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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. snowboarder

    the question is germane only to the victim. they will be the one possibly saddled with the burden of a perpetual reminder of their violent ordeal. it should certainly not be the purview of government.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Of course you're correct. I keep looking at the photos of Mourdock and feeling, unbelievable as it may seem, profound pity for this clueless man. I cannot help but think he's just completely out of touch with any sort of reality and must not know any women, or at least none he cares about.

      How can someone be so completely removed from reality?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  2. Ed

    I am so discouraged with the American electorate. Romney and the Republicans would be considered on the fringe in any other (civilized) country. But, to think that he (like Bush), may get into power. The lies, the flip-flopping, the right-wing extremists wanting to turn back the clock, are an embarassment for such a great country. Please think carefully.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  3. snowboarder

    attributing any event to "gods will" is intellectually dishonest.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      As well as intellectually lazy.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Athy

      As well as unrealistic.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Simply fucking stupid too.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Don

      Ok...I'm going to say this loudly because you people can't seem to understand a simple statement. THE STATEMENT WAS NOT THAT ANY "EVENT" WAS GOD'S WILL! THE STATEMENT WAS THAT THE INFANT IS GOD'S WILL. SO DON'T KILL IT!

      October 26, 2012 at 1:00 am |
    • Damocles

      @don

      You can't have a deity approved child of ra-pe without a deity approved ra-pe.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:02 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Don, any chance that snowboarder was speaking more generally than the stupid specific comment from the Repubtard?

      October 26, 2012 at 1:14 am |
  4. sb

    The ignorent people are brainwashed by church and dumb politicians like this idiot to make them believe that there is god and are ripping off people. They dont understand bibble was written by man and it is a story and not reality. If god was there then he would have protected 3000 souls on 911

    October 25, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  5. kedref

    Where are the women for this article? Many Protestant Christian denominations and Reform Jewish ordain women. Why weren't they represented for this post? Women DO have theological understandings of bearing, birthing, and raising children.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  6. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    I get such a charge out of watching the fundies bloviate about abortion, as if they really matter. They do this every four years, during the elections, as if they really matter! It never seems to dawn on the morons that the political candidates bring up the boogeyman of abortion only when it suits their agenda; after the election is over, you won't hear diddly about fetuses or abortion or anything else of the sort. It's a political football, and one the fundies are stupid enough to kick, when, just like Charlie Brown, the "Lucys" of the Republican party will pull the ball away just as soon as they have the votes to win.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I do worry about the Supreme Court after a Romney appointee or two. Let's get people to the polls. Maybe it won't happen.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @ Tom, Tom, the Smart One: I know. I am optimistic that 1) Obama will win and that 2) even if he doesn't, any appointees Romney makes will see the wisdom of stare decisis and sit on their thumbs.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  7. Lost

    Nobody on earth knows God's will!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • Found

      But some of us know there isn't a God, and therefore there's no God's will.

      We see the world as it is, and say "Look! What you see is what it is. There are no invisible magic guys or anything. It's exactly what it looks like." And people think we are crazy to think that things are what they seem, and not that there is some fantasy invisible magic show running it.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Athy

      How could anyone know god's will; there is no such thing. This is so obvious that anyone who can't see it has to be totally bible washed. Or not have an IQ above his shoe size. Most likely both.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • Don

      If you believe what we see is all there is, then how can you say there is no God? Science can say nothing about the existence of spirit since it can't test it scientifically. Atheism is self refuting. To be logically honest you should be agnostic.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      "Don
      If you believe what we see is all there is, then how can you say there is no God? Science can say nothing about the existence of spirit since it can't test it scientifically. Atheism is self refuting. To be logically honest you should be agnostic."

      Using that logic then so should all believers.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:00 am |
  8. misands

    America just keeps on getting stranger and more backwards by the year. It's a shame because America once seeemed like a promising nation that would lead the world to a better era, but now it's more like Rome at it's end days as it was falling into ruin.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Marcus Aurelius

      Rome fell apart because it had extended its frontier way beyond what it could control, requiring large expensive armies. Too many various enemies in too many places on the periphery guaranteed it would implode slowly over decades.

      Well, that's the reality anyway, but usually people who compare America to Rome don't want reality; they are trying to say internal decadence did it. But that is not true at all.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • apstar

      It's not without reason that it's been said about the largest country in area of the world that one should "never fight a land war in Russia". Even the Sicilian in "Princess Bride" knew that.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Ni! Ni! Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptangya Ziiinnggggggg Ni!!!

      Never fight a land war in ASIA!!!!!! Ni! to you! Now go away, or I shall say ni again!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  9. Hairy Larry

    Peace to all, for God's sake !!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
  10. Dave

    What if it was his wife? "Sure honey, we'll raise it and love it as our own." yeah right. Talk about kool-aid.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  11. Chris

    Why does anyone vote republican anymore??? Have these people all gone crazy?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • Jeffrocious

      I am having a hard time with this as well. I can understand someone who is super rich wanting Romney in office to protect his or her money. But the pure hatred that is spewed by the right is simply amazing. They actually believe that Obama is "evil" and hates America. How can they really believe this? How can any women, minority, working person or retiree possibly vote for them??????

      October 25, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
  12. Nathan

    Any god who's "will" includes the violent raping of a teenage girl just so that she can have an emotionally damaged life and a baby she cannot support is a god I want NOTHING to do with.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  13. Evangelical

    A life is a life. Doesn't matter how it was conceived. It's not the child's fault. Any woman who has an abortion for any reason commits homicide. Pure and simple.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Anytime a woman is FORCED to give birth to a BASTARD as a result of an act which is against her will, that is absolutely WRONG! Why don't you idiots ever understand that?! Ever been raped, dolt?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • Observer

      Evangelical,

      So if a woman needs an abortion to save her life, she commits homicide? Get real.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Feticide, you mean. An up and coming crime in red states. Wonder why?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Go right ahead and call 911, then Eva. See where it gets you. Moron.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • Evangelical

      @Observer

      Those cases are few and far between. But the fact is that the woman has lived. Give the innocent child the same right.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • Observer

      Evangelical,

      Are you going to answer the question?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Evangelical: Are you adopting that unwanted child then? Huh? Have the resources to take care of it then? Eh?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • International.Wraiths

      You disgust me. Perhaps you should convert to Islam and relocate to somewhere in the Middle East so you can live in a society where religious beliefs are enforced on all people as law. Please go as soon as possible, you won't be missed.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Observer, can't you just imagine Eva, sitting in judgment, with the scales of justice in its hands, weighing the value of the woman against that of a clump of cells?

      And the moron thinks it's qualified to decide what's right for others. That idiot couldn't decide whether to sh!t or wind its watch.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • Observer

      Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son,

      If it happened to his wife, I'm sure he's going to say "tough luck" and watch her die. Right. What a Christian that would be!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • apstar

      Until it's born, it's a "fetus" and not a "child". People like you would probably like to prosecute women who abort naturally or give still births. Go back to the 14th century where I'm sure you'd fit in much better,

      October 25, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Athy

      Vangie. It's nota life. It's just a bunch of cells. Why would you force an unwilling mother to carry that mass of cells to a full term and give birth to a baby that's genetically one-half the rapist? You've got to start thinking someday, why not now?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If Eva went back to the 14th century, the moron would have died of typhus, the Black Plague, or neglect. All of which would have been of great benefit to the rest of us.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Damocles

      @athy

      Careful with that argument. If you start saying that it is ok because the fetus/child/whatever may grow up to be a ra-pist, you are opening up a huge can of worms.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Jeffrocious

      Your love of those innocent babies is admirable, except for the pure contempt that you wield for the true victims. Keep your religion off my body and my laws!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Don

      Tom,
      have you ever been a blastocyst?

      October 26, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • sam stone

      Evangelical: Not according to the laws of the land

      October 26, 2012 at 4:16 am |
  14. ElizaBennet

    That guy should run for office in East Congo...These people are nuts and have more in common with radical Muslims than they give themselves credit for.

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

      Yes, Republikkkans and the likes of Westboro Baptist Church, who are surprisingly allegedly NOT Republikkkan, should all move to Muslim countries to fulfill their fatuous, religious happiness.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  15. Polly W.

    It is very easy for a grown man to cast judgement upon a twelve year old who is obviously in need of protection and guidance. This in no way should become a political issue. Mr. Mourdock, "What would your opinion be if this was your granddaughter?" Honestly, you should be ashamed.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:20 pm |

    • It's complicated Polly. Mourdock's granddaughter is his daughter.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Best post yet. "She's my sister. She's my daughter." It's Chinatown, Jack.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • == o ==

      Ah you beat me to it, Tom. But you need to add some batman type "smacks" in between the "She's my sister. She's my daughter."

      October 25, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Polly

      I don't think people like Mourdock have a sense of shame, only a sense of self-righteous, mental masturbatory pleasure.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  16. neil Samuels

    People Please wake-up! There is no difference between these view expressed bu Mourdock and fundamentalists that we like and rightly conceive as living in the 13th Century! This is the American Taliban and Romney and Ryan if God Forbid elected will an uprising in this country against what will NOt affectionately but accurately nonetheless be known as the American Ayatollah in office. People have difficult time engaging in simple reflective critical thinking and cannot pause and see that the same virulent strain of Fundamentalist religious principles where the separation of Church and state are no more but kissing cousins in bed together. Muslim fundamentalism and American Republic conservative Fundamentalism quite identical beneath the surface of their politicized ideologies!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Evangelical

      Aren't you being a bit hyperbolic? Don't you want to live in a moral society?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Evangelical

      Moral according to your religion? Not a fucking chance. The day this country becomes a biblically based country is the day I GTFO.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • rmoffatt

      Neil – very well said. It is amazing that we are unable to see the frightening level of fundamentalism within our own Country. Denying rights – not mattering whose – but, seemingly those taken from folks who do not agree with those that are most extreme. This is not an America that I am proud of. How can anyone call this the 'land of the free' while denying the most basic of rights to those most challenged? I'm ashamed – even whle advocating for those of us who truly believe in the veracity of the American dream.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Evangelical

      @Hawaii,

      If you are not willing to submit to Biblical norms, then it will be no great loss.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • == o ==

      Well a moral society would be one where people are not so two-faced and judgmental outside of the law. Ok, so that leaves out all the religious nutballs. Education will help us get there.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Eva, if you strangled on a Fig Newton, all of the US would be grateful.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • == o ==

      Well too bad for now, Evan, that the U.S. is not founded on the Bible and I doubt we'll see any change in that anytime soon regardless of administration.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Evangelical

      Oh how hurtful, how will I ever survive without some self-righteous religious tard thinking more of me? Oh the agony, that some mysoginistic sociopath is acting exactly as one would expect of an arrogant prick like he/she shows itself to be.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Damocles

      Let's not go down the 'moral' road.

      Abortion is a legal choice that women can make. You can offer other choices to a woman, but once her descision is made, it is hers and hers alone. You can not agree with it all day long, you have that right, but you don't have the right to take the option away.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Evangelical, Biblical norms like slavery, incest, wife beating, polygamy. That type of thing?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      First off, Eva, you fvckin' azzhole, prove that abortion is "immoral." I don't believe that it is. Why should YOUR view hold sway unless you can provide proof that "morality" is universally defined?

      Get bent, you drip.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Jeffrocious

      Thank you for saying what I have been thinking. They do remind me of the taliban in so many ways

      October 25, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  17. David

    God's will?

    "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! ..."

    October 25, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • rmofffatt

      I still don't get it. How can a man of 'God' have the audacity to speak for such? Seems a little arrogant to me.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  18. dou44

    Mourdock is a Fundamentalist Fascist as is Akin and the rest of the neo-right. The US GOP is at best a redneck version of 1930s Italian fascism.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  19. Sal

    The democrats are trying as hard as they can to twist his words and pin it on all Republicans.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Observer

      Sal,

      So what did he say? Did you actually read it?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • neil

      Sal you are an idiot!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Who is the last atheist Republican you've heard of?

      Ah, but then, the hypocrite "Christian" Republican ranks are so rife with homosexuals it ain't even funny....no, I mean it's terribly funny!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • Jeffrocious

      You don't need to twist his words, thats what he said! Unless the taliban/GOP has already taken away your right to an education.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Cedar rapids

      You mean democrats like McCain, who have slapped the guy down for his comments?

      October 26, 2012 at 2:07 am |
  20. Guardsman

    I do not think even God would agree with an ignoramous like Mourdock. And to Captain America, make sure you wear your blue polyester tights and plastic shield for Halloween. You are on par with Mourdock and your intelligence is reflected in your posts.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
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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.