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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. Debby

    What a nut this man is.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  2. Boomer in Mo

    The Muslim majority needs to take Islam back from the extremists. The Christian majority needs to take Christianity back from the extremists.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • gladiatorgrl

      or they could just stop believing in Fairy Tales that'd work

      October 25, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • needNewGov

      That is the truest statement so far.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  3. needNewGov

    Richard Mourdock just happens to be one of these so-called Christians who is doing the work of evil. He and his ilk are turning millions away from God because of their insane/distorted interpretations of the Bible. He doesn't know what God is thinking so until he does he should keep his mouth shut.

    What saddens me is why are so many ignorant people allowed to be in positions of leadership in our country. We are not a Theocracy.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  4. Leonid

    What a sick mined in a head of this person?He is trying to serve us?At least he already now what to do when Women in danger of pregnancy!!!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  5. Corkpuller

    Nice to know all Democrats are atheists.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • needNewGov

      What makes you say that? How about not generalizing.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • gladiatorgrl

      not ALL but one can only hope- NO STATE SPONSORED RELIGION

      the Family and by extension the Republican Party has slowly and surely been turning this nation towards a theocracy for far too long.

      The Family is about the other half of American fundamentalist power—not its angry masses, but its sophisticated elites. Sharlet follows the story back to Abraham Vereide, an immigrant preacher who in 1935 organized a small group of businessmen sympathetic to European fascism, fusing the far right with his own polite but authoritarian faith. From that core, Vereide built an international network of fundamentalists who spoke the language of establishment power, a "family" that thrives to this day. In public, they host Prayer Breakfasts; in private, they preach a gospel of "biblical capitalism," military might, and American empire. Citing Hitler, Lenin, and Mao as leadership models, the Family's current leader, Doug Coe, declares, "We work with power where we can, build new power where we can't."

      October 25, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  6. Ameri2010

    Grumpy old men and menopausal women? Racist? Really?

    SweetonGeeks is apparently resorting to some made up scenario because he/she has nothing beneficial to contribute.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  7. Gary Wolf

    Ah, yes. Our own Taliban. A man telling women what they need to do with their bodies to assuage his idea of what t
    He speculates his god wants. This is sick.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • this guy

      HEY...those guys are nothing like the Taliban! They're white for goodness sake!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Humberto

      What the woman did, took another.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  8. God

    It is my will that someone pop this guy! Hahahahahahahah

    October 25, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  9. The Jackdaw

    GOP = God Owful D-bags

    October 25, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Confused

      What?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  10. bassmaster22

    I'm trying to figure out a way to be classified as a corporation. If Romney gets in, the "smaller/less government" folks will be controlling everything you do as an individual while letting corps run rampant. I'll take a bigger less involved government over Romney/Ryan/Magical Skywizard forced into my home.
    So much for our founders fleeing from a country that forces its religious will on everyone. This time around we don't have land to steal from natives in order to set up shop.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Landed

      bassmaster22- Beautifully stated friend!!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  11. SweetonGeeks

    Romney is making huge gains with what women? The over 60 post menopausal crowd who parrot their grumpy racist husbands who blather on about how they won't fly their American flags again until that Kenyan disgrace is out of office? Most women know Romney is a pig from hell and if we want to maintain control over our lives, our bodies and our daughters bodies then he is the last person any sane woman would vote for.
    He tortured a dog.
    He has INSANE religious beliefs.
    He believes women should only work if they can get home in time to make dinner.
    He personifies the very worst of the 1% with his offshore accounts, outsourcing and car elevators.
    Handing the keys back to the people who crashed the car while the nation is still in ICU is nuts.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • DNC

      Some folks drink the kool-aid.... I think you swallowed the glass!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  12. Ameri2010

    CNN is treating fellow liberals like they are clueless and uneducated. People know very well that Romney and Ryan do not oppose abortion in cases of r*ape and inc*est. In fact, Romney is very liberal when it comes to abortion; more so than many pro-lifers.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • needNewGov

      Depends on what day and what audience he is addressing.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Marie

      Yes, he is a bit more liberals than many pro-lifers. He still has no right to force his beliefs on other people. An abortion is a horrible thing...but just because I think so I should not make the decision for someone else.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • NYRDS

      The Republican platform, adopted at their conveniton which nominated Romney and Ryan, does not have exceptions. The views that they stand for, in writing, therefore do not have the exceptions. They talk nicely, but what they say doesn't agree with their own written positions.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Ed

      People know very well that they will push a law banning abortion in any and alll cases with no exceptions because they are of a crazy party that drives them

      October 25, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Primewonk

      Except, of course, the Ryan has been a co-sponsor of "person hood" amendments which will outlaw abortion for ràpe and incest. With Romney, who can tell. He changes position dpendi g on who he is pandering to.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  13. gladiatorgrl

    The Family is about the other half of American fundamentalist power—not its angry masses, but its sophisticated elites. Sharlet follows the story back to Abraham Vereide, an immigrant preacher who in 1935 organized a small group of businessmen sympathetic to European fascism, fusing the far right with his own polite but authoritarian faith. From that core, Vereide built an international network of fundamentalists who spoke the language of establishment power, a "family" that thrives to this day. In public, they host Prayer Breakfasts; in private, they preach a gospel of "biblical capitalism," military might, and American empire. Citing Hitler, Lenin, and Mao as leadership models, the Family's current leader, Doug Coe, declares, "We work with power where we can, build new power where we can't."

    [one cannot separate their faith from their work] Paul Ryan

    WAKE UP AMERICA!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  14. this guy

    believing in god(s) is the most difficult thing to do...EVER!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Huebert

      I know, I don't understand how people can live with all the cognitive dissonance produced by unfounded beliefs.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  15. Noigiler

    We must be idiots to supplicate ourselves to a God that willingly allows this to happen to young women.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Ting

      Astonishing isn't it?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Corkpuller

      Will all the Atheists please line up on the Left.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  16. richunix

    TEST

    October 25, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • nonbeliever

      Test failed, please repeat test.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • palintwit

      *LIKE*

      October 25, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  17. nonbeliever

    CCN interrupts its regularly scheduled Romney bashing program to bash some other conservatives. The regular Romney bashing will continue at its scheduled time.

    On page two other stories include: Ambassador killed President lies about it to the nation, Millions still looking for work, Gubment spending a couple of billion dollars every few days and most of the money is borrowed ...

    Remember vote early and often, your new gubment phone is in the mail.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • sam

      Blah, blah blah. Ask the dumbest conservatives to stop blathering nonsense and they'll stay out of the news.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • gladiatorgrl

      and YET the Republicans spent the last four years trying to get Obama out of power at any cost
      and YET the Republicans spent their time in the House passing bills restricting womens access to healthcare

      October 25, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  18. Joe M.

    Amazing how this story stays in the headlines for two days, but after being on the headlines for 45 minutes, you have to dig for the Benghazi e-mail story. It's not even in the "Election Center". CNN at its finest.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  19. Abortion kills a child

    There is always an extreme example to every situation and that child being abused by her father was an extreme example. If abortion were only used in those instances, i could live with it. But its not.. It has become a form of birth control for other irresponsible people.. Libs want to be in my life because they want my tax money to pay for their laziness. Youve kicked God out of the country to the best of your ability and this example of abuse is what you get. That man is horrible. He should be in jail so the rest of us are safe.. That child needs counseling and a home where she can feel safe. Abortion is wrong, but i wont judge this child for the acts of an adult.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • ReligionIsBS

      So abortion is wrong, except in the situations that you determine are icky? Nice. Lets adjust our laws to fit your personal opinions.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • sam

      You have zero idea of what you're talking about.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • angeson

      Abortion is an awful concept. I would never have one. But then I am a man. I also wouldn't tell a woman what to do with her body.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • bassmaster22

      So does smoking and alcohol but if there's money in it then there's no moral or biblical reason cited to stop it. Don't think that if abortion was making money that the repubs wouldn't have some sort of policy switch instantly. People not to stop cherry picking acceptable ways to kill people in this country.

      Example: You cannot reasonably be pro-life AND pro death penalty.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Scott

      CONCUR "Abortion kills a child"!

      Scott

      October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • sam

      Make sure not to have one then, Scott.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Huebert

      Tax payer funded abortions are a myth. And no one is using abortions as another form of birth control, they are way to expensive.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Primewonk

      So your omnipotent, omniscient, god, who created the entire universe from nothing, got his ass kicked out of our country by lazy liberals?

      Way to go fellow lazy liberals!! We must be much more powerful than we knew!

      I vote that we use our incredible power to do the same thing to the tea baggers that we did to their god!

      October 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  20. Scott

    Mourdock is a raging mоrоn for this crass and disgusting comment.

    However, this mоrоns comment makes great fodder for the resident religion haters ;)

    Scott

    October 25, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • angeson

      agreed

      October 25, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • richunix

      really, really agree

      October 25, 2012 at 11:09 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.