Gov. Pat Quinn said Thursday he considers it “the proper, Christian thing to do” to present an abortion-rights group’s leadership award, sloughing off criticism from Cardinal Francis George and other Roman Catholic bishops.
The Catholic Conference of Illinois has accused the governor, a Roman Catholic, of “supporting the legal right to kill children in their mother’s wombs” by agreeing to present the award to a rape victim-turned-victim’s advocate at a Nov. 17 Chicago event sponsored by Personal PAC.
The “pro-choice” group contributed close to $500,000 in cash and in-kind services to the governor’s 2010 campaign.
“I am going to the event to present an award to a woman who was a victim of rape and who is a very strong advocate of helping rape victims all over our state [and] our country,” Quinn said Thursday. “I really feel that’s a proper, Christian thing to do to honor someone who’s doing someone that helps the community at large.”
Asked whether he’s offended that George and the other bishops were questioning his credentials as a Roman Catholic, Quinn said, “No, I just follow my conscience. That’s all you can do in life.”
After Quinn made his remarks, Catholic leaders issued a new statement that appeared aimed at clarifying that its earlier comments were not directed at the rape victim herself but rather at Quinn.
“Gov. Quinn’s statement today that he is recognizing a rape victim for her advocacy work dodges the issue. Our hearts go out to any victim of rape, one of the most personally violent crimes against women,” Catholic Conference spokeswoman Mary Massingale said.
“He is presenting an award – titled the Pro-Choice Leadership Award – at an event hosted by Personal PAC, an organization that describes itself as a ‘political action committee … dedicated to electing pro-choice candidates to state and local office in Illinois.’ This action is irreconcilable with any honest profession of the Catholic faith, and it is what prompted the bishops’ statement.”
The Catholic Conference’s earlier statement blasted the governor’s decision to “so closely” associate himself with “a political action group whose purpose is contrary to the common good.”
“With this action, Gov. Quinn has gone beyond a political alignment with those supporting the legal right to kill children in their mother’s wombs to rewarding those deemed most successful in this terrible work,” the bishops said.
The statement was signed by George and bishops from the Joliet, Peoria, Springfield, Rockford and Belleville dioceses.