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. Margarita

    If you had a steak last night for dinner, there is someone out there who is a vegetarian and believes that you should not be able to "stop a beating heart" for your dinner and that it is MURDER. Should that vegetarian be able to legislate that people can no longer kill animals for food or perhaps they should mind their own damn business and just not eat meat themselves?

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

      a.k.a If you don't like abortion...don't have one!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  2. xyx25

    man is responsible for his own sin. God can never sin nor initiate sin.
    Jam 1:13-15 “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

    October 25, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • xyx25

      God can use man's sinful intentions to achieve His purpose. The great example is Lord Jesus. It is God's will to crucify Jesus for the sins of his elect. He used sinful intentions and sinful actions of Jues and Judas to achieve it. The people who crucified Jesus are still responsible for this sin, though God used it for greater purpose.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • xyx25

      Luke 22:21-22 “But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. 22And truly the Son of man [Lord Jesus Christ] goeth, as it was determined [determined by God]: but woe [eternally damned] unto that man {Judas] by whom he is betrayed!”

      October 25, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • xyx25

      Acts 2:22-24 “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.”

      October 25, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • xyx25

      Gen 45:4-8 “And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. 5Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. 6For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. 7And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.”

      October 25, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Jerome Horowitz

      It's nice to have a hobby

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

      That God would turn around a great injustice or a seemingly unsurmountable disaster that has come about by accident or design of men to make His infinite, ever-powerful presence known I have no doubt of, having witnessed such a thing firsthand a few times in my life, but to say that God espouses and abets the consequences of evil to attain the same end, such as this fool Mourdock does, is a dangerous form of self-delusion that should be allowed no pretense of power.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • xyx25

      same answer for 'why is there so much evil in the world' when God is good. Evil is because of man and his sin.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  3. Proud to be a pagan

    The paradox of religious wackos.....Killing for resources and power, A-Ok. Killing unborn children, that's bad mmmkay.....if its wrong its wrong....stay focused people.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  4. Jorge

    Soooo, the guy who would be leader of the free world endorses this lunatic, but doesn't endorse his worldview??? What the hell does he endorse about him, then?

    October 25, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  5. demsrule

    No matter how they try to sweep it under the rug- the GOP agenda points right back to flintlock rifles, powdered wigs and of course chains of slavery! They want to dictate to women, what they should do with their bodies. They ARE NOT the Republican party of Ronald Reagan, who would not have a chance with this racist Republican sham. There is nothing GRAND about the GOP anymore.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  6. jonat

    Leave it to the Liberal media to put this non-story on the front page while burying the lies and deceit from obama after the death of our Ambassador in Libya in a CIA safe house.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Everybody Else

      We'll listen to you after Dick Cheney is arrested for starting a war based on lies that killed 4,000+ American soldiers and 100,000+ Iraqis.


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

      lol, just last week I was commenting on an opinion article that CNN had listed as it's number 1 article (with a picture) on the left side of the home page praising Romney.

      Yeah, this liberal media! They're so stupid they actually act unbiased just to make us think they're not liberal media! Brb, gonna go read some of the opinion peices on the home page about how the wind is at Romney's back. There that stupid liberal media goes again, being unbaised!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • sid rush

      Bush allowed 9/11 to happen inspite fo repeated warnings and justice departments not allowing CIA to share data with FBI while tailgating those 18 killers in this US.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  7. sid rush

    In 2010, Republicans used jobs to get control States and congress. Many of these states run by republicans laid off employees to boost the unemployment. All them have worked on laws to restrict abortions, voting, none worked to create jobs. Except Ohio where Obama helped Auto sector which also helped WI, MI, IN, TN,MO and PA. Primary Agenda for Republicans: Over turn Roe vs wade, kill medicare and social security, mandate religion, occupy middle east( exterminate muslims) for oil/Jesus, make or allow war for control resources and promote christianity. Reagan: South America/Lebanon/Afghanistan/Iran-Iraq, Bush Sr: Iraq/Bosnia, GW Jr: Iraq and Afghanistan

    October 25, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  8. How do you explain God sending a bear to tear apart 42 children?

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

    In 2 Kings, one of God's priests got miffed when a group of children made fun of his bald head and prayed to god to punish them: "He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys."

    Yeah, tell us again how "loving" your god is.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Jorge

      In other words, God will empower both the the meek and the vindictive, as long as they worship Him??? Then morality is not in the hands of God, but of men. If that is so, then I say, kick Mourdock to the curb and praise the Lord, Halleluia!

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

      2 Kings 2 – Elisha & the 2 bears – is a stark illustration of the need for justice. Here were *well over* 42 (since the bears killed 42 *of them*, clearly there were a lot more) youths (best scholarship tells us roughly 10 old boys) coming out of the city to stop an old man passing by. Gang violence is about to occur.

      Worse than that, they are mocking God's representative. This is a city whose economy is thriving on idol worship. Elisha's number 1 concern was calling that out. He was no friend to that city's economy by their concerns.

      This was premeditated. Elisha was not going thru the city, but passing by it. The youth *came out* after him. They went out of their way. He was going around them.

      So, God intervenes with justice.

      But more to your point: what is God showing about himself? Not just that he stands up for the elderly, or that he is against gang violence, but this points to something. As Jesus said in Lk.24:27 & 44, all of this is about him.

      So what does the life & death of Jesus tell us? the cross tells us: Elisha was a sinner like everyone else (he deserved to die) – but God was using him. So how could he be saved & these youth killed in justice? Why does Elisha get mercy?

      Because a greater Elisha would come. God's ultimate Representative (Himself), who would be taken outside the city & mocked. But unlike these youth, when the justice falls, it doesn't come down on the mockers, but on the One who would die to save mockers – like them, like Elisha, like us.

      2 Kings 2 is a precursor to the cross. That's what Jesus is saying in Lk.24.

      The problem under your objection is that you are reading the Bible wrong. Here's a video to help you out:

      October 25, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • DJPsiPhi

      The bible is nothing more than the combination of Twilight, Resident Evil, 50 shades of Grey, and music by Queen... Except it was entertainment for people pre-plumbing.

      Today, the under educated rely on the bible to make decisions that only the average person could do on their own.
      Why dont you worship David Blaine or Chris Angel? They are so much cooler than this fairy tale.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Russ

      @ JDPsiPhi: here are two "fairy tale" scholars on your premise...

      as JRR Tolkien told (a then atheist) CS Lewis: "Christianity is not one more fairy tale pointing to greater truth, it is the greater Truth to which all other fairy tales point."

      CS Lewis then later makes the point in a much more scholarly way in an essay given to biblical scholars:
      "Fern Seed & Elephants"

      October 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Pete

      Since the bible can be used to justify just about anything, from stoning your neighbor to death for some minor transaction to loving your neighbor despite his actions, I view it as pretty much useless.

      October 26, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  9. tony

    Age old question: " How do you explain evil in a world where God is loving?"

    Age old answer: No god, no explanation needed.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  10. Ameri2010

    Do some of you really want social issues to dominate American politics?

    Isn't that like the Taliban?

    The top priorities should be focused on economic recovery and jobs or I'm thinking these social issues won't ever amount to anything, anyway.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  11. craig

    This guy is an absolute jack A**!!!!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  12. nonbeliever

    CCN interrupts its regularly scheduled Romney bashing program to bash some other conservatives. The regular Romney bashing will continue at its scheduled time.

    Other stories today: Folders lots of women in folders, Catholics don't vote, Mormons hate gays and black people,

    Remember vote early and often, your new gubment phone is in the mail.

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

      Just look at your pathetic comment. Forcing little girls to give birth isn't worthy of discussion, and yet fictional "government phones" gets a shout-out? Ladies and gents, I give you the American Taliban.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Jerome Horowitz

      But don't vote if you're a minority or old or poor.
      We are setting up laws to stop you right now.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • apstar

      I'm surprised the 666 tattoo on the forehead hasn't cropped up yet (FAIK). Maybe the 47% that don't count in Romney's mind should not be allowed to vote, since they are irrelevant in his eyes, anyway.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • toungelashing


      CNN pay attention here are your next few headlines:

      Taliban have taken over Republican party. IS MITT A TALIBANER????

      Conservatives wear Black Panther uniforms and prevent voting of old, young and poor. CAN THE POLL TAX BE FAR BEHIND!!

      Jesus who?

      Free gubment phones phoney???

      October 25, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • toungelashing

      OHHHHH forgot one!!!!!

      666 Sign of the beast or Herman Cains 999 plan UPSIDE DOWN!!!!!

      OMG I JUST REALIZED MAYBE HERMAN IS ... wait for it...... THE DEVIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  13. Jim in PA

    How does this tie into Romney's investment in Steri-Cycle, the aborted fetus disposal company? I'm sure there is a connection somewhere.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  14. palintwit

    Countless studies have shown that there is a higher incidence of incest and child molestation among southern, white evangelical families than in any other group that participated in the study. Experts are in agreement that this type of deviant behavior is generally a result of living in close quarters, such as trailer parks. Anyone requiring further proof only has to take a casual drive south of the Mason-Dixon line where you will encounter toothless inbreds wherever you travel. In fact, historians have long theorized that the reason the south lost the Civil War is because of the high number of mentally challenged soldiers in the army, a direct result of generations of inbreeding

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


      October 25, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Jerome Horowitz

      78.6% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
      Oops- now it's 78.7%.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • coachchadwell

      Please cite your sources of information. I'd love to read them. I doubt you can tell me one. Your bigoted comments showed the lack of education and experience traveling you have. Try to leave your trailer once in a while.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • apstar

      I thouht tornadoes were supposed to mitigate the issues that arise from trailer parks...

      October 25, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • DJPsiPhi

      I thought you were only allowed to touch kids at church... or boy scouts... Your redneck hypothesis is starting to make sense....

      October 25, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  15. Jim

    What a perfect example of why the Republican party alienates so many. This topic should not be on a political platform, period. They could come up with the best piece of art in the world and then they pee on it. And then wonder why nobody wants to buy it. Foolish.

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

      Jim, you are so right! Every time I hear about this, I think...."YOU JUST CAN'T FIX STUPID!"

      October 25, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Jerome Horowitz

      Didn't somebody pee on art they got all upset?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  16. Ameri2010

    Why do Republicans need to STOP the way they believe? WHY?

    Should you be forced to STOP the way you believe?

    Where is your tolerance?

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

      No one has to stop the way they believe. Believe away. But do not sign it into law to make sure everyone has to believe the same thing.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • mario

      Idiocy can only be tolerated so much.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • rafael

      Provide an argument for why one should tolerate injustice, cruelty, lack of compassion, lack of empathy, or any of the other things that are wrong with how people act toward one another. Standing by.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • nomnom42

      no one is saying you have to give up your beliefs, just stop forcing them on everyone else.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • tony

      Mine went away as soon as there were "faith" protestors outside LEGAL abortion clinics.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • just saying

      you do realize that the problem here is that these law makers would, if given the chance, change the laws so that they fit their religious views on the matter. You talk about tolerance but what we people want to prevent is the religious ideology of others being forced upon them because of the beliefs of lawmakers. Believe what ever you want just dont use that as a justification to dictate rules for the rest of society

      October 25, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Camdog

      Because they force those beliefs on everyone. Believe what you want but don't force others to follow your silly religion.

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

      You are either missing the point, or intentionally attempting to obscure it. Believe whatever you want, just don't try to force it others by enforcing it through religiously-based laws.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Sam M

      And what is your tolerance of Taliban's views? It is getting more and more blurry between today's far right Republican views and the Taliban's views.

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

      No one is dictating that anyone has to stop believing anything.

      However, believing in something and passing laws to make everyone abide by what you believe is completely another.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  17. voxx

    So this is what a fool looks like..hummmm

    October 25, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Jerome Horowitz

      You misspelled – that's "human"

      October 25, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  18. Matthew Burdick

    What I don't understand is if everything that happens is what God intended to happen, then aren't murders "God's will"?

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

      Not to mention abortions. Wouldn't they be gods will too?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  19. kamanakapu

    Obama may have enough votes to win in a landslide but Romney has the Counters on his side and its the official count that wins.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  20. Will-South Dakota

    If Romney/Ryan get elected under their law all AMERICAN women will be required to wear burkas(?) like the Arab women have to when they go out. Wonder if Ann Romney can find one at Costco????

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

      Yes, it sure looks that way.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:30 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.