialism for turning the planet into "an immense pile of filth."
Yesterday, a few folks in Philly didn't mince words in their opinions of the pollution-busting pleas the pope made last May in his encyclical, Laudato si'.
Paganism, declared one. "What is environmentalism but nature worship?" said Gene Koprowski, marketing director of the Heartland Institute.
Anti-American and dangerous, said another.
"The pope does seem to be enamored with solutions that are not pro-American in the slightest," said Dom Giordano, a WPHT (1210-AM) talk-show host and Daily News op-ed columnist.
Unholy lies, said a third. "The truth is our lodestar, and yet the truth has been shut down," said Elizabeth Yore, a child-advocacy lawyer and Heartland representative.
Although Pope Francis' controversial comments on everything from climate change to divorce to abortion have energized progressives and lapsed Catholics, they also have rallied conservatives among the fold who are concerned that their leader is too left-leaning.
The papal pooh-poohing has become louder locally as the region gears up for Pope Francis' first U.S. visit next week.
In fact, while Giordano, Koprowski, Yore and other climate-change deniers bashed Francis during a news conference at the Independence Visitor Center yesterday, anti-abortion activists gathered about 10 blocks away outside a Center City Planned Parenthood to urge the pope - who two weeks ago urged Catholics to show mercy to women who have had abortions - to demand that U.S. lawmakers defund the women's health nonprofit.
Pick any hot-button issue, and chances are, Pope Francis has had something to say about it that has fired up conservatives:
* "Who am I to judge?" he said about gay people.
* Of divorce, he said separation can be "inevitable" and "morally necessary," when marriages are troubled, to protect children. Divorced Catholics are not excommunicated, he added.
* While keeping in line with the church's opposition to artificial contraception, Francis also has said that Catholics shouldn't reproduce "like rabbits."
* Of capitalism, Francis warned that a systemic "greed for money" is a "subtle dictatorship" that "condemns and enslaves men and women" and drives a deeper wedge between the rich and the poor.
"He's clearly, by any standard, a holy man leading a simple life and a reformer. [But] it's the reforms that are the problem," Giordano said at yesterday's climate-change event. "He is a particularly riveting figure but potentially a dangerous figure, given his celebrity and his holiness."
Giordano spoke at a news conference hosted by the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based conservative think tank, and the Independence Hall Foundation, formerly a tea party group.
The event ended with a blustery Giordano escorting a shouting environmentalist out after she questioned the Heartland Institute's financing (they're backed by the Koch brothers, who made billions in oil refining) and challenged as suspicious science the quotes cited by a speaker to deny global warming.
On Twitter: @DanaDiFilippo