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Cardinal slams Quinn for plans to give award at abortion rights event

Cardinal Francis George (left) Gov. PQuinn. | Courtesy AP file

Cardinal Francis George (left) and Gov. Pat Quinn. | Courtesy and AP file

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Updated: December 4, 2011 11:10AM

SPRINGFIELD — Cardinal Francis George and other Roman Catholic bishops slammed Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday for agreeing to present a pro-choice group’s leadership award and rewarding those “supporting the legal right to kill children in their mothers’ wombs.”

The statement from the Catholic Conference of Illinois is the latest chasm between the governor, who is Roman Catholic, and the church, with whom his administration has waged a legal battle over state foster-care services offered by the church. That fight is rooted in the church’s refusal to recognize Illinois’ civil unions law.

The bishops criticized Quinn for agreeing to present an award at a Nov. 17 event in Chicago sponsored by Personal PAC, which donated close to $500,000 to him in cash and in-kind services during the 2010 gubernatorial election.

“We deeply regret the governor’s decision to present this award, which so closely associates him with a political action group whose purpose is contrary to the common good,” the bishops’ statement said. “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.”

Their statement ended with an admonition to “Catholic institutions statewide” that stated “we reaffirm our desire and policies that those acting in the manner of the governor should not be given special recognition on church property or at functions held in support of church ministry.” The statement was signed by George and bishops from the Peoria, Springfield, Rockford, Belleville and Joliet dioceses.

In a brief statement, Quinn’s office defended his appearance to honor a rape victim featured in a campaign commercial that Personal PAC funded last year: “The governor is attending Personal PAC’s annual lunch, and will be presenting a leadership award to a woman who is a rape survivor and preeminent advocate for victims of rape.”

Personal PAC president Terry Cosgrove fired back at the bishops.

“The governor is saying a few kind words about a woman who has been raped and had the courage to tell her story,” he said. “The Catholic Bishops attacking him for that and accusing women of killing their children is a new low in public discourse, even for them.”

He accused church leaders of still smarting from last year’s loss to Quinn by state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), who is an ardent abortion opponent.

“They’re getting bent out of shape because of the whole Brady thing. Everyone is still resentful that Personal PAC played a big role in getting Pat Quinn elected,” Cosgrove said.

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