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. lynn

    If Mourdock should get cancer, would he scream for medical intervention, you're damn right he would. But it's God's will to let him suffer, sorry about that you brainless curse on humanity.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  2. Fnordz

    “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.”- This nails it.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Independent Thought

      So would you eliminate monogamy? They are consenting adults, right? I'm sure Jerry Sandusky would agree with you that he was born that way and can't help it. Why should you judge him for 'who he loves'? I'm sure you agree with aborting babies too............what about suicide, that's their body! Should they be able to choose what 'health procedures' they get??

      What about a man that doesn't want the baby? Should you force him to support his unwanted child? The female had a choice, shouldn't the male? Prejudice if you say NO...........

      Funny how you guys only see one aspect and can't see the BIG picture on these issues!!!!!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Lama

      Independent Thought, I was just going to point out that he was quoting a Rabbi there, but I've read some of your other posts...you arguments are flawed in that you assume facts not in evidence. Nowhere in the theory of evolution does it say that the animals that evolved "wanted" to evolve. They simply did, based on what naturally occurring mutations showed the most promise. This was not a quick "built the world in 7 days" baloney, but rather over thousands of years and generations. Do your homework before you go into this type of thing. Your arguments will still be flawed, but at least you'll have the chance to not make a complete fool of yourself.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  3. John Doe

    Satan and "unforeseen things happen".

    October 25, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  4. Ryan

    Indiana is the Mississippi of the North.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • == o ==


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


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

      Indiana girl here!

      I logged in to defend Indiana and it's people, but realized there's not much to say in defense. Hmm

      October 25, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  5. Franco

    We live in an imperfect world and we do have total free will and it is up to us to protect the ones that cannot protect themselves. God will guide you in this world, but the decision is ultimately yours, whether it be for good or evil. I do believe in God and I find myself doubting at times of tragedy, but I have to keep strong, because I know we shall soon exit this world and then the truth will truly set us free.

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

      The problem is that while you and the majority of people believe in God, you cannot inact law that would punish those who do not carry the same belief system. I don't think anyone is pushing for late term abortions. The majority of our government is run by men who have never had to make these tough desicions (barring an affair gone awry) . Personally I have never made this decision either and I do not think I would be encouraging my partner to have an abortion. But the thing we must all realize is this is simply a method of political pandering. Abortion is the biggest non-issue. I agree the government should not pay for the services, but you must make them available or risk the lifes of thousands of women.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  6. Journey

    These posts are a lot of hot air...Romney leads by about 1%...has a serious chance of winning without Ohio.

    The experiment has failed folks...stop trying to redefine the things that nature has already written.

    Romney/Ryan 2012

    October 25, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Fnordz

      What an utterly stupid thing to say. Go hop into a lion cage and "stop trying to rewrite nature".

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

      LOL. It is gods will for Obama to win. Sorry.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  7. Anne112

    You know what else is "god's will"? Keeping this bonehead out of political office.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  8. Matthew

    Because God doesn't exist. I stopped believing in imaginary friends a long time ago.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  9. G

    The first mistake was to believe in something that doesn't exist. Believe in yourself and your fellow man, don't make pleas to a non-existant deity.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  10. steve

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

    The evil one is Mourdock and his beliefs.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  11. Read it

    I applaud the gentleman at least for not forcing his anti-abortion stance upon others. But I would absolutely contend his remarks about "That doesn’t mean God wills it." And
    “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." The inverse of these perceptions can be shown at clarity, that indeed god wills all of this.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  12. Blasphemy

    Thank God for evil.

    The Omnipotent desperately needs someone to blame when his divine plan does not go right.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  13. Franky

    "I worship the son and pray to Joe Pesci. Why, because he looks like a guy that can get things done."

    – George Carlin

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

    What kind of fool still believes in God? An educated fool. All that education and still uneducated....

    October 25, 2012 at 10:06 am |

    JGA Phillip Anthony Biondo for President 2012 of the Fraternity Party! VP's elections 2nd place. Kegs party at the White House! Free College like k-12. Free Healthcare. All safe drugs over the counter. Escorts legal. Casinos legal. The American Citizens are not intelligent enough to elect me. Evolution, big bang, God of Universe and Milky Way. I'm suing the supreme court Apes for freedom of Religion, I suffer from severe depression because holy medicines, primarily thc, psilocybin, mescaline, lsd, and dmt are illegal, in fact I committed suicide. DEA is evil. Superhuman AI: 2045. Navy Nuclear Spaceships, next star, rainforests, dinosaurs. Meditate. I'm a Sapien, what are you? Does Obama or Romney believe in global warming? We are like deer in the headlights.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:06 am |

    i get tired of arguing with religious people about how silly they sound believing in magic and those religious stories...

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

      It's pretty frustrating when people don't recognize your superiority, isn't it?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Franky

      You and me both. Te greatest joke of all is that religious folks think it was some great ephiphany to believe in only 1 god, as though that makes more sense, than believing in the Egyptian Gods, Greek Gods, Roman Gods ...???? Yes, 1 is better than many, hmmm .... what a revelation. Someday we will evolve beyond fairy tales all together.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Independent Thought

      And believing that a monkey 10 million years ago 'wanted to be smarter and better' but today's monkeys are happy being monkeys or that BANG there's the world isn't silly at all is it? Just because you call it science doesn't mean it doesn't take faith. Recreate this big bang then, create a little universe in a bottle. Find me a monkey that is 'halfway' on it's way to being a man.............. EXACTLY!!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • fintastic

      @Independent Your ignorance is truly astounding.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  17. Franky

    I think this one is easy folks I'll explain it, "You guys have it all wrong , you should be worshipping the Greek Gods of Olympus, once you stopped giving them offerings and sacrifices and instead started making sacrifices to the Abrahamic God , then the Gods of Olympus were angered and now allow evil to run rampant. The End."

    October 25, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  18. Andrew

    You're on the edge, America. If you vote how you're told by rightwing snake oil religious types, you'll certainly get what you deserve.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  19. RestlessOne

    So, CNN, where is your in-depth coverage about the Democratic Senate candidate Chris Murphy in Connecticut who said that "life begins at birth?" Why are you not outraged by this? He obviously thinks that an unborn baby should be allowed to be aborted though later stages of pregnancy, right up until birth. You only seem to be outraged by comments that make pro-lifers look bad. You apparently avoid such stories because you agree with Murphy.

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

      There's nothing in the Bible against abortion. Unless it's taken out of context. "Christians" are Charlatans.

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

      Life is everywhere, but a human's life actually does not begin until after birth. Until they take that first breathe as Adam did they are not a soul and body living being. God breathe the soul of life into Adam AFTER he was created. If you're not or can't breathe when you come out of the womb on your own, you're dead.

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


      So according to you, if a baby can not automatically breathe on its own, no attempt should be made to help it breathe? Creepy.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Media Objectives

      It is embarrassing this story is the lead story considering everything that is happening domestically and internationally. When did the media stop asking hard questions and getting to the bottom of a story without having an agenda? It does not matter what political party you are affiliated with we truly deserve better. Here are examples of more important questions in my mind....President Obama and Senator Reid why don't you have Democrats in the Senate propose a budget when we are incurring more than a trillion in debt annually. President Obama how did the stimulus really help the economy and what would you have done differently. Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney what cuts are you making to social security and medicare to make them solvent. Pres. Obama if jobs, education and immigration was your priority why did you not pass any of this in the first term when you had Dem. Senate and House. Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney why do we have stagnant wages but college education and health care costs are increasing at 5 – 7% a year yet economists tell me there is no inflation. How do we reverse that trend. Mr Bernake how many years of 0% are we going to have and has it really solved any problems? Yet we have this idiotic story about this bozo. Lets get serious...

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

    One more thing – there is bonafide evil in the world. It is not God allowing evil things to happen.

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

      Umm, your god is allowing the evil to be in the world. Or do you believe that your god is incapable of stopping/removing the evil?
      Your god is either limited or it is your god's will that evil should happen.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • myweightinwords

      If god is omnipotent and omniscient, then he knows and has the power to stop evil and chooses not to.

      Thus, he wills evil upon us.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:22 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.