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Illinois Catholic Conference under fire for statements involving rape-victim advocate

The Catholic Conference of Illinois has found itself in a public relations imbroglio after making derogatory statements about a rape-crisis counselor who will be receiving an award from Gov. Pat Quinn at an upcoming abortion-rights event, reports the Chicago Tribune.

In a statement (PDF) released Nov. 2, the Catholic Conference of Illinois lambasted Gov. Quinn for agreeing to present a “Pro-Choice Leadership Award” at an upcoming event for Personal PAC, an abortion-rights political action committee. The leadership award is going to Jennie Goodman, a rape-crisis counselor, and a rape victim herself.

The statement, co-signed by five bishops and Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Francis George, read, in part:

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. With this action, Governor 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.

Upon learning more about the event and about Goodman’s work with rape victims, the Catholic Conference released another statement (PDF) the following day, calling Quinn’s decision to present this award “irreconcilable with any honest profession of Catholic faith” while at the same time trying to offer compassion for rape victims.

Communication director Mary Massingale put it:

“Governor 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.”

“A rape victim demands all the respect and sympathy that anybody can give,” George told the Tribune, when asked about the incident. He said he “deeply regret[s]” the statements he made about Goodman’s “terrible work” before learning who she was. He told the daily he did not regret, however, telling Quinn, who is Catholic, that participating in the even is immoral.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Goodman described how she was violently raped 20 years ago.

From the Sun-Times:

Goodman, who is pro-choice and whose mother sits on the board of Personal PAC, never had an abortion because she didn’t get pregnant after the rape. As a counselor, she said, she never directed a rape victim to an abortion clinic. All of that makes her question why she would be the object of such charged language from the cardinal and other bishops.

“It upsets me when they kind of make me feel like I’m a baby killer,” Goodman told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“It does hurt. And it hurts for all those people who have been raped. Yeah, it definitely hit home and hurt me. You don’t know me,” she said, referring to the cardinal. “You don’t know my situation.”

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