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. Culpepper

    As a Democrat, I encourage the Republican party to keep producing candidates such as Richard Mourdock, Christine O'Donnell, Sarah Palin and let's not forget congressman Paul Broun of Georgia. The ignorance which fills every statement that comes out of their mouths is music to my ears.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Bobpitt

      Don’t forget Jack Abramoff, Mark Foley, Larry Edwin Craig, Mark Kirk's, and Mark Sanford,

      October 25, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  2. fhelms

    God's Grace can save any of us, but when you have those that would mislead you and deceive you then you're listening to the devil! CNN, get tot he important issues, don't try to bash the Christians, it makes you look bad!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  3. Devout Athiest

    God sends rapists to brutally assault and terrorize women so that they can make babies that Republican lawmakers will refuse to support. Mitt Romney approves.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Jon

      God doesn't make evil happen but he does allow it. He will make things right in eternity.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  4. reality

    Get this through your heads: THERE IS NO GOD. THERE IS NO DEVIL. These are man made concepts. The bible was written by MEN, men who claimed to be in direct contact with an omnipotent being. If this happened today we would declare them insane. This is not because of "the devil's influence", it's because we are smarter now than we were 2000+ years ago.


    THINK for yourself.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • dee

      All of the atheists out there will be singing a different tune on their deathbed.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • DJL


      October 25, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • DJL

      "All of the atheists out there will be singing a different tune on their deathbed." - NOPE!!!

      Another case against god: if it is benevolent, why must you fear it? Not question it? What is it hiding?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  5. Andrew

    Why is there Evil in the World? To show that through bad times and terrible times God can overcome all. To show, in our weakness, how strong He is. To show that even in the worst possible scenario's He has overcome death and gives us the ability to the same through His Son Jesus Christ.

    In America we have been telling God to get out of our classrooms and courtrooms for years. And people ask where He is or where His love is??

    October 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  6. nc1965

    When you look at Mourdock, you're looking at Romney.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Jenna NY

      Absolutely not...but we need to keep nut jobs like this out of Congress. We need Congress people who are thoughtful, empathetic and dedicated to bettering America.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  7. SugarKube

    Was it God's will that Obama lied to us while our Libyan ambassador was murdered? This is all so SILLY.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Jon

      Yes, this is why he is not getting re-elected.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  8. Xman

    Another Republican cramming both feet into his mouth?

    Ya don't say...

    October 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  9. seasalt

    Religions are based on a false premise.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • evan

      prove it

      October 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • DJL

      There is no proof that any god (from any of the thousands of religions that humanity has invented) exist, therefore, to the best of human knowledge, they do not. The scientific method states that you cannot prove that something does not exist, therefore the burden of proof rests with the one making the claim for existence.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  10. amber

    Okay, another one of my comments with very mild words just disappeared. No word filter issue here – this is censorship, CNN!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  11. Name*penguin

    I don't believe the Bible has any words prohibiting abortion. It is alright to believe abortion is wrong, just can't claim the Bible says its wrong. (The Bible also doesn't say slavery is wrong even though most claim it is ). Perhaps the Bible isn't the word of God!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  12. Shon

    This is an easy problem to fix.


    Until Christians stop trying to force their beliefs onto people who do no believe, they will always face this problem. And it will only grow.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • DJL


      Rabbi Kushner said it quite well: “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.”

      October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  13. Woody

    The reality is we like to blame God or gods for everything when in reality we are responsible for our own actions but I am no surprised by what he said as I went to a catholic school and church and I was brought up as many kids were to believe this way however some of us grew up and left OZ and the teachings of a church that still reads life as a 2000 year old book . 2000 years ago people would have thought of a computer,car,tv, and jet as magic too . But in the 21st century some of us grew up and advanced past the 2000 year old book of mans stories (exaggerations) .

    October 25, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  14. Clio

    I live about 50 miles from the Indiana state line, a state that will probably elect this doltish buffoon, let alone even take him seriously enough to even have him on the ballot. I think I need to head west to a land where such insanity is kept in check: China ought to do it.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Barowner

      So you think that even though the rapist doesn't get the death penalty, the child should? Please head west-–FAR WEST.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • 1byrd

      What child? In your imagination, certainly, but not in reality. Not even biblically. Genesis 2:7. Go figure.....

      October 25, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Bobpitt

      At Barowner:

      I am sure you are pro-life (when convinient) I bet you would have no problem sending your own child to war.. or someones elses child.. one thing i promess myself, my kid will not go to war, i would go as you say far and very far west or east..

      October 25, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  15. Will

    Excellent article. Evil is never initiated by God but he is powerful enough to do something redemptive and transformational with even our greatest pain. http://www.snugharborfoundation.org

    October 25, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • awasis

      God, being the source of all things, is necessarily the cause of all evil.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  16. Maria


    October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  17. Cedrick

    Author, to help answer your not-so groundbreaking question, here's a tip: Read the BIBLE.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Bobpitt

      Why to read a book of missleading information? most of the bible is not real, there is not proff that jesus existed.. just a novel..

      October 25, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  18. Zach Y

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?”

    October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  19. John

    I do believe that some people have no souls and cannot comprehend a benevolent God. God is not Zeus and does not throw thunderbolts at people or reward them with money and good fortune. God exists not in the beauty of a flower but in our ability to perceive that beauty. God does not cause the problems that people create but gives us the strength to endure them. God does not make things happen or stop them from happening – that is a primative concept that goes back to mythology I rarely go to church and found God on top of a mountain many years ago. I pray to God regularly and ask for compassion, patience, and the ability to tolerate fools. When I ask God for compassion, patience, and tolerance, I receive it. If you cannot comprehend a power greater than yourself – go climb a mountain and spend some time looking out at the horizon. If this doesn't work, maybe you have no soul. Weak people distort religion for their own purposes because they have a need for power and control.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  20. Slender Bender

    Many Christians in this country would love to see America become a Chrsitan theocracy. That way they can dictate who can marry who and how many children people should have

    October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • SugarKube

      Gee I didn't know Communist countries were Christian Countries.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Bobpitt

      Talking about missleading... this is the same 1d0t that professes small goverment, but goverment control of womens rights..

      get with it m0r0n

      October 25, 2012 at 10:00 am |
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About this blog

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.