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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's issues

soundoff (4,449 Responses)
  1. Pleasestandup

    I think the quote by Father Tom Reese sums up the hypocrisy of the ultra-conservatives:

    “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.”

    October 25, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  2. E0F0G0

    Right ON, Mr. Mourdock. You rock. At last, Diogenes can get some sleep!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  3. withoutgod

    I wonder, did God weep for all of the innocents whose death he ordered in the Bible?

    October 25, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  4. Humanist11

    @VIK Actually I created life by my own free will. Twice! It is biology and can be broken down into very specific actions and parts. Scientists can tell you exactly what elements and particles compose those first several cells. You would find that they are very common and well known and most certainly do not have a soul, feelings or a brain. All they want to do is replicate in the hopes of one day becoming an organized living creature. I'm not proposing late term abortions out of simple convenience, but early on it is just a glob of cells and there is no more life there than a weed growing in my yard. Your religion turns fact into harmful fantasy and guilts people into doing silly and often dangerous things.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  5. Brenlou69

    If the government wants to take "One Nation Under GOD" out of the pledge of allegiance because it doesn't want to gray the line between church and state; then you cannot use GOD to enact rules on the topic of abortion. It's one way or the other and I for one am sick of living in a free country where nothing – even the most basic human rights – are no longer free!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  6. IndianaRepublican

    Mourdock is an idiot who shouldnt be elected

    October 25, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  7. chedar888

    If an american Taliban like Muordock took an office in the US Senate, it is bad news. You can have religion mess up with politics. It is lethal.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Too late. Paul Ryan is there and running for VP. He believes exactly the same thing and has co-sponsored bills to make it law.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  8. honestuck

    I am worried for American women. The New Republican party has time an again proved that they are anti women and will create an oppressive environment for the women of this country if elected. I don't care how much spin the right wing of the party and the media puts on Mourdocks offensive and anti women statements, being the father of three daughters, I find myself compelled to vote for Obama. I am a Republican and I am ashamed of it.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      honestuck...........yeah, leave us alone and let us kill our children so we can get on with our selfish lives. Tear the babies apart limb by limb and if that don't work stab em in the neck then they are coming out and suck their brains out! No decent mother would want that for any child of theirs! Vote for Obama and seal your fate! Wash you hands in the blood of innocent babies! Fool!
      I

      October 25, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Brenlou69

      Abortion is not a high priority topic in this election or the next administration. Our economy and foreign policies are at the forefront and it will consume more time than they have room for already. I am republican, a woman, and believe in the freedom of choice – and right now there is no direct threat for any of our rights to be taken away.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • MarkinFL

      I notice you had to focus on the controversial late term abortion since the vast majority of abortions occur before there is any real brain activity and y'all want to protect microscopic balls of cells as full persons. Get a grip.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • sam stone

      AH.....troll.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  9. Tim J.

    CNN pushing another "shiny object" to try to distract the attention of the American people. Somehow, we all have to work to get our media back on the side of the people, instead of working on behalf of one political party. There is no way our Republic will survive with such a dishonest media.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  10. God is not real

    what a surprise, Religion is the stem of an outdated and quite dumb stance.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • LB Colorado

      God is REAL, you just have never experienced HIM, also, f.y.i. if it were not for HIM there would be no YOU, if you don't believe that is fine, but if I am right YEAH ME.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • LB Colorado

      Religion is ALL MAN MADE, God is not a religion.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • sam stone

      your vision of god is man made

      how do you make the logical leap from a creator to a god?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  11. noteasilyswayed

    Whatever your religious beliefs, you should not try to impose them on others by writing laws compelling people to submit to them. The GOP has many people who have gone off the deep end. And for those of you who state that this type of news is not significant and should not be reported, all you have to do is look at how many bills the GOP has tried to pass imposing these conservative, right wing religious ideas on the population at large. That is why this is significant and should be reported every time a politician tries to do it. Mourdock is the one that stated such ridiculous nonsense; CNN and others are just reporting what he said in a debate. The fact that Romney has endorsed such an idiot is also significant, because he would have to work with such types if he were to be elected. His running mate's ideas on this topic are not too far from Mourdock's either. Religion has no place in politics and politicians who try to ram their religious convictions down our throats should be voted out.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  12. danita

    Please CNN stop wasting your time on stupid crap such as this... Wish I had this job being paid to do nothing.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  13. steve davis

    October 25, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  14. chedar888

    When A Politician take the oat as a Republican Taliban, it is bad news. You can't rule here int he USA with your religious belief. Keep it to yourself and your family.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  15. Aria

    Why can some see they are being led like sheep and others can or will not?
    This man should shut up and go away.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      Right, you are being led like a sheep to the slaughter. Good dumb sheep!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  16. Fernando

    Many of you do not possess the level of spirituality requisite to grasp the mysterious nature of God and His ultimate purpose in exacting evil acts upon us. Those who spiritually evolve to accept the mysteriousness of God, are likewise capable of accepting the mysterious ways of the Republican party and will never question “trickle-down” theory or why we wage “shock and awe” revenge on those who neither harmed us nor possessed weapons of mass destruction, or their GOP congressman/car dealer's explanation of climate change, or abstinence only, or the NRA, or Fox News. Pray, and devote yourselves to the sublime mystery of the Republican Party.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Mike

      LOL

      October 25, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Seyedibar

      "Spiritual requisite" is a completely meaningless and indefinable phrase.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Feral Urchin

      Thank you for that. I'm happy to add that I am one who lacks the requisite spirituality!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Fernando

      "requisite spirituality" makes more sense, but I think I was trying to employ "that is" (understood) to preface requisite. Probably wrong.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Muthatrucka

      This is beyond awesome. Thank you for making my day.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  17. IndianaRepublican

    Romney supporter, Obama hater here.

    Can Richard Mourdock please drop from the race, hes too stupid to be in a position of such power

    October 25, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • steve davis

      this is news!!! Giants bat boy spits on his pitcher http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_WGzPB9gk4&feature=youtu.be

      October 25, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • NoRadicals

      Well Mr.Romney supporter, Romney should drop out too because Romney endorsed him the day before he made the comment and still support him till today. You just want him to drop out cause your an Obama hater not because you really realize how stupid your parties comments are. Typical republican tea drinker!

      October 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  18. Atheist Hunter

    2 Timothy 3:1-5, 8-9
    “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.” (ESV)

    October 25, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • mama k

      More from Gullible's Travels, Part 2 I see.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Feral Urchin

      I am an atheist. Hunt me.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Republidont

      How did they know about republicans back then!?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • aaronwlahman

      Atheist here, I cannot imagine the backlash that would accompany posting under then name "Christian Hunter". Keep in mind, while christianity may be a more socially acceptable platform from which to spew bigotry, Atheism and Agnosticism are the fastest growing religious affiliation in the United States. The majority rules, while preserving the rights of the minority, don't be so quick to assume that you will always be in the majority while you push your religious views through legislation.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • JLM

      AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN

      October 25, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  19. Dr. J

    Why is the GOP-Tea Party is full of ignorant, uneducated crazy people like this Mourdock, Bachmann, Palin,
    Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump. Some Americans truly believe in these kind of people.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      Cause some people can get past their own reflection in the pool or narcicissim and see things for what they really are. You're blind!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Nathan

      Don't worry AtheistHunter, the GOP is making it really easy for people to start seeing them exactly as they actually are.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Republidont

      Because the ignorant flock to black and white solutions.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  20. gladiatorgrl

    OneWay

    Dont confuse adaptation with evolution. If evolution were a fact, we'd still be seeing animals and humans evolve. Talk about poor education
    _________________________
    another one who thinks evolution is a lie from " H E double hockey sticks"

    did you know that's how Romney says H E L L ? talk about not adapting to the "new" world or evolving the guy is stuck in the '50's

    October 25, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Seyedibar

      We do still see animals evolving. Tens of thousands of examples of evolution are taking place.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • kso

      talk about argument from ignorance. absolutely no articles posted this year of new species related to previous species.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Feral Urchin

      Huh?? We are seeing (from the fossil record and study of, say, moths' changes in coloration in a sooty atmosphere) evolution in both humans and other animals.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Nathan

      Oh, gladiatorgrl, I think YOU are the one that has it confused. Besides the fact adaption IS evolution, the science of evolutionary theory is proven on a VERY deep, substantial, replicable, reliable, predictable level. There are MOUNTAINS of empirical evidence for it and we DO see animals evolving all around us all the time–humans included.

      There is no scientific debate on the subject. None. It is only fringe jobs and scientifically illiterate masses worried more about clinging to their outdated socio-religious beliefs that question the findings. We understand more about evolution at this point than we do gravity and debating it's existence is as silly and wrong as debating if the earth is round or flat. Don't mistake the fact that some people still stick to outdated ideas as those outdated ideas actually having any validity to them.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Republidont

      Really? you do understand that evolution happens slowly over eons of.....oh, crap, that's right. You think the earth was created in 7 days about 10,000 years ago.....the point is lost on you.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • ToadIndeed

      We do still see animals evolve. All the time . . .

      October 25, 2012 at 11:45 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.