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. Reality

    Murdock, the "not too intelligent" politician, should have said, "the morning after pill and ra-pe kits basically vitiate any pregnancy results of ra-pe with said ra-pist getting 20 to life if convicted. " In the case cited in the topic, the "father" should have been given the death penalty.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Agnes

      Reason and reality will forever be eclipsed by faith.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Spud

      I have always wanted Republicans to walk a mile in someone else shoes. Just for once.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  2. Frahmxx

    God, God, God. It's always about God, and what God would want. When are we going to wake up? Politics and religion should at no point meet, and anyone mixing the two should promptly be removed from public office.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  3. sammy zoso

    Let's downsize the government and get rid of all the Nazi Republicans.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • DJPsiPhi

      You shouldn't insult Nazis by pairing them with republicans. Nazis stuck to their beliefs, no matter how wrong they were.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  4. Mike

    Republicans needs to stop being a GOD, Let the GOD decide if women did the right thing or not.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  5. William Demuth

    Have his wife and daughters gang banged, and then we ask him again

    October 25, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  6. R to the Moore

    I'm so tired of the narrow-minded perspective that others have a right to my decisions. Parents should be allowed to abort their children at any point before the child is 18. Why does the government think it gets to tell me to do with my life, my household?

    October 25, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  7. Brian

    You libs are amazing. Ignore the facts that your God Obama lied outright to you about just about everything over the last 4 years, and recently on Benghazi – as shown on every news site.

    But instead, twist the words of a man who said he values human life and that was the point of what he stated. That way, you create fear among women and ignore Obama's failings.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Jim in PA

      Translation – "Look! Over there, a shiny object! The fact that the GOP wants to take the country back 100 years on women's rights is soooooo unimportant"

      PS – Jeremiah Wright!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • sam

      Yeah, nice try. There was no twisting. Get over it.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Brian

      How is valuing a babies life taking women's rights back 100 years? You want to change America to the extreme left wing policies that you feel should be changed just because "everyone else is doing it".

      October 25, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • == o ==

      When "Brian" writes as "pervert alert", he posts things like:
      "que ers the ones who gave aids to america" . . .

      Why should we take seriously anything the troll has to say?

      (his posts are often riddled with run-on sentences, lack of punctuation, and poor grammar)

      "Brian" 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. I, ofr course, prefer to refer to this extreme homophobe as
      the disgruntled Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. writer boot camp flunkie.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Brian

      Ya, I must be the only Brian here at CNN, your an idiot.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  8. kd

    This guy has no business in politics. His thinking is worse than warped.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  9. Inand


    October 25, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  10. Hitchens

    “He’s invoking the will of God where it is not appropriate.".........BULL.....If God is the all Mighty and the creator of all things including free will. Then He is responsible for everything that happens on his watch! Good and Bad...but he only takes credit for the good stuff. I say its about time he started taking credit for the bad stuff too.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Fred Evil

      If you notice, God NEVER takes credit, his simpletons do!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • JonathanL

      If he was kidnapped and impregnated (it is possible to impregnate a male using modern technology) with the egg and sperm of a serial criminal rapist and the egg of maybe a woman of another ethnic origin than his own, if he'd feel it was God's will for this to happen to him and for him to carry the pregnancy to full term and then love and raise the child as his own. My other point, besides that his rationale (not reasoning) is beyond absurd, is that if the government decides that a woman must carry an unwanted pregnancy, it would then be obliged to provide full child support until it becomes independent, but then I would not want my tax money going to that unnecessary, avoidable expense. I want to distance myself and life as far as I can from that kind of mentality. I will vote Democrat all the way.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  11. Mark

    Why is God even in a political discussion??? There is no separation of church and state in this country. None at all. Lawmakers making laws based on their own religious beliefs. It's ludicrous.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • sandalista

      Coudn't agree more! That this is even a subject in the 21st century is baffling!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • DJPsiPhi

      Stop capitalizing god.

      Our education is shot and our media is so wrapped up in sensationalism. More than half of the US population is retarded. Yep I said that word. So this sensationalism backs the beliefs of these under or uneducated individuals who make up the majority of this country...

      Think about it. Cain, Bachmann, Palin, Santorum... How the hell did they even make it to their current positions? Besides laziness I dont understand how people can be so ignorant with as much knowledge as there is on the internet. Make things simple. SATs or IQ tests in order to vote.

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

      If God gets involved in politics, he risks losing his tax exempt status. Maybe he should stay out of it, and go back to playing with lightning and thunder.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  12. herrbert Maier

    How can the American political process allow the separation of church and state to be continuously eroded? How can an extreme religious view such as Mormonism be allowed to influence American politics? What's next for America, an extreme christian theocracy? Sad to say, but the rest of the 'free world' sees this as another facet of the disintegration of the U.S. as its leader.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • gladiatorgrl

      The Family is about the other half of American fundamentalist power—not its angry masses, but its sophisticated elites. Sharlet follows the story back to Abraham Vereide, an immigrant preacher who in 1935 organized a small group of businessmen sympathetic to European fascism, fusing the far right with his own polite but authoritarian faith. From that core, Vereide built an international network of fundamentalists who spoke the language of establishment power, a "family" that thrives to this day. In public, they host Prayer Breakfasts; in private, they preach a gospel of "biblical capitalism," military might, and American empire. Citing Hitler, Lenin, and Mao as leadership models, the Family's current leader, Doug Coe, declares, "We work with power where we can, build new power where we can't."

      October 25, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  13. Paul

    Jihadis called 9-11 "the will of Allah"

    October 25, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  14. Ameri2010

    Doesn't surprise me that a leftist forum would repeatedly condemn the thoughts of others. Who cares that some people believe it's wrong to terminate a pregnancy? Nobody is forcing you to believe that way. Where is your tolerance for the beliefs of others?

    Nobody, including Republicans, is forcing you to believe that way. Ab*ortion is legal. Stop your righteous indignation over made up scenarios that don't exist.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Jim in PA

      Read the GOP 2012 Party Platform, which seeks to outlaw abortion. Nice try, though.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Fred Evil

      "Nobody, including Republicans, is forcing you to believe that way."
      No, they aren't, because they CAN'T! NOBODY can force you to BELIEVE anything.
      But the GoTP is trying to force us to LIVE THEIR beliefs! They don't even follow them, but they expect us to?!
      EFF THE GoTP!!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Kelcy

      Made up? You need to get out more. The concern, which is a very serious one, is that people like Murdoch have been trying to pass legislation for the last several years that would make two cells a person with all the protections thereof. A two cell person could not be prevented from embedding in the uterus which would mean banning all birth control pills and the IUD. No doubt the next argument would be that that all forms of barrier protection should be prohibited as well since the potential two cells have rights to come together. It would make abortion a case for murder.

      So don`t try to say that the concern is misplaced. It is very real because these people you support have already tried.

      Now explain to everyone o the boards here how your drive to force all Americans whether they share your faith or not to conform to your faith based notions of right and wrong? Just curious because you are the same person/people who lambast the islamists who want to make the world conform to their faith based notions of right and wrong. How are you two different (and don`t say it is because you don`t murder people because quite frankly we have had quite a few of the faith based killers right here in this country that have used murder to try to enforce their faith based views.)

      No, the sad fact is that religious based laws that force one view point on everyone around them are just wrong. No matter whose religious views are being touted.

      Plus, add to your sins with your hypocrisy. Problem is your supposed concern ends at the moment that baby takes its first real breath. If you wanted all two cells to be born then you would also want all those born to live in solid family environments and you would be supporting paying women to stay home when their children are little, enough money for a roof over their heads in a safe neighborhood, food on the table and of course ensuring they all had health care,

      October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  15. Jim in PA

    LMAO. Just look at all the Republicans here trying to run away from this candidate that they agree with. This issue is toxic, and they know it. Nothing to see here! Move along! Move along!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  16. Shanda

    The notion that any woman (or child) should be forced to carry a rapist's zygote should outrage everyone. As if we can't at the very least even pick who fathers our children, let alone control when we have children (whether through abstinence or birth control). Clearly, this is all about suppressing and controlling womankind, and we will go to war with you fools if you try to take us back to that insanity. Our bodies are our own, and you have no control, and have absolutely no right to even think you should. The GOP is filled with satan's spawn, and they only invoke God's name to insult Him and to confuse the masses because the devil absolutely wants people to reject God.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • gladiatorgrl


      hopefully the women of this country will show up and vote ALL these fools out of office

      Do you see Angela Merkel running around Germany spouting scripture?? NO you see her positioning her nation to be a leader with quality education for the masses, healthcare for the masses and STRONG UNIONS!!

      Make no mistake people this election is about turning this nation into a theocracy with a cult leader at its helm.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • globalone

      Here here! Well said

      October 25, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Summer in KY

      I cannot agree more! Why the voice of ultraconservative gets so louder and try to pull women back the medieval? We, as the women, should speak out loud and defend our right just like our mother and grandmothers did several decades ago!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • AM

      GladiatorGirl for office!!! Send the GOP back to the Stone Age. Oops! They are already there!!!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  17. Paula Barbee

    If this is an example of Republican Morality, you should read the critically acclaimed "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood. We women are just objects anyway, right?

    October 25, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  18. Guest

    The Moral Argument:

    1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
    2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    It's a beautiful thing.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • laugh

      Flawed logic...utterly

      October 25, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • DJPsiPhi

      We dont need a judiciary system, 'god' will handle it.
      I think Islams 'god' has more morals than the christian 'god' so we can base our morals off of that... or wait.. which god are you talking about? There have been soooo many of them that just appeared out of nowhere with new rules and laws and bigotry.

      Let me fix your saying.
      1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties can exist due to social upbringing, judicial authority and common sense
      2. Objective moral values and duties do exist even though 90% of religidiots are racist and wage war against each other.
      3. Therefore, I am an idiot for ever believing in a god

      October 25, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Fred Evil

      "Objective moral values and duties do exist."
      Not true. Your moral values do not equal mine. You value stuff I consider garbage, and I value stuff you consider garbage.
      Your argument? It's garbage..

      October 25, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • anniet

      your logic is skewed. just because we have morals doesn't mean there is a god behind them. for the record, i am not an atheist.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • gladiatorgrl

      rubbish!!! how many times have "morals" from God changed over the years – as many times as man has rewritten them

      October 25, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • JT

      morals and values exist in all societies, you do not need God to be good.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • DingGate

      Not exactly how logical statements work...

      October 25, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Kelcy

      Clearly one of those sad folks that did not do well in school, has never taken a philosophy class or if you did you failed it miserably. What you attribute to your personal interpretation of god and your version of the bible (there are multiple versions you know) has actually been developed by philosophers over many thousands of years. And they were able to do it all without anyones god. Suggest you go back to school to do some serious learning rather than do just enough and getting out.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • billy davis

      Have you seen him?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:50 am |

    just another typical religious republican zealot.........way to go ignorant voters.....let's put another freak in congress so they can go down to a 5% approval rating........prepare for the great cleansing thats coming....time to show the religious nuts (you know christians) that we won't accept their biblical laws being infused into our law of the land....GO OBAMA

    October 25, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  20. OneWay

    Atheist say there is no God and call it a fairly tale and yet believing that the entire world and its species came from one divided cell that magically appeared from nowhere......that doesnt sound like a fairy tale, no not at all.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • DJPsiPhi

      This is why the US ranks so low in education. You said believe. As in, you believe everything on the internet. You should look up the word fact. Evolution is a fact.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • laugh

      Just because you don't know the answer....you can't automatically assume magic

      October 25, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • OneWay

      Dont confuse adaptation with evolution. If evolution were a fact, we'd still be seeing animals and humans evolve. Talk about poor education

      October 25, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • DJPsiPhi

      Damn.. so much for those Australian fish growing limbs. As long as I don't look at it I wont see it.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • AM

      I'm guessing you think that dinosaurs didn't exist and that the world is only 9000 years old, carbon 14 dating is all a lie, we never put men on the moon and there is no international space station, or did we wave a wand and magically all that stuff just appeared? Oh, and there is no global warming! Thank god for that...

      October 25, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
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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.