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. Anon

    Another right wing moron. How do these clueless idiots get on the ballot? Are the people of Indiana really that stupid?

    KEEP YOUR F%$#@!&G RELIGION TO YOURSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Wally Wolf

      Yes, the majority of them must be stupid or this idiot wouldn't exist in his current position.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  2. akka1234

    Anything to take the focus off the bumbling boneheads in the White House. Is anyone interested in why 4 Americans are dead – killed in Benghazi – after repeated requests for more security were denied by our state department? And the cover-up that continues...

    October 25, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  3. OneWay


    October 25, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • midwest rail

      Caps lock is God's way of telling us you're an idiot.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Huebert

      We are both atheist. I just go one god further.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • OneWay

      wow. GOOD ONE! Made me laugh.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  4. Betty

    “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

    October 25, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  5. Ned Flanders

    God meant for that father to impregnate his daughter. It was His will. It was also His will for me to type this message, Baba Booey Baba Booey! Indeed, He works in mysterious ways.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  6. ChristoInferno

    Just ship him to Iran and let him find out about god's will in a hurry.

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

    Here is the true answer that they are all afraid of. There are no gods.

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

      You can no more prove God doesn't exist than they can He does.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Huebert


      But since there is no evidence for God's existence, the logical conclusion is that he does not.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Steve

      Nobody is on the hook to prove a god does not exist. That is not how it works, perhaps you are unfamiliar with all the advances humans have made over the millennia. Fantastic claims require fantastic proof. The burden of proof is on anyone making a ridiculous claim that a god exists.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  8. Blasphemy

    For being so omnipotent God sure does have a lot of history of tripping over flaws in his plan.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  9. Penny Wright

    If you want to privatize Social Security and Medicare, lower taxes for the rich, outlaw abortion, and start a new war with Iran, vote Republican.

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

      Obama is getting good at starting wars too and appears to have taken the democratic party with him.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Wally Wolf


      October 25, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Wally Wolf

      I meant EXACTLY to Penny, not Steve. Just to clarify.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • akka1234

      You haven't been listening – your ignorance is showing...

      October 25, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  10. Steve

    Everything happens according to God's plan, except for bad things. He is all knowing and all powerful, but continues to let good people suffer horrible tragedies. He loves all creation but will send an innocent child to hell forever because they were born into a region where the Bible isn't a popular book. Perhaps there is an easier answer. Maybe religion was made up by primitive people looking to explain the world around them, and is nothing but a collection of folk tales, sometimes logically incoherent and self-contradictory.

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

      Noooo....that can't be right..... 😉

      October 25, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Steve

      Please avoid speaking the truth. The fact that people are responsible for their own actions and fate is something most cannot fathom.

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

      I like.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  11. Joe

    Regarding religion. Whether true or not, whatever your belief, as long as it makes you a better person and does not harm others, stick with it.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  12. Chris

    Excellent article!! Best line, “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.” The republican war on women continues....

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

      interesting that you think the *defense* of unborn women (500,000 killed a year in the US) is a war *against* women...

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

      I thought the same thing. Let him get sodomized, and see if it's "God's will. What a IDIOT this man is.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • akka1234

      Trying to stop the war on unborn babies is not a war on women. Why do women get to decide whether a child lives or dies? Murder is against the law. To the folks that are pro-abortion – maybe we should let women have the baby, try motherhood for awhile, if she doesn't like it – just kill the kid. No difference if the baby is killed before or after delivery. A heart beat is a heart beat – in or out of the womb. Obviously your mother did not choose abortion – what happened to you?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  13. Russ

    Are the scars on the risen Jesus' hands "unhealed evil"...
    or trophies proving that God can heal even the most vile act in history?

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

      If you believe that the killing of one man is the most vile act in all of history, you have a very distorted since of perspective.

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

      @ Huebert: no, I believe the killing of the one & only God-man – the only innocent being to ever walk the planet & the most valuable thing in existence – is the most vile act in history.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Huebert

      Like I said, very distorted.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Russ

      @ Huebert: what's very distorted is the alternative...
      there is no justice. all of this is merely evolutionary process. survival of the fittest. no basis upon which to call these atrocious acts evil – or even wrong. the only appeal is to the shifting sands of evolutionary social constructs. the next Hitler could be the next great step forward in that view.

      that's distorted. without a metaphysical anchor upon which to base an appeal to justice, one cannot call r.a.pe an injustice.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Huebert


      One does not need to invoke a deity to have a metaphysical anchor for determining good and evil. My personal anchor is primarily focused on minimizing harm and maximizing joy, for everyone.

      As to your argument against moral relativity. The arc of human history has continuously moved us away from our violent nature. As little as 500 years ago it was considered acceptable to own slaves, to torture, and to kill indigenous peoples' now these acts are considered reprehensible. Even though morality is a social construct, it has continuously bent toward the direction of compassion.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Remarque

      Russ, you're creating this metaphysical anchor and, in creating it, you're strengthening an anarchistic foundation. In that sense, your anchor is no more or less valid than any other regulation that helps define morality in human society.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Russ

      @ huebert: i'm amazed are your re-narration of history. by the numbers (murders), the worst tyrants in history have been in the last 100 years (Mao, Stalin, Hitler). Surely you know the social statistics don't back your case. I'd argue a more balanced line – the graph is contrap.untal (higher highs & lower lows as it goes).

      Regardless, the point holds. Without an objective, metaphysical anchor (and you are still appealing to a purely subjective one), there is no greater justice to which you can appeal or upon which to base any moral outrage. it's either merely your perspective (all relative, so no basis for outrage) – or it's just the current social norms (which, as I've already noted, can shift radically from generation to generation).

      SUM: no objective anchor for justice, no basis for calling something evil – much less being outraged by it.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Russ

      @ Remarque: you are assuming this is a fabrication of my mind – and thereby subject to Feuerbach's critique (all theology is really anthropology – just human self-projection).

      but the central claim of Christianity is not that we made this up, but that God broke in – that God came into the existence he created, that the Author wrote himself into the Play. and we don't base that claim off fables, but historical accounts.

      a few good, scholarly reads on this:
      CS Lewis' essay "Fern Seed & Elephants"
      Richard Bauckham's "Jesus & the Eyewitnesses"
      NT Wright's "The Resurrection of the Son of God" (comprehensive analysis of the historical reality of the resurrection)

      October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Huebert


      Hitler was a Christian, Mao was a Buddhist, and Stalin was actually an atheist, but their beliefs are completely irrelevant to the reasons that they are the greatest mass murders in history. That has more to do with the fact that they were fascist dictators, and there were more people alive during their time than there were an any previous time in history. Also I am talking about the long run. Would you say that we, as a society are more or less moral now than we were 200 years ago?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Russ

      @ Huebert: you are not being honest with the reality of history. as everyone recognized in 1945, for the first time in history, there was a weapon of such power & immensity that it could actually effectively kill everyone on the planet.

      Certainly you'd agree we've not only advanced in medical technology, but also in our military technology, right? We have not only gained in our ability to sustain life, but also to destroy it.

      Yes, our population growth has sky-rocketed. It's a hard sell that Hitler believed Christianity – especially in light of the things his inner group reported in regard to his thoughts on Christianity. Similarly, Mao's Buddhism is directly contrary with his communist beliefs. Stalin's atheism, however...

      Yes, evil has always been here, but we have grown both in our ability to do greater good & greater harm. Hence the term I already used: contrap.untal.

      Nonetheless, what does history tell us about your argument? MANY espoused it in the late 19th century – just before the bloodiest century in history.

      Are we more moral? Yes, we have outlawed slavery. It was horrible that we treated human beings as less than a person. But I ask you, do we still do that today? To really push on you: do you? There have been 54.5 MILLION murders in the womb just in America since Roe v. Wade. We have made murder "civil." Does that make us more moral? No, it makes us more sophisticated murderers.

      Either you don't think abortion is murder (which proves my point) or you must concede we readily call human beings less than human & murder them at a rate HIGHER than Hitler did. So which is it?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Huebert


      Murder is a legal term, which does not apply to abortion. The reason I oppose restrictions on abortion is that I believe that it is immoral to force a woman to have a child against her will. I don't like abortion, but I do not have a right to force my will upon another.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Huebert: sending criminals to prison is forcing your will upon another. Your position there is inconsistent. Unless you are arguing for anarchy...

      Per the definition of murder – as Christian, I find it most clearly defined in the Bible. It is much more than a governmentally or legislatively (humanly) speaking term. God, as the Author of life, defines life and – by his own definition (legislation, if you will) – criminalized murder. Only the Author of life can rightfully take life.

      You say you "don't like" abortion, but you won't stop a mother from taking her own unborn child's life. Would you "force" her to stop if her child were 10 minutes old?

      October 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Huebert


      I'm no anarchist, and my stance is not contradictory. Prison a consequence of taking an action that society has deemed unacceptable. By being a part of a society you accept the society's rules.

      All god says about murder in the bible is "Thou shall not murder." He does not define murder. Is it murder to kill someone in self defense? Is it murder to kill someone in an war? Is it murder to abort a fetus that is threatening the life of the mother? At no point in the bible are these questions answered, so for a definition of murder it is best to look to the legal system.

      Of course I would stop a mother from taking the life of her child, regardless of age. What you don't seem to understand is the difference between a child and a fetus. Most abortions occur when the fetus is about the size of a lima bean. I simply don't consider something like that to be a child.

      October 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Huebert: on the contrary, the Bible explicitly defines murder – especially if you don't read it as merely a law book (which it is not!), but rather as God telling us who he is & what life is all about. In other words, because the Bible so starkly defines life, murder is clearly defined (as the wrongful taking of life).

      Again, what basis does one have for claiming something is wrong? We are back to the discussion of a metaphysical anchor. In the Bible, God not only claims to be the Author of life, but he also states clearly the intent of life. As a result, murder is one of the many ways we can misuse life.

      That is not subject to a society's shifting norms (which would mean the Nazi soldiers in the concentration camps were right according to their own legislation, "we were just following orders!") but rather something deeper that is based upon an appeal to a greater, metaphysical reality of Justice. Otherwise there is no basis for war crimes or the Nuremberg Trials (it wasn't murder by *their own* legislation). Murder is not contingent on societal values.

      Instead, biblically we are told: we were made in God's image (our value is intrinsic to our design & Maker – and so not even contingent on what our societies might claim), we broke ourselves (the Fall distorts our self-understanding), yet God cares so much he has/is/will act on our behalf (the cross states clearly that we are that messed up, but we are loved that much).

      Again, the Author of life alone can define life. And the Bible clearly states that – as well as condemning ANY wrongful taking of life (which includes everything from pre-meditated murder to manslaughter and even to slander & malice). And the notion that life begins at conception is a clearly stated at several points in Scripture (Ps.51:5-6; Ps.139:13-18). Also, God knows who we are even before we are made (Jer.1:5; Eph.1:4).

      But most starkly, the value of life is demonstrated in what Christ did to save us. The cross states an inherent value beyond physical comprehension.

      Underlying this discussion is your mistaken method of interpreting the Bible. Here's a video that might help – especially in seeing the overall point of the Bible & the importance of life in light of that point. Murder is a subsidiary discussion as one of many forms of misunderstanding that primary point...

      October 25, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  14. MarkinFL

    That priest believes in a loving god even if it does not fit his theology perfectly. Good for him for putting being human above strict adherence to dogma. More than I can say for a few heartless and brainless Republican congressmen and senators ( one of whom could be our new VP, god forbid )

    October 25, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  15. stevie68a

    Religious people are delusional. They have each other to keep their delusion looking "real". If "jesus" answers your prayer,
    ask him why he lets innocent children die of starvation everyday.
    We are in a New Age, and religion is part of the old.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  16. pprty

    I'll bet Mourdock has not adopted any of these children. So his words are a lie.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  17. Phil

    In 2012, anyone left believing in magic reincarnated zombies in the sky has to be full on delusional. I'm aware that most of the country is, but it just blows me away. Worship this all loving God... Or burn in hell forever! Why not just cure cancer and all death and disease and END SUFFERING if you're omnipotent? Why? Because (NEWSFLASH) God is imaginary.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • akka1234

      Wrong – God is real. How sad for you that the mere mention of His name provokes such anger. FYI – some things are true whether you believe them or not. One day every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. That includes your knee and your tongue. I pray someday you realize how much Jesus loves you and wants to spend eternity with you.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  18. CKY9

    “He’s invoking the will of God where it is not appropriate." Nuff said.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  19. steve

    Anyone who believes there is some "god' who listens to your prayers and created the world....who believes the bible to be factual stories.... is a complete f'n moron.

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

      yet you believe scientists and their unprovable theories...who's more delusional?

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

      You are more delusional lolol

      October 25, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  20. WES

    Perhaps if these politicans would follow the letter of the law and follow the guidelines set forth by our forefathers they would not get into this mess. The speration of church and state should be absolute. Once you begin to define your positions on law based on your religious stance, you have in my opinion, served yourself and this nation a great injustice. Just because you believe that a fertilized cell is "life" does not mean that this is the case. For the first few months after conception, this "life" has no ability to congnitively make decisions, it is nothing more than a parasite at this point. And it is always men that make these arguments. About their "tough decisions" they have had to make regarding abortion. So much hog wash. Keep the churches in church for the love of GOD!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:08 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.