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. Mary1972

    The stupidity and the callousness of the GOP is mind boggling. What is more mind boggling is the stupidity of the women who vote for them.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • LarryB


      October 25, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Steve

      When you travel the USA and see some of the people that live in this country. It's not too mind boggling. What is mind boggling is that we do very little to educate these people and many are media illiterate.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • rhymeorreason

      Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
      How does your electorate grow?
      With Roger Ailes, and health care scales,
      And pretty liars all in a row.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  2. ShawnDH

    Republicans are the American Taliban.

    Women will remember in November. Vote straight ticket Democrat.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • straightticket

      I voted a straight ticket once. Then I thought to myself what about the GLTB ticket. Why not vote that ticket?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Tali


      October 25, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Brainhurts

      So GLBT
      If you are: GLBT then

      Start out as a girl -> like girls -> like girls some more -> change to like both -> become boy who likes...girls.. and now you are straight...

      Star out as a boy -> likes boys -> likes boys some more -> changes to girl -> who still likes.. boys.. but now you are straight..

      WHAT THE...

      OH WAIT .......

      October 25, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  3. musings

    When there is a crime like those in Phoenix, where in so many cases it has been the father of the girl, the first thing that has to go is the product of that encounter. After that, deal with God and what He wants. After all, we're all sinners, aren't we? Some sins are necessary. Keeping God waiting is no problem. He has all the time in the world.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  4. Ky

    God, the Mother and Father of all consciousness, or whatever moniker you choose to name it, is perfect love. Man, created with free will, is the source of all evil. There is no devil other than ourselves; it is our own creation, our own responsibility, and only we can banish it. Hell is a place in our hearts that we create through the absence of love. Starting loving everything and everyone unconditionally and evil will be no more.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • NoTheism

      If man is the source of all evil, and your god created man, he created the source of all evil. If he is perfect love, why would he create the source of all evil?
      Seems to me that it is more plausible to say that he is the source of evil (if one accept the proposition that a god exists, that is)...

      October 25, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • CommonSense

      Unrealistic and naive. By your own logic, we should also love hate ...

      October 25, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  5. rad666

    Sounds like a Taliban idea.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Banner

      If you ban Talis only criminals will have talis

      October 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  6. CommonSense

    Mind ... numbing ... stupidity.

    The true savior in this world is honest, factual, education.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • duh

      SHHAAHHHHH... but he doesn't work at CNN!!!!

      October 25, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • duh

      SHE I mean SHE doesnt work at CNN.... sorry

      October 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  7. lindaluttrell

    Biology continues...exactly! Making the remarks of Mourdock and Akin moronic and insensitive!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • nohate


      October 25, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  8. philtration

    Religion is a cancer on mankind.
    It keeps us living in the dark ages and it gives the bigots and fools of the world an easy way out when they have to explain their crazy thoughts and views.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Deanna Erickson


      October 25, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  9. Delusion is Dangerous For All People and Living Things

    Seek help, asap.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  10. this guy

    the idea of god, A god or multiple, MAKES NO SENSE!!!!!!!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • nostroDOMus

      Finally someone that makes sense!

      October 25, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Justin

      How does the idea of a God, or many Gods, make no sense?

      I understand that you may not agree with the idea that a God or Gods exist but how does it not make any sense to have that as a logical rational thought. When you look at nature, or at the human body, or at the cosmos and you see the intricacy in the design and how everything works, how can it not make sense to have the thought that a Creator is responsible for it all. I understand the theory of evolution, I understand the big bang. How can you look at those scientific theories and even assuming they are 100% accurate not see the likelihood that something is guiding or has ordained these processes? You can't tell me with a straight face that it is by pure chance that billions of years ago the universe began expanding and as a result we are all here today doing what we do, and then turn to me and say that believing a God is in charge makes no sense...

      October 25, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  11. Skeptic

    If everything is "God's will" we may as well just stay home and pray.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  12. PaganPliskin

    God didn't do it or wish it to happen. The man is cleary a moron and he is retarding intelligence. The bible even says that people like football players who pray during the football games are sinners. Get over it Tebow.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • CommonSense

      The bible does not have a single reference to football ... please don't be like the subject of this article.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  13. JonathanL

    As an Atheist I do not have to reconcile ridiculous contradictions with overused catch phrases like "God works in strange ways" 🙂 – Stick with your gut instinct and don't be afraid to be logical and fact based. Things happen the way they happen within the laws of physics so don't expect miracles. To imply that someone, anyone should have the baby of a rapist is out of this world – off the charts in the realm of absurdity.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  14. Terry

    Of course for people like you EVERYTHING will always collide!!! you are comunists!! For the idiot who call a fetus a parasite, he must be aware, that once he was a fetus, therefore, he is a parasite

    October 25, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Bryan

      This has got to be one of the most incoherent posts I've ever read....it makes no sense. Why would things tend to collide for communists more so than everyone else? And what does that have to do with parasites? Maybe having a whiskey at 9AM wasn't a good idea.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  15. William Demuth Sr

    Is my boy out here again flaunting his fancy 5th grade education? Git home boy, you got chores and that Xbox ain't-a one of them.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  16. Steve

    Hands down the Republican party stands for utter stupidity. On social issues and scientific issues. It's pathetic and we wonder why the average American is not very smart.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  17. lakepoinsett

    When “God’s Will” and tragedy collide….Priceless! OMG what the perfect time for the perfect storm on the East Coast! The problems from this storm are going to carry over to election day! No matter what obama does on this storm there is no way we TeaPublicans are going to approve of it! OMG what perfect timing for the perfect story....our prayers have been answered!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • NoTheism

      it is clear that you have issues

      October 25, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  18. max_headroom

    There is no explanation. The imaginary guy in the sky will tell you whatever you want to hear. This moron is another tool of the religious right and will mouth whatever words they put in his head. Humans have used god to rationalize the killing of billions, so there's no bounds on what else can be twisted around.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  19. Tina

    Folks, the reason there is evil in the world is because the devil still exists and tries to work in the hearts of those who allow him to reside there. God wants us to do good but he gave us free will. He is there for us with open arms, but we have to go to him and give the devil the boot.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • Seraphim01

      Actually incorrect, Tina. In a world where an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-altruistic god exists, that excuse utterly fails. Look up the philosophical implications of this. If you are going to make a statement, make a logical one. Your bible tells you that the devil is actually working on god's permissions. The devil is actually mentioned to be in heaven during some parts of the bible as his role of 'accuser.' Which was assigned by god. Regardless, look into the problem of evil... if you just say: because of this and the devil, you are very, very wrong.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • max_headroom

      The devil is another mind control tool which allows the "believers" to abdicate personal responsibility. If the devil made them do it, then they are not responsible for their actions.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Raoul Duke, Jr.

      “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 9:38 am |
  20. Seraphim01

    This is an old philosophical question called the problem of evil. The fact that this was not even brought up in this article shows that the author did not do ANY research into this 'ancient question' and is being ridiculously unprepared to actually address the moral/spiritual/philosophical question that was implied.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:31 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.