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CAROL MARIN: Church should show compassion

Updated: December 7, 2011 8:15AM

As Cardinal Francis George’s denunciation of Gov. Pat Quinn hit the headlines last week, the Gospel of Luke was being read at morning mass.

Luke talked about Jesus being denounced by the Pharisees who complained, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

I am not comparing Quinn to Christ, honest. But there are lessons in Luke’s gospel for Cardinal George and some of the bishops.

Lessons of compassion, for instance. And of listening, not always lecturing.

The tongue-lashing George and the bishops of the Catholic Conference of Illinois delivered to Quinn was in reaction to the governor presenting a pro-choice leadership award to a rape survivor named Jennie Goodman at Personal PAC’s annual luncheon on Nov. 17.

Personal PAC is a pro-choice organization that argues for abortion rights and provides women’s health and contraception information. It donated almost $500,000 to Quinn during the 2010 election cycle in cash and in-kind contributions.

“Governor Quinn,” said the cardinal’s press release, “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.”

Goodman, the rape survivor, was entirely disregarded in that initial, harsh statement. The next day, in clarification, the Catholic Conference belatedly noted that its criticism was of Quinn , not Goodman. “Our hearts go out to any victim of rape, one of the most personally violent crimes against women,” it said through a representative.

Insufficiently respecting the role of women is a problem for the men who run the church.

The Vatican inquisition of American Catholic nuns comes immediately to mind. As does last year’s excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride by the bishop of Phoenix. Her crime was concluding, on the ethics committee of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Arizona, that only an abortion would save the life of a pregnant mother of four children.

As Margaret Steinfels, co-director of Religion and Culture at Fordham University, observed in the National Catholic Reporter in January, “A lot of people think the bishops haven’t the foggiest idea of what it means to be pregnant, or to be pregnant and sick, or to be pregnant and dying.”

Or raped and pregnant.

In the current controversy, Goodman cut a 2010 campaign commercial for the pro-choice Quinn, saying, “I was raped at 18. I don’t know what I would have done if I had gotten pregnant.”

The cardinal and the Catholic Conference now question Quinn’s Catholicism. The Rev. Larry McNally, pastor of Ascension Catholic Church in Oak Park, does not.

“He comes to church at Ascension. I give him communion,” McNally said Friday. “His heart is with the needy and the poor.”

McNally knows what it’s like to be in the cardinal’s cross hairs.

Reprimanded by the archdiocese for supporting the ordination of women, he was ordered to publicly apologize for deviating from church doctrine, and he did.

“I love my priesthood and my parish,” he said. “Staying was more important than leaving.”

Pat Quinn has chosen to stay in the church of his birth as well. As the Gospel of Luke makes clear, we all walk among people with whom we profoundly disagree.

It doesn’t hurt to love them.

Or listen.

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