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. Tom

    Romney did a commercial for Mourdock – the only senate candidate he did one for. And even after this vile comment, the ad is still running. These people should not be anywhere near the levers of power. Vote for sanity.

    Florida for Obama/Biden!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • D0ntBlvit

      Romney supports Mourdock because (according to the commercial): This will give the senate the majority needed to repeal Obamacare.

      This is either the main goal of the Republicans or it is the issue most likely to scare people into voting Republican.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  2. Mark

    Kiki, here's a little education for ya. A fetus can move.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • apstar

      _Everything_ moves, unless at absolute zero (which is only asymptotically attainable).

      October 25, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • patrick

      That's what the forceps are for.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  3. Tim

    Repulicans I am really, honestly curious... Which Mitt do you support? the severe conservative, or the pro-abortion Mass. liberal??

    October 25, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • God

      Most Republicans support the Mitt that is white. What he actually believes doesn't matter.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Rationalintn

      God, thank you for clearing that up, and for FINALLY joining the conversation. What took you so long? Aren't you thoroughly invested in this presidential election? It is your will that which candidate wins? Please tell us, I wanna place my bet.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  4. patrick

    Who said I should be concerned about what a woman does with her fetus. I am never going to be pro-life because I really don't care what happens to a fetus. You can tell me it's a person with a heartbeat and I still DON'T CARE.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  5. Humanist11

    I see that many of these abuse victims are being helped by well meaning clergy members who may or may not have professional counseling training. Whether they do or not, their belief will usually be paramount and these victims will be guided by religious teaching rather than science. Our society is programmed to seek religious counsel as the first course of action in times of crises and quite often the last. I see this with marriage, drug and alcohol counseling as well. I wonder how many more people would actually be helped if they went to real professionals that did not rely on "Gods mercy and kindness" for help.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  6. Jimjones11111

    Hitler, mourdock, Osama bin laden, Ryan, Romney – they are all the same type of extremist. They just go about achieving their ultimate goals slightly differently.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  7. mark

    For the first time in my life I am sad to say that I am utterly embarrassed to be an American. The rest of the world must think we're completely insane.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Humanist11

      I travel overseas 180 days a year to various countries and I can confirm that they do think our politicians are nuts.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • sam

      Yeah, sadly, we do look pretty crazy. It's making other countries a little nervous.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • ME II


      These views, pro or con, are not "American". America allows for both, be proud of that.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Rationalintn

      How do other countries feel about the US having nukes? Are they really nervous?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  8. Me 3

    These people are morons. Same people who do not believe in evolution and that the earth is only a few thousand years old. Stuck in the 12th century like the Taliban. Organized religion has been the root of evil, persecution and hatred for centuries. It has no place in politics. The U.S. was founded on religious freedom. Neither side should be trying to force their views on the other.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • John Cram

      I agree with you 100%. But I fail to see how the Democrats are in anyway pushing religion on people?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  9. Wootings

    OK people, either everything is "according to God's plan" or it isn't. Either God is in charge and everything happens because he wants/allows it to, or he isn't.

    The problem of evil is simple, and damning to the religious, and it's just one more simple exercise that they refuse to acknowledge. If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and opposes evil as the Bible asserts, then why does evil exist? Either God isn't omnipotent and/or omniscient, and therefore cannot adequately opposed evil (in which case he's not the all-powerful, all-knowing god he's presented to be), or he allows evil to continue to exist because he doesn't actually oppose it (in which case he's not the loving, caring god he's presented to be).

    Or, if you're not catastrophically stupid, he just simply doesn't exist.

    Religious nuts don't get to claim what is and isn't God's will. Either everything is, or nothing is. He can't be omniscient and omnipotent and have things happen that are counter to his will. And in any case, the Bible also asserts that it's not for humans to even question anything anyway – so you religioustards don't get to even speculate as to what would or wouldn't be his will in the first place. Which kind of just seems like a backup to the fact that he clearly isn't omnipotent, omniscient, and opposed to evil.

    ...and that he doesn't even exist.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • patrick

      If God is omnipotent, then why can't he control his temper?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Morgan

      Actually, you are missing a very important piece of the puzzle – free will. Human beings choose their behavior. We chose who want to be in a relationship with. We chose what foods we eat in the morning. We chose what to believe about people and God (or for some a lack of God). With regards to love, love is not love if it isn't a choice. If we are forced to do things, we usually have a very negative feeling towards it. Same with God.

      I also know something else – for me, I'll never fully understand God. There are things in this world that seem so opposite – the exact question you posed. And I'll NEVER figure them out. I just won't. They won't make sense to me. And that is where faith comes in.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Morgan

      Oops, sorry, forgot something..

      and just because someone is something, that doesn't mean they have to exercise that thing. In other words, just because God is omnipotent, it doesn't mean he exercises his power all the time in every situation.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  10. Karl

    Good morning red herring.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  11. eric gieseke

    music is love love is god

    October 25, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • sam

      Eric, it's too early to be smoking the good stuff.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  12. apstar

    Instead of just ranting and raving here, people need to get to the polls and cast their votes against people of this type, who attempt to control every facet of our lives and reek of outdated, bigoted and preposterous beliefs. The pen can be mightier than the sword - GET OUT AND VOTE ON NOV 6th !!!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  13. Jim8

    I'm thinking Romney is on to something. It's best to not tell the voters exactly what you will do when in office.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  14. D0ntBlvit

    I saw a comment by another poster some months ago. I do not remember his or her name and cannot give credit where due. It has become my favorite quote:

    Extreme science flies you to the moon.
    Extreme religion flies you into buildings.
    –unknown CNN poster

    October 25, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  15. Jon

    Fundamentalist Christians (who generally align themselves with the GOP’s Christian values) believe ALL life is sacred and a gift from God regardless of how it came into existence. It is his view and will not be imposed on anyone else unless the people agree and elect him. This is how democracy works. Does mocking this man and his religion make people feel better about themselves? People on the left have made just as outrageous comments but the only reason this is news is because it’s an election season and CNN panders to the left.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • ScottN

      No, that is not how it works. You can't establish slavery because more than 50% of the voters say so. Congress should not make a law that establishes the beliefs of one religion and force those of another religion to comply. No matter how many votes. Or as the Rabbi in the article put it, "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 would think Mr. Romney would be in agreement with this given the treatment or Mormons in this country.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Virginiaham


      This is very important now during elections and always. His views will prompt him to enact legislation that will restrict a woman's rights. This politician is telling exactly what he will do if elected. We can't elect him and expect him to keep his religious views to himself.

      Romney on the other hand is all over the etch a sketch board fooling everyone but he will support the GOP Tea Party Platform and we will all be bitten by the snake we knew them to be. But were foolish enough to vote into office.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  16. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    At least he says what he feels in public. Romney goes behind closed dooors and tells his rich friends how he really feels about 47% of us and when his hypocrisy is exposed, he apologizes for votes. Let's face it, Romney's position on what he'd do to us if elected is as mysterious as his tax returns. He says trust me with your life and future and with your familiy's lives and future and vote for me. But its a disgrace that Romney won't trust us to see what's in his tax returns. Let's face it, Romney is the biggest phony and fraud of the 21st century.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  17. Danny

    I tried to continue using his logic with my wife last night and came to the following conclusions that the GOP believes, although they will never say it aloud:
    If god made people, he also made the rapist. That means, since god doesn't make mistakes, that he also made the act of violating a woman (The mods will not let me type the r word). All of this is acceptable in his eyes. Praise jebus!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Mark

      Danny, can you say "free will"?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


      But God don't make rapists because people aren't born rapists. The only feasible logic I can come up with is this man called Muordock is mentally insane as well as the 99.9% of republicans and conservatives in this country.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • jane

      They won't let you type the "R" word. Unbelievable ! Is it too offensive or descriptive ? Who is moderating anyway?

      October 25, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  18. jim

    I constantly campaign against calling people names with whom we disagree. But, mourdock is an exception. The man is truly an idiot. And, i am likely being kind to him. Amazing !!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  19. Ancestorscamein1650

    The truly horrifying thing is who many Christian Conservatives agree with Mourdock.
    So much is as stake in this election; I'm terrified at what may happen unless rational Americans get out and vote these Republican fanatics out of office.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  20. bombastus

    In the long run this sort of thing might be good for the GOP and the country. The more these tea party types keep saying these outrageously stupid things, the less likely they are to get voted in. Then maybe the GOP can start to get people with a measurable IQ in office who are actually willing to work with Obama.

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

      Sounds good, but it hasn't worked so far.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:53 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.