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October 25th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

When ‘God’s will,’ rape and pregnancy collide

By Wayne Drash, CNN

(CNN) - The pregnant 12-year-old girl was strung out on heroin and looked like a walking skeleton when she arrived at the hospital. The conversation that followed, said Phoenix police chaplain John South, has stuck with him ever since.

“Do you know who the father is?” South recalled asking her.

“She said, ‘Yes, it’s my biological father. He’s the one who hooked me on heroin so he could continue to rape me whenever he wanted to.’ ”

The Protestant chaplain has consoled about 50 pregnant rape victims - typically girls raped by their fathers - in his years working with the Phoenix Police Department.

South describes himself as “pro-life,” but when it comes to dealing with a girl or woman impregnated by a rapist, he keeps his personal views to himself.

“I don’t give them a lecture or preach at them,” South said. “I’ve seen crimes beyond comprehension.”

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock stirred controversy during a debate in Indiana Tuesday when he said pregnancies from rape are “something that God intended to happen.” The instant reaction in political circles was predictable: Democrats decried him, and many conservative Republicans defended his position as steadfastly “pro-life.”

But theologians were quick with a more nuanced approach, saying the issue of pregnancies from rape strikes at the core of a timeless question: How do you explain evil in a world where God is loving?

That said, many expressed outright dismay by Mourdock’s remarks.

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South wanted to know what Bible Mourdock reads because “what he’s saying is absolutely wrong. It’s not biblical.”

The police chaplain said pregnancies from rape aren’t meant to be politicized and said the victims suffer from physical and mental wounds and are often suicidal. About 60% of the time, South surmised from his experience, the women or girls choose to give the baby up for adoption, as long as they never see the child at birth.

“I hurt for these kids,” he said. “Rape is evil.”

Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of the best-selling book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” said Mourdock’s remarks were off-base: “He’s invoking the will of God where it is not appropriate."

People “should have compassion for the person whose life is messed up by this and not make her an instrument for our idiosyncratic, theological commitment,” Kushner said.

“If you believe she has no right to terminate that pregnancy, you're free to believe that,” Kushner said. “But for you to write your preferences into law and compel another person to mess her life up because of what you believe, I think you're going too far.”

“I continue to be bemused by the ultraconservative lawmakers who say they want smaller government and less government intrusion into people’s lives, except when it comes to who you can marry and how many children you should have.”

Plenty of liberal Christians bemoaned how Mourdock was being perceived by some as the face of American Christianity.

"Once again, expressions of Christian faith that honor the rights of women to choose their own health care options and what happens to their bodies are not seen or heard," wrote the Rev. Barbara Kershner Daniel, who pastors the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ of Frederick, Maryland, in a message that she circulated via email.

"The lack of another voice, another perspective, another vision from the Christian community leaves an impression that all Christians share this single perspective about pregnancy through rape," she wrote.

Father Tom Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said he found Mourdock’s comments troubling from a Catholic perspective because “God does not want rape to happen.”

“Someone getting pregnant through rape simply means biology continues to function,” Reese said. “That doesn’t mean God wills it.

“If we look at the Scriptures, we see a God who weeps with those going through pain, who is compassionate for those who suffer and condemns those who do injustice,” Reese said

During the Tuesday debate, Mourdock was explaining his opposition to abortion in cases of rape or incest when he made his remark. “I came to realize life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” said Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer.

Amid the uproar Wednesday, Mourdock sought to clarify his comments, saying he was sorry if he offended anyone but said his comments were twisted and distorted for political gain. “The God that I worship would never, ever want to see evil done,” he said.

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Paul Root Wolpe, the director for the Center of Ethics at Emory University, said Mourdock’s comments were the equivalent “of saying you shouldn't pull people out of the rubble because God intended the earthquake to happen or we shouldn't try to cure disease because it's God who gave us the disease,” Wolpe said.

"That perspective was theologically rejected by virtually every major religion a long, long time ago,” Wolpe added.

Mourdock has been an active member of Christian Fellowship Church in Evansville, Indiana, for nearly two decades, according to Mike Deeg, the executive pastor of the 2,000-plus member nondenominational evangelical church.

Mourdock has gone on missions trips with a group connected to the church to Bolivia and is well-regarded among congregants Deeg said.

Deeg says the church tries to remain largely out of politics. “We don’t think God is Republican or a Democrat,” he said by phone from Evansville, noting they encourage members to vote, the church just doesn’t say for whom.

The pastor said of what he has read about Mourdock’s remarks, they largely lined up with the church’s teachings on the sanctity of life and their belief that life begins at conception.

“I think rape is a horrible thing, and I think God would condemn rape as horrible,” Deeg said. “I think we’re made in the image of God regardless,” he added, “I don’t think the circumstances dictate whether God knows us and loves us, regardless of how our conception comes about.”

South, the chaplain in Phoenix, said the 12-year-old girl he met years ago opted for an abortion and her father was ultimately convicted of rape. He said he grappled often with “why she was subjected to such horrendous pain and torture, mentally, physically and emotionally.”

“Did it shake my faith? No,” South said. “Did I ask God why? Of course.”

CNN’s Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Rape • Women

soundoff (4,449 Responses)
  1. mama k

    Had the Catholic tenets regarding abortion and contraception been strictly followed since the founding of the U.S., we would now have a population like China and our city slums would make Latin American slums look like Pleasantville. Our population is already too big. I'm not for people getting abortions for convenience, and the rate is way too high, but right-to-lifers have always been completely out of touch with reality, as is this idiot candidate Mourdock.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • sortakinda

      I believe that you are thinking about RABBITS, not moral people who might have something to do other than propagate. This whole "birth control" thing and over population is an expression of the eugenics proponents of the 20th cetnury who didn't want a lot of extra poor black people around, drinking all their water.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • mama k

      @sortakinda: No, check out statistics on population growth. Man can be ignorant about it for a while, but of course we see that in just about any way possible, we are less and less able to meet the demands of the current size.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  2. sortakinda

    "Women's Health" is a coward's way of saying " I want to be able to kill anything that is in my womb that I don't want there." You might add, it's MY decision not God's, and there is no God anyway, because this wouldn't have happened to me if there was one.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • == o ==

      It's not just women. Doctors and women together need to have precedence over sky fairies that do not exist.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • sam stone

      Sure seems like a lot of conjecture, sorta

      October 25, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • sortakinda

      ===0====
      SO you want the DOCTOR to make your decisions for you? A cheap excuse, I think. YOU make the decision and take responsibilty. What abortion doctor is going to tell you no, don't do it, if you ask her/him? It's money in the bank, girls.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Primewonk

      Well sorta, we aren't a theocracy. So what ever it is your version of a god wants, needs, desires, or demands is irrelevant, since neither your god, or any god, has any legal standing in our secular laws.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • == o ==

      @sorta:

      "SO you want the DOCTOR to make your decisions for you? "

      Twist words, much sorta? Women and their doctors and the current law should have precedence over make believe gods. Is that clearer?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  3. superlogi

    Four dead people in Benghazi and demonstrated incompetence by the White House in this disaster, and you're talking about a man's religious convictions?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • mjd

      superlogi - Stay on topic! The article is about one man's religious convictions and it affects us all!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • == o ==

      I do believe that plays more of a role in the subject of this article than something in Benghazi, superturd.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  4. Michael in Houston

    The only explanation for this sort of insult and mockery of God is that is comes from evil. To wound people like this and to assault the heart of the Living God like this comes from one place and one place only.....evil. That the GOP tolerates this and does not make any move out of common decency to reject candidates like this says alot about the place the GOP finds itself in. That the GOP not only tolerates and participates in it by allowing it reflects its utter and complete weakness. That Pro Life Evangelicals can justify such commentary is an assault against God so profound, that they will be held accountable.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  5. D0ntBlvit

    Indiana voters will elect him nonetheless. As a whole, they are neither smart nor sophisticated.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  6. RustyHinges8

    The God I always read about, wasn’t exactly “loving”, however, all the stories about God were written by men, and I’m sure there were a few in the group who would be considered “evil”. So, they added a twist to God’s personality. Good or evil…..it’s an easy cop-out either way. Mourdock just avoided a touchy subject that he felt uncomfortable with, by blaming God, because God can be good and he can certainly be evil, so Mourdock tried to slip by this one (and he made sure to add lots of emotion, too). Like Wayne Drash said, “when are the ultraconservative lawmakers…going to stay out of people’s lives?”

    October 25, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • andrew

      God is not evil in the bible, he is just. He punishes evil and sin. His reasons and thoughts are high above any human. But he is LOVE

      October 25, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • sam stone

      his "reasons and thoughts" were written, translated and edited by men.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Primewonk

      4,000 years ago he work population was about 50,000,000. The vast majority of these folks lived far away from you nomadic bronze-age shepherds. Yet your god decided to kill 49,999,992 of them. And how many poor innocent kitteh and puppies did he murder?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  7. Andy iyer

    How can anyone beleive Republicans. They are off on all the issues. Come On.. You call yourself the Super poser and try to control the world, But would not give the women rights to choose what they wnat!. It's unbeleivable wht republicans are thinking. I wonder hoe republicans are geting even one women vote. Any Families who have a women member in their family (Daughter, gransh Daughter, wife, Grandmother....Etc..) DONOT SUPPORT REPUBLICANS. you will be screwed!!.

    ALSO..CNN GOT TONS OF MONEY FROM ROMENY OR REPUBLICAN SUPER PAC..THEY CHANGED THEIR POSTION SUDDENLY FROM DEMOCRATS TO REPUBLICANS.. WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?.

    WOLF BLITZER, ERIN BURNETT, ANDERSON COPPER.. I HAD GREAT RESPECTS FOR YOU GUYS.. YOU ALL BLEW IT IN THE LAST MONTH.. WHO BOUGHT YOU ALL?. Money does the magic for Romey and he has a TON!!
    Reporters should have some credibility!!!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Bloud

      I agree with you Andy, i thought it was just me.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Bloud

      That's why they want PBS silenced. Right now it is not owned by a large corporation like the other media outlets.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  8. Norman

    Im sure this guy also believes a man lived inside of a whale for thousands of years and that the Earth is 2000 years old. These people are so misled. If your so confident in your God, then the next time you or a loved one gets serious ill why not try praying the disease away. Why rely on science and medicine. Lets see how that works out for you.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • andrew

      This statement is far beyond ignorance. I cannot even reply to this type of ignorance

      October 25, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • nii

      Norman
      You are plain dumb. Find a Bible and read it. Educate yourself and stop spreading lies and propaganda. You won't have it easy on this blog if you lie.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • david

      Norman,

      According to the bible, Jonah was in the whale for 3 days, not a thousand years. The bible certainly doesn't teach the earth is only 2,000 years old. I suggest you read it first before making any additional inane comments about the bible.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Pete

      Yeah, but according to the bible it could have been 3000 years. Maybe they were talking about one of god's days, and not a human day.

      October 25, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  9. gladiatorgrl

    People can blah blah blah all they want. GOD's IMAGINARY!! If God didn't show up when his "chose people" were being burned in ovens. NOT COMING!! IMAGINARY!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • david

      Just because you say that God is imaginary doesn't make it true. People are free to believe what they want. You don't believe in God. That is fine. I believe in God. We will both find out one day. If i am wrong, i will join you in the nothingness of death. If i am right, you can can spin to God what you really meant by "he is imaginary".

      October 25, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  10. Matt

    I wonder how many Christians that call Mormonism a cult realize that to many of us, their religion looks just as cultish, with just as ridiculous a belief structure. In fact, I find the Mormon ideal of a "home planet" to be much more in line with the possibilities of reality than the Evangelical Christian explanation . Not that I think either one is anything more than a fever dream fantasy.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • nii

      MATT
      Mormonism is not called a cult for religious belief or ritual. These are both definitions of "cult". However it is called a cult as in "spiritually abusive religious insti.tution". This is because over the years some have left the LDS complaining of excessive abuse of authority by church leaders for which they had to be helped to overcome by psychologists. I am not saying they are the only one to have suffered such an accusation. Indeed even Atheist groups have been accused as such and their ex-members given help. It has nothing to do with Mormonism's unique style of worship.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  11. David

    Probably not the best venue to discuss original sin and free will but I do have a question. It is considered a scandal by those in the media when someone speaks out against abortion. However, it not considered a scandal when a president and a political party push for abortions that murder over 1 million babies per year in the United States alone.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • gladiatorgrl

      Roe v. Wade (read it) Reading is Fundemental.

      Your personal opinion does not trump the right to privacy.

      Opinions are like @ $ $ h o l es everyone's got one and they usually stink.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • snowboarder

      politicians are pushing for abortions? you might want to check your facts.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Matt

      Pstttt, everything you read on some conservative pro-life blog isn't true. Maybe, just maybe, they are trying to manipulate you in to believing their position...but no, never, right? Because they are good people, they would NEVER use made up or massaged statistics to fire you up and tug at your heart strings. Nope, never.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • sam stone

      "It is considered a scandal by those in the media when someone speaks out against abortion"

      A scandal? Overstating it a bit, aren't you?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Primewonk

      Worldwide there about 138,000,000 births per year. Research shows that for every birth there is about 1 spontaneous abortion. Most in the first week or so – before the woman even knows she is pregnant. Your god claims both omnipotence and omniscience. Thus your god is personally responsible for 138,000,000 abortions each year. Get him to knock this crap off. Then we'll talk.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  12. DB

    Why haven't you all figured this out yet? The republicans are simply following the belief of their fearful leader, Mitt "Just for Men" Romney

    October 25, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  13. Linda

    No matter what Moordock believes, we all have are own beliefs and he should not be elected to public office trying to force his religious beliefs on others in this country. He should keep his religion to himself because there are all types of religions here in American and some people have none at all, so why does he think he can make his religion the one that everyone else has to follow just because he's in office. Republicans are becoming like the Taliban.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • D0ntBlvit

      Amen to that, Linda.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  14. Wallster

    This is just as crazy in believing that if you blow up a dozen people by strapping on an explosive, you will be granted eternity with virgins to have relations with. Religion is used as a way to manipulate people into doing things that common sense should prevent. This mindset has no place in any governing body here or anywhere in the world. Somehow, with all the advancements in technology, we're regressing as a society.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  15. palintwit

    Countless studies have shown that there is a higher incidence of incest and child molestation among southern, white evangelical families than in any other group that participated in the study. All one has to do is take a casual drive south of the Mason-Dixon line and you will encounter toothless inbreds wherever you travel. In fact, historians have long theorized that the reason the south lost the Civil War is because of the high number of mentally challenged soldiers in the army, a direct result of generations of inbreeding.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Arbour

      Can you cite any of these "countless: studies?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • wilbert

      where the hell did you get those statistics

      October 25, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Chuck

      Is that from the Bureau of Statistics You Pulled Out Of Your Butt?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  16. Steve O

    I have a better idea. Let's not worry about whether or not he got the scripture wrong. Let's stop using mythology in making any important decisions altogether.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • gladiatorgrl

      one can only have the "Audacity of Hope" that our country will come out of the dark ages and make decisions based on sound science.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  17. David crandall

    When are republicans and religious right going to realize a woman can be old enough to get pregnant but not ready to have a baby. An abortion is not killing babies. A baby is not a baby until it is born.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • andrew

      Not according to the bible

      October 25, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • mama k

      @andrew – oh you mean Gullible's Travels?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • david

      David,

      Sorry. You are wrong. It is a baby in or outside the womb.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • superlogi

      A baby in the womb is an unborn baby. And, you may want to ask yourself what the definition of birth is, when the unborn feels pain, when it's heart begins to beat and when it actually becomes sentient? The fact is, the only difference between born and unborn, is birth. So, if you don't like the way it looks or decide after birth, you don't want it, why not kill it then with impunity? After all, your so-called Christian messiah has voted that late-term (in some instances 85% of the body is out of the womb) abortion should be legal. With regard to being ready to raise a child, I doubt very many people are. I know I wasn't.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • sam stone

      David: For some time after conception, it is a mass of cells, not a baby

      October 25, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • sam stone

      superlogi: the only people calling obama a "messiah" are the right wing fvcks who oppose him and want to ridicule him.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Brianna

      Say that to a hopefully pregnant family.

      When your wife is pregant do you say she is pregnant with a zygote? You say she is pregnant with your baby.
      Have you ever see a 8 week ultrasound? Did you ever hear a heart beat at 6 weeks? As a mother I see it as a baby. The first weeks of pregnancy is scary because you want your baby to strive. I have seen women torn up over babies that they miscarried at 8 weeks! Now tell them that it wasn't a baby

      If you're wife has a miscarrage while 5 months pregnant are you gonna say it wasn't a baby because it wasn't born?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Primewonk

      Andrew wrote, "Not according to the bible"

      Any chance you can let us know when your bible became either a science text or US law?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  18. steve harnack

    It's absolutely insane to be asking serious questions about a myth. Why don't you pose the question of why Zeus allows evil? It would be just as relevant.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • USDude

      I think it's insane to believe that a monkey turned into a man – but that's probably what you believe. You would probably be very upset if someone started killing monkeys because of a potential overpopulation problem – too bad you can't extend that sympathy to humans.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Primewonk

      USDude wrote, "I think it's insane to believe that a monkey turned into a man – but that's probably what you believe."

      It's only batshit crazy fundiot nutters posting this crap. No one who understands science says a monkey turned into a man.

      If you purposefully choose to ignorant about science, why do you come onto these boards and demonstrate that ignorance for all to see?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  19. ArthurP

    Either God is responsible for the life or he is not. (abiogenisis / evolution)

    October 25, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • MarkinFL

      The fact that life happens without the intervention of god's is quite beyond many people. Also the fact that a zygote may be human ( as is my left toe ) it is not a person ( as my left toe is not ). Just because a zygote CAN become a person ( unlike my left toe, except possibly through some cloning technique ) does not mean it is currently a person. Its that simple. The only gray area is deciding where that line is drawn. Personally I go with serious brain activity ( not random sensory firing ). But that is another discussion.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  20. Canadian Jack

    Astronomical Physicists and Neural Biologists are in agreement. Everything that exists is a hologram. Life is in fact an illusion. Who is the magician?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Dennis

      Your own mind is the magician.You must be in control of it at all times!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:16 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.