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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. beevee

    I do not want to inject politics into this heinous statement by Mourdock, but I can't forget the fact that Mitt Romney endorsed him as his golden boy from Indiana who will tilt the power balance in the senate in favor of the republicans. Now you be the judge of Romeny.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  2. J

    And the TV ads showing Romney supporting Mourdock will continue. Yep this is what you will get with a Republican Party. Radicalism in women's issues and a party that knows barely anything about foreign policy. I know the economy is the number one issue, but women and foreign policy is critical for the nation's economy and Romney fails on the first two.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  3. bpsf

    How can Richard Mourdock now say he was misunderstood? You want to bet that they re-elect this horrid man. Blame the people who vote for him.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      The PUblic Servants already pulled a fast one on the Masters with their progressive revolution.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  4. msadr

    absolutely disgusting. What a bunch of lunatics.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  5. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    “Faith is an evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument. Teaching children that unquestioned faith is a virtue primes them – given certain other ingredients that are not hard to come by – to grow up into potentially lethal weapons for future jihads or crusades…..Faith can be very very dangerous, and deliberately to implant it into the vulnerable mind of an innocent child is a grievous wrong.”

    –Richard Dawkins

    October 25, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  6. lbpaulina

    To Unashamed.
    Beside the fact I do not consider Mr. Murdock a religious person, I would like to know why you need to define as "the dumbest" an idea that is different from yours. I never read so many insults like in CNN posts. I always read international OL newspapers, but I never see the curses I see In our newspapers. Why do we need to be so aggressive? Maybe this could be a social problem to be fixed.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  7. Mer

    I am appalled that this turned into a religious discussion. I see a definite lack of compassion and empathy for suffering women. Gross.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      Fathers teach empathy, and fathers are out per Athena and the educratists.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Anybody, you may know how to read, but you are a completely, utterly SH!TTY writer. Cease and desist, you moron.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  8. Rebel4Christ

    When you tell an atheist about God they just get angry!!! Tom why are you a jerk?

    October 25, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • JJ

      I know how you feel. People scoff and ridicule me too when I tell them about leprachauns and that they are fools for not believing.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Ann Coulter

      Rebel, have you never tried fetus? It's a little chewy in the 2nd trimester but if you tenderize it and braise it in garlic and sesame oil, it's very satisfying.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why are you such an ignoramus?

      October 25, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  9. Innerspace is God's place while outerspace is for the human race

    1Corunthians 3:9 "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building."

    Buildings? Our bodies are God's buildings? Is this it? Is this all our bodies are? Buildings for the Gods and the Godly to inhabit?

    Yes, we are mere buildings built by God and the Godly for which they do inhabit. To these Godly Beings, it makes no difference should a body be destroyed before being birthed. So to all the womenly buildings, have at it and abort abort abort!

    October 25, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  10. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    Yep. them little "innocent" girls who git raped by their drunk-ass daddies had it comin', says the idiot Republican. They shoulda not showed their skin so much't anyways. They shoulda kepp it covered lak a Muslim biatch. And if that ain't good enough of a excuse, then it musta been God's will! Amen and hallelujah! Praise Jeebus!

    October 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  11. acheptler

    OK, I know we were going to wait until after the election, but can we open the FEMA camps early and start shipping these fkuing freaks off now?

    October 25, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      Why the need for camps when you have so many hollow point bullets?

      October 25, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • Don

      Spoken like a true Nazi.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  12. Ran

    The end of that Senators career is apparently God's will too.

    October 25, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      He's not a senator yet. Let's hope the good people of Indiana keep him that way.

      October 25, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  13. David, Tampa

    Sounds like the crusaders in the movie "The Kingdom of Heaven".........: GOD WILLS IT!

    October 25, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "Deus Vult"

      October 25, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  14. Mother Teresa

    Okay, All you idiots out there that think a woman should continue with a pregnancy that was not consummate in a relationship out of love and God's will, then I have pity on you all.

    October 25, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  15. Name*partypeanut

    It appears that the GOP has completely lost their minds. It's shocking! They're not even of this solar system.

    October 25, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  16. Johnnyu1

    Sorry I forgot Susan means nothing she’s a helpless child

    October 25, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  17. Anybody know how to read?

    So what's the take on female HS educratists having marital relations with middle school boys? Are the resulting babies accidents?

    October 25, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      I'm talkin' rapin' and killin' here.

      October 25, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  18. Mike

    "How do you explain evil in a world where God is loving?"

    There are no gods. Dilemma dissolved. You're welcome.

    October 25, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  19. wolf776

    We keep seeing these tips of the Republican ideology iceberg. How can anyone take them seriously? They deserve to be voted out of our government en masse.

    October 25, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  20. lostisland

    The problem with religion is – well, everything about it. It is used to pervert every aspect of a persons life. It truly is a get-out-of-hell-free-card to be used to justify every kind of behavior imaginable. I wish I'd been born 2000 years from now.

    October 25, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • Poltergeist

      I want a space cruiser too.

      October 25, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Don

      You are the one justifying the killing of millions of babies...can't get much lower than that.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:25 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.