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. PumpNDump

    Typical mouthbreathing religous crazy tinfoil hat wearing tea party wingnut. This is their demographic.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  2. reldra

    Conservatives keep saying 'they know what God's will is or God's intent. That is the worst sin, to claim to know the mind of God.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  3. Truth will Prevail

    CNN nice JOB in keeping us ALL DISTRACTED...our economy is now growing past $16 Trillion in DEBT we will reach $17 Trillion soon...not even ONE ARTICLE on what this means to us...ALL not just the 1 %...how will we...our children...our next generations pay for this???? Is it possible to place our country FIRST for a change??? BTW now we find out our Ambassador and those 3 Seals fought for 6 hours.....we were attacked by two fronts.....our administration said it was a demonstration....what? where is your journalism on this???our Ambassador was sodomized....any journalist with values out there....

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

      I read about the debt every day and I almost exclusively read CNN. The same goes for the events in Benghazi. So, you are apparently picking articles you think are a waste of time, reading only them and then commenting on them.

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

      Good thing you're here to "undistract" us.

      The only people normally distracted by shiny things are the trolls like you. If you'd stop being a paranoid conspiracy theorist, got rid of the inflammatory language and came to the table with some ideas, maybe something would actually get fixed.

      You're more interested in screaming about it than doing anything. You're clown shoes.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • kathy

      this is NOT about your martrydom-like ranting about the 'liberal media' trying to distract everyone. This election and OUR future is more than just one issue...the economy. It is a very important issue for sure....but there's A LOT more relevant issues and concerns for americans than just one topic. So it's not a distraction..it's discussing the other issues that ALL americans care about so you can make an informed decision on how this election will affect everyone...not just the GOP and fiscal minded one issue morons...like yourself.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Margarita

      In case you didn't notice their are two stories on Benghazi on the front page and one on the economy....YOU are the one trying to avert....this is an important issue too....this is like in 2010, vote us in, we'll fix the economy, the economy, the economy! Pay no attention ot the man behind the curtain....they got voted in, BOOM, they went RIGHT AFTER a women's right to choose, record numbers of legislation introduced, chipping away at it from every angle...we see through your game this time and you are so transparent when you come on a thread about abortion and try to avert everyone's attention.....the party of limited Government wants to FORCE women to have the Government's chosen outcome for their pregnancy

      October 25, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  4. Tbard

    This Ultraconsertive right is VERY scarey...pls tell me...how are they different from fanatic Islam? Control women....make the country's laws according to their religious believes...does anyone else see a corelation here? This is America where church and state are to be seperate...making "moral" laws according to religion is NOT seperation of church and state. We need to get these people out of office before they destroy this country. They want to carry guns so they can kill people who are a threat to them...why do they need guns? If someone breaks into their house it would be God's will so why would they kill the person and interfere with God's will. Why do they support the death penelty for a crime but not support abortion for a crime. They are all nuts!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  5. Penny Wright

    Wake up women!

    Republicans want to overturn Roe v Wade.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • midwest rail

      No, they do not. They much prefer having the issue alive so they can trot it out every election season to stir up the base. They have done nothing substantive since it was enacted to overturn it, and they aren't about to start now.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  6. richunix

    Damnit CCN post all post not be so selective

    October 25, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Its an auto filter. You cannot use certain words or word that contain banned wods. i.e. Consti.tution.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  7. Mark

    Hey CNN where is the story about this The son of Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va. – who serves as the field director for his father’s campaign – has been caught on video advising an undercover reporter how to fraudulently cast ballots in the name of registered voters by forging utility bills and relying on the assistance of Democrat lawyers

    October 25, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Jim in PA

      Hey Mark – where are those two brain cells you need to inform you that you are posting an off-topic rant in the "Belief" blog? Why don't you head over to a Food & Cooking blog and ask then what they think of deficit reduction.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  8. Planet Kolob

    According to Ezekiel, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because the people there refused to take care of the poor.

    Republicans are making us into modern day Sodom.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  9. dennis

    Murdoch should be aborted. Now.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  10. mama k

    If Mr. Mourdock had tried a little harder to keep his religious views out of his politics, he might not be in such a mess.

    Christians are experts in telling each other they are "not the right kind of Christian" in one way or the other. This has always been the case. Different Christian sects were even feuding and persecuting each other around the time of the founding of the U.S. in several states (or soon-to-be states). Because this feuding between these sects annoyed our founders so greatly, they made it a top priority to establish the separation of church and state (and to make it Amendment #1 of our Constitution). This is also reflected in what they had to say on the matter:

    James Madison (our 4th President, was the chief architect of the U.S. Constitution):

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    (A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the Virginia General Assembly, 1785)

    and then ten years later:

    Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?

    (A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of VA, 1795)

    Thomas Jefferson (our 3rd President, was the key author of the Declaration of Independence)

    Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.

    (Letter (as POTUS) to the Virginia Baptists (1808))

    and then of course we have clarifying moments in history such as:

    President John Adams and the U.S. Senate on behalf of the U.S.

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;

    (from Article 11 of the U.S. treaty ratified with Tripoli in 1797)

    Senator John F Kennedy said on Sept. 12, 1960, just prior to his winning the Presidential election:

    I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.

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

      You're absolutely correct, and you didn't even have to dig very deep. Well done.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  11. move32

    i'm so sick of these damn republicans putting there religion and justifying it in every messed up thing they do or say.. The GOP is nothing but one big CULT. All of them are twisted and sick..

    October 25, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  12. Sam235

    Pro-life is not control over the female body; it is merely the belief that life starts earlier than the day of birth. The argument is when does human life start.

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

      No, the argument is over weather or not you can force a woman to be an incubator, against her will.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Ryan M.

      There is no question to where human life starts: at conception, an embryo is a living human organism- that is the consistent measure of humanity.

      Now, to ask ethically when abortion should be allowed, that involves a judgment on the question: "When is it acceptable to kill someone?" You may find exceptions where your conscience may allow you to do such, I do not, unless they are purposefully inflicting harm on another, and only then when no other option is feasible. To protect the innocent, to guarantee them a shot at life, is the mark of every truly great society.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • todd in DC

      So women are helpless incubators who have no say in what is happening in their own bodies.

      Right. Got it.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  13. Planet Kolob

    This is the only Senate candidate Romney made an ad for. You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  14. YoYi470

    Commoners like him are nothing more than a societal obstruction.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  15. Chris

    My God! opss, Can I say that?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  16. Jim in PA

    The lifelong anguish of a 14 year old girl turned forceably into a mother by her rapist dad and the Republican Party? Yeah, the GOP built that.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  17. Penny Wright

    The Republican war on women continues....

    October 25, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Shakingmyhead

      And sadly it seems it will NEVER end until we are in burkas by day and whoring at night. What the GOP needs to do is finally disavow these zealots and pharasee-wanna-bes

      October 25, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  18. Adult Bodies Childrens Minds

    "I demand you do as my imaginary friend says!"

    October 25, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  19. Blasphemy

    The republicans created this environment that they are running in. They don't seem to be in a hurry to weed out these kind of nuts.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  20. snowboarder

    this decision should belong to the victim alone. the government should have nothing to say on the subject.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • BD70

      I second that comment.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:48 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.