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. wes

    "God's will" is code for "I'm right and I'm going to pretend that I have support behind me."

    October 25, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  2. ukrepublic

    Simple answer.......................... There is no God

    October 25, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Jon

      Then what was in the beginning?

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


      No one knows what, if anything, was at the beginning. And by "beginning" I as.sume you mean before the big bang.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Shanda

      Billions of humans on this planet, and dare I claim a kazillion animals and insects, know there is a higher power. How about growing up, acknowledging and accepting that simple, obvious fact. Your decision not to believe is yours alone, but does not give you the right to insult those billion who you know have chosen differently. Agree to disagree. I thought we all learned that in kindergarten.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • fintastic

      @shanda right after kindergarten. we learned about evolution, well, some of us did. It is YOU that needs to do some growing up and stop mistaking mythology for reality.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  3. johnfrichardson

    It's real easy. There IS no "all loving" god.

    Organism A lives by eating organism B. Are predators evil or are only predators really loved by god? It's a goofball question that arises only within the context of the goofball worldview of western monotheism.

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

    I encourage all of you to read a book called "What Does The Bible Really Teach" . It is available through the Jehovah's Witnesses. Anyone who thinks God has any part in tragedy or death is mistaken.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • YoozYerBrain

      @ chad
      You're pointing us to the jerblovas witlesses as a reasonable alternative? An educational resource? OMG, talk about anti-American, they are among the worst! But here, let me, an atheist, no- color my religious affiliation Antagonist- lemme educate you bout yer bibbile gawd and what he wants....I think you know what's coming....


      October 25, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  5. Infidel50

    Does this man have a mother?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Questions

      I can tell you this: he is married, but NO children, so says his website..... See how limited his view point is?...

      October 25, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  6. wes

    Show me a church that is, in practice, an organization of love and care, and I'll go there. I haven't seen one yet.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Redford

      And are you loving and caring? Then lead by example.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • The Right is Wrong

      I cannot find a church that meets those criteria. Only thing that comes to mind is the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

      October 25, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  7. Abrondon

    How do you explain evil and suffering in a world WITHOUT a loving God? You can't. Without God, how do you define anything as evil? Whatever is, is, and when you die it will be as if you never existed. Nothing matters. There is no good, no bad, no ultimate meaning to anything. But we all know this is nonsense. The atheist ultimately can only offer the comfort that your suffering isn't real and that nothing matters. Every fiber of your being knows otherwise. But if the atheist is right and everything is purposeless, then why are we complaining about evil?

    October 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Huebert

      Good and evil are social constructs. You feel them "with every fiber of your being" because they have been instilled and reinforced in you from the moment that you were born.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  8. The Right is Wrong

    “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.”

    Could not have said it better than myself. Let us also not forget that conservatives like to tell the poor single women that they must have the baby, then turn around and cut funding for all the social welfare programs that would help said mother raise the baby. Conservative's continue to spiral out of control

    October 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  9. Jeff E.

    We are all hypocrites because we try to create a solid foundation of understanding where there is none. Conservatives aren't alone in their hypocrisy because Liberals are hypocrites over this very same issue... where they normally want government oversight and regulation in every aspect of people's lives, they want the government out when it comes to decisions about the lives of the unborn. None of us knows what life is, why we are here, how we came to be, who we are supposed to be. We only have faith that there is a higher purpose or faith that there is no purpose at all, that our intellect is God. We will never have evidence to prove either. All we can do is show love and compassion to all beings... we are all on this wild roller coaster ride together.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Graham

      You'll be pleased to know that you are mistaken about liberals wanting government oversight in all aspects of life. I'm a liberal, and I absolutely do not want that. Neither does a single liberal I've ever had a conversation with. I hope you can live with a little less fear and paranoia now that you know that you have been flat out wrong about what a liberal is and what a liberal wants. Have a wonderful day!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Jeff E.

      To Graham: In a world where political arguments rely on exaggerated polarity it's necessary to make a statement like that to point out hypocrisy. I hope you are now willing to concede that Kushner's statement about Conservatives isn't necessarily true either?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  10. sortakinda

    Someone, please say the word "GOD." Now the rest of the posters will go off on you like Homer Simpson about that Blue Man Group.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  11. rare_earth

    If we indeed are created in gods image, well, I would suggest god revamp the prototype.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Judy

      This man is a complete fool...sounds bites to call attention to himself and totally without out of sync for anyone outside his circle. What a disgraceful thing to say about this horrific situation.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  12. harpman

    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?

    Epicurus (c. 341 – c. 270 BC)

    October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Franco

      That explains nothing. We have total free will, God will not interfere.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Greg s

      We have been given free will, anything else and we are just pets in a cage.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  13. Redford

    Simple. Our free will is driven by degenerate human nature.Why blame God? The way out of it's been given.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Jeff E.

      To only see evil or good in humanity is to see only half the picture. We are also capable of amazingly beautiful and selfless acts.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • harpman

      Unfortunately, we were created with all these tendances, (green, envy, gluttony, etc.). The next generation, robots, will be better.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  14. Beth

    When Mitt Rmney takes the oath of office, he will place his hand on the Book of Mormon. and and that instant, Jesus Christ will turn his back on America. Mitt Romney is the false prophet we were warned about. His election will signal the beginning of the End Times. Take 10 minutes and research the Book of Mormon. Or the White Horse Prophecy. Do you realize that Mitt Romney believes that when he dies, he will be transported to the planet Kolob? Is there a planet Kolob in your Bible?? Will you betray America and vote for a cult member? Forgive them Lord, they know not what they do.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Damocles

      His belief is no more or less whacky than any other belief in any other deity. It is sad that I am given two brands of stupidity and asked to make my choice between them.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Greg s

      And Obama is any better, He is a far better Muslim then Christian and after watching and listening to him for 4 years I do not see a Christian, So dont vote on either man based on your Christian convictions because both men fall very very short when it comes to following Jesus.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Pamela Sanderson

      Irrespective of whether he puts his hand on the book of mormon, the bible or aesop's fables, it is all just a bunch of fairy tales followed by those who put blind faith in non-existent deities to the exclusion of all logic and rationale.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • fintastic

      @greg............ FYI They're not elected to office to "follow jesus" They are elected to office to lead a nation that was never intended to become a theoracy.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  15. Dana

    "_____ is god's will"

    Interpretation: There is no god but I want to keep my stone-age beliefs but if something unusual happens than my imaginary friend made a miracle.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Russ

      @ Dana: can you embrace the alternative? there is no evil – only meaningless existence. survival of the fittest. in such an alternate view, r.a.pe is just an act – and nothing can be called evil. justice is merely a fabrication of our evolutionary process – which *might* (or might not!) help us to the next stage.

      if anything in you cries out for justice – you must ask: why? where does that come from?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Jon

      Let's talk about it again in 100 years and see what you have to say.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • fintastic

      @russ Where do you get "meaningless existence" from? that's a crock. My existence is MORE meaningful because I don't live my life base on ancient myths and fairytales.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Russ

      @ fintastic: upon what basis do you find significance? if you have no metaphysical anchor upon which to base your claim of significance, certainly you don't find one in a purely materialistic (scientifically speaking) view of the world.

      EITHER the universe is heading toward an eventual heat death and you are merely an insignificant belch in the evolutionary process along the way OR there is something larger going on (which is *necessarily* metaphysical – which you appear to be discarding). But you cannot have it both ways.

      Do you have the intellectual integrity to admit your position necessarily excludes any claim that you are significant? Or – if you feel the *need* to see yourself as significant – which is broken: your view of the universe or your psyche?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  16. == o ==

    How can someone who is running for the Senate make such an idiotic statement? Maybe the poster "truth be told" (aka "pervert alert", "nope", "Ronald Regonzo", "Taskmaster", etc., etc.) is like his little hunchback assistant.

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

      oh no kidding. When I saw this last night I had a facepalm moment. And an urge to staple this man's mouth shut.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Greg s

      He used bad Judgement. As a politician what you believe and what you say do not go hand in hand. Just look at Obama and Romney, who both have pretty good judgement.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  17. Beth

    Thank you Donner. This bears repeating!!!

    When Mitt Rmney takes the oath of office, he will place his hand on the Book of Mormon. and and that instant, Jesus Christ will turn his back on America. Mitt Romney is the false prophet we were warned about. His election will signal the beginning of the End Times. Take 10 minutes and research the Book of Mormon. Or the White Horse Prophecy. Do you realize that Mitt Romney believes that when he dies, he will be transported to the planet Kolob? Is there a planet Kolob in your Bible?? Will you betray America and vote for a cult member? Forgive them Lord, they know not what they do.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:57 am |

      i dont like Romney but the fact that Jesus will turn his back on us is the least of my worrys

      October 25, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Risteaux

      Thank you for saying this, as a Christian I'm absolutely mortified to see some of my other Christian friends and family referring to Rpmney as "Christian". He is not, he belongs to a cult developed in the 1800's by a man with the audacity & grandiosity to call himself a prophet, who conveniently had "visions" whenever he needed to justify his actions. A simple encyclopedia search will reveal how truly non-Christian Mormonism is; I don't begrudge anyone the choice to pick their own religion but I'd never vote for someone who belongs to a cult. If Romney practiced an occult spirituality like Wicca or Santeria, would America be taking him seriously? Is the situation so bad now that almost half the country is supporting a cult member?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Xgirl360

      I'm ex-LDS, Kolob is not Heaven. When you die, you go to Heaven (there are three levels). Kolob is just an example used in one of the LDS scriptures when God is trying to explain time is relative to Moses. Its silly, I don't believe in that book anymore, but its certainly not where Mormons go when they die. And they still believe in the Bible, they use the KJV. Mormons still swear on the Bible in Court and other legal activities. So, don't be a moron...I can agree there's a lot wrong with that Church, but this is just blatantly false.

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

      When you die, you become worm food. That's it. No magic underwear, no angels with wings, no man in the clouds.

      Try reality sometime. I know it's hard, but please try.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  18. Blasphemy

    When one Party can't out reason the other they try to out breed the other instead.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  19. Carla

    The old "free will" crap - that god doesn't cause horrific things to happen - he just "allows" it. In law, we call that an accomplice. If there IS a god, and we are his children and he loves us as the bible says, these things would not happen. You are human - and inherently flawed, not perfect. Yet, if you saw a car barreling toward a child in a crosswalk, you would do something - scream - knock the kid out of the way. And if you had the power to just stop that car yourself, you would do that. So why doesn't god do that? Incredibly horrible things have happened to me in my life, and I long ago realized the fallacy of religion. Hobgoblin of little minds.

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

      God, as do we, know that adversity is the only way man gets stronger and inventive. If God interfered in all things, he would not only be controlling our lives, but also not allowing us to grow as people. In addition he would not hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Part of "free will" is being accountable for what we do.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Jhillis3y

      god did act...through you who pushed the girl out of the way

      October 25, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • CanisLupis

      One other note. The example of the child dieing because of a car accident. Why was the car barreling, did the driver make the wrong choice? And why save the child? Your attachment to this world and considering your body getting harm as bad shows the little growth you have had with your own soul. The body is designed to die, it begins dieing from day one of birth. No one can escape physical death.

      That is why God cares about our souls, not our bodies. He clearly states that in the bible if you read it. He wants our Souls to grow. And our Souls only grow through adversity. Say the child does get hit by the car, maybe the child dies, maybe he doesn't. But maybe the child is not the one that needs to learn the lesson, maybe its the person driving the car who survives. Maybe the driver needs to learn to pay closer attention, put others ahead of himself, or some other lesson.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • sh

      Because then it wouldn't be love. When you force your will upon your children, then you've taken away their freedom. If God forced us to do everything that would prevent "difficulties" in our life – then we'd be no more than puppets. Whey accidents happen, we'll never know this side of heaven. And, I am ok with that. Faith is something science can't define. Although, as I see it, placing all your eggs in the "science" basket requires a large amount of faith as well.

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


      I can allow my child to grow as a person without resorting to beating the crap out of them or murdering their friends while they sleep. Seems I'm a better parent than your deity.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Greg s

      You dont get it, to you Death is the end, So of course save a life at any cost, Except that of the Unborn, When you die you enter into the Lords realm, He wants all men to believe in him and only sees death as a tragedy when it involves a non believer, Your View of death and the Lords are about as far apart as Obama and Romney. So your flawed view of God has flawed your view of free will.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  20. Taskmaster

    Evil is not Gods will . But God gives man free will. When a person commits an evil deed don't blame God or society or the persons freedoms. Blame the PERSONS choice to do evil.

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

      Is that how you keep you stone-age beliefs in your imaginary friend god?

      October 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Redford


      October 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • waitasec

      oh i see..so when there is evil it's our fault and when there is good it's gods fault.

      sorry, i can see the double standard a mile away

      October 25, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • == o ==

      As "pervert alert", "Taskmaster" writes things like:
      "que ers, the ones who gave aids to america"
      Based on that, would you trust his opinion on rape, parenthood, anything . . . ?

      "Salvatore" degenerates to:
      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert" degenerates to:
      "Taskmaster" degenerates to:
      "Ronald Regonzo" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      and many other names, but of course I prefer to refer to this extreme homophobe as
      the disgruntled Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. writer boot camp flunkie.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • ThinkerInTheSun

      Dear Taskmaster,
      Well, ok, I can blame a person if he does evil things. But what about a baby born with the partial body of a twin fused to its side? Or a baby born with the contents of its spine exposed to air? Or a young child who develops neuroblastomas? What kind of god are you defending? Please give this deeper thought.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Blasphemy

      Blame the organizations that sluff evil off as God's will.

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

      dear taskmaster: we are not blaming god, we are telling him to stay the hell away. We'll deal with the evil and the consequences. Rapist goes to prison, woman has abortion and moves on with her life. Thanks god, we don't need any rules imposed by you. You weren't around in the first place.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:09 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.