After publicly criticizing Pat Quinn, Cardinal Francis George praised the Illinois governor for blocking a "huge expansion of gambling that would hurt the poor" and for signing a law to abolish the death penalty.
"When I first came to Illinois, back to this state almost 15 years ago, the very first time I spoke to the legislature, to a committee of the legislature, it was to ask them to abolish the death penalty. So, we're very proud of the fact that he was the governor who finally did it," George said.
The Archbishop of Chicago also praised Quinn for blocking new gambling legislation passed earlier this year by both chambers of the General Assembly. It would have added 14 new gambling venues to Illinois's 10 existing casinos, while tripling the number of gambling positions to about 39,000. He said it would harm some poor families, even though the church itself has long supported small-scale games of chance.
So what about bingo in the basement of the church auditoriums?
“ That's not a massive expansion. The Catholic Church in principle is not opposed to games of chance,” George said. “And, you know, when you're playing penny poker at home, games like that, that's recreational. The problem with massive gambling, as said, is you could lose the family home. You could lose your fortune. You could lose food money. That's a whole different moral perspective.”
Cardinal George joined other Illinois bishops last Friday for what he called a private "pastoral meeting" with Quinn. He said they were upset when the governor publicly invoked his own Catholic upbringing and education to explain why he attended a fundraiser for the abortion rights group Personal PAC. Quinn made similar references to his personal conscience when defending his support for civil unions for same-sex couples.
“It's what he had said, particularly around the civil unions bill, that it was his faith that was prompting him to do this. And he's done that on several occasions,” George said. “It's also disquieting that he would say, "There's a law and therefore everybody obeys it." What if the law's immoral? I mean, every government has always said that: "You must obey the law!" And people of faith have often said, "Well, we will, up to a point." That's why there are martyrs. If the law is, you know -- Everything done in Germany in the 1930s was done legally. But the laws were immoral.”
The Cardinal's entire interview has been posted on MyFoxChicago.com. It will be broadcast at 8:30 Christmas morning on Fox Chicago Sunday.