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. Leif

    Whether or nor God exists, nobody knows what his or her or its will is, and the people who think they do are furthest from
    his or her or its truth.

    October 26, 2012 at 4:22 am |
  2. v1ze

    These comments reek of the Taliban or any other religion extremist group. If you can't see that then you're truly a lost soul and perhaps religion is the best place to find direction in your life. Those of us capable of finding our own direction will accept you so long as you don't force yours upon the unwilling.

    October 26, 2012 at 4:16 am |
  3. vote Dem

    The question CNN should be asking the Republicans . If their wife or daughters children is Rap by someone who has Aids, black with Aids,father,and brother should they still hav that child ?

    October 26, 2012 at 4:06 am |
  4. The Creator

    Why launch an apology just because you get a lot of bad feedback? If everything is God's will -as you love to say- why not forge ahead and leave it all up to God?


    October 26, 2012 at 3:37 am |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      A womb is made for the child's dwelling place. He can't live without it. Suga mama can. If your arm causes you to sin, cut it off.

      October 26, 2012 at 3:48 am |
  5. GO_GOP

    Our Lord works in mysterious ways. Accept him and his will and be saved. Serve and accept the Lord and be in heaven or be condemned to hell after death. The choice seems pretty clear to me. However, foolish, arrogant atheists don't seem to get it.

    October 26, 2012 at 3:30 am |
    • ScepticStill

      the thing is, GO_GOP- there is no personal god, there is no eternal life or eternal punishment.
      in the end its either the crematorium or the worms.
      life is too short to wast your time with myths and legends

      October 26, 2012 at 4:23 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      And you fail to get that your lord is just a bunch of messed up signals in your head. You need a doctor.

      October 26, 2012 at 4:23 am |
    • Dee

      Our Lord works in mysterious ways. Accept him and his will and be saved. Serve and accept the Lord and be in heaven or be condemned to hell after death. The choice seems pretty clear to me. However, foolish, arrogant atheists don't seem to get it.

      ...or, victims of incest.

      October 26, 2012 at 4:28 am |
    • ScepticStill

      Dee- the ways are so mysterious that there is no evidence of a personal god.

      one day you might grow to learn that this is your one shot at life, and life is too short to devote yours to a myth

      October 26, 2012 at 4:52 am |
    • Damocles

      Life is what you make it. Do the best you can for yourself and those around you. Teach your kids right from wrong. Own up to your mistakes and try your best to correct them. Offer up an ear to those that need to talk and a shoulder to those that need it to lean on. Understand that doing your best can still lead to not achieving what you want, but you are still better for the effort.

      No, it isn't as simple as 'a deity did it', but it really is a good way to live life.

      October 26, 2012 at 5:17 am |
    • sam stone

      go_gop: still on your knees, are ya? f you and f your god. clear enough for you?

      October 26, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  6. Leona

    At this point it's pretty evident that God's will is for this moron Mourdock to find a career outside politics.

    October 26, 2012 at 3:15 am |
  7. End Religion

    Dearest religious nutters,
    God gave you free will. What happens when you sin in heaven? Are you "tax exempt" from sin in heaven? If you're the type of catholic priest who likes to r@pe little boys while on earth, then you get to heaven and r@pe little boy angels, what happens? Is there heavenly case law for this? Is there a double-heaven or a heavenly hell which you can be judged and sent to? Or is it like with Lucifer who was cast down into hell, so the pedophile priest who r@pes an angel would be cast out, meaning even making it to heaven doesn't secure the eternal party? If heaven is nothing but constant worship and asking for forgiveness, where exactly does this story come from that this equals bliss? In heaven, do we have to get up early on Sunday morning for the rest of eternity? That would really disqualify the whole concept for me.

    October 26, 2012 at 3:14 am |
    • Ryan42

      Look, I think we should stop politicizing this remark. Though it was one view one particular individual, it does not demonstrate those views of that Party as a whole. Please STOP!

      October 26, 2012 at 3:39 am |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me' 'for me'....................... Me my fo fum, I smell the blood of an atheium.

      October 26, 2012 at 3:42 am |
    • midwest rail

      True, there are moderate Republicans, but look what happens to them (Lugar, for example). The party has been hijacked by fundiots.

      October 26, 2012 at 3:45 am |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      The progressives broke the gubmint in every way imaginable. Looked at the balance lately?

      October 26, 2012 at 3:57 am |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      There is not enough money in the world to establish a matriarcal culture. Looked at the balance lately?

      October 26, 2012 at 4:03 am |
  8. Tevii

    Its simple: Gods is a figment of humanity's imagination. An explanation for things people dont understand nor want to take the time to learn.
    Ra pe and pregnancy is real. It is inappropriate to bring god up when dealing with it. It doesnt benefit anyone except the criminals

    October 26, 2012 at 3:11 am |
  9. Anybody know how to read?

    'If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.' Ewizbutt Taylor.

    October 26, 2012 at 2:59 am |
  10. LinCA

    It's amazing how everything suddenly makes sense when you realize that there are no gods.

    October 26, 2012 at 2:35 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls


      October 26, 2012 at 2:53 am |
  11. LinCA

    If Mourdock gets raped he's free to keep whatever comes from it.

    October 26, 2012 at 2:33 am |
    • Just call me Lucifer


      October 26, 2012 at 3:05 am |
  12. Blessed are the Cheese makers

    These fundiots are so stupid they can't even keep their stupidly to themselves.

    October 26, 2012 at 2:29 am |
    • ScepticStill

      if I learn to make cheese will I be touched by the noodly appendage?

      October 26, 2012 at 2:37 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      If you are lucky to be blessed by his noodley goodness! Just remember he boiled for your sins!

      October 26, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  13. Bostontola

    If all is god's will, how can we imprison the rapist?

    October 26, 2012 at 2:09 am |
    • ep tor

      You're right. Rapists should be rewarded for doing God's good work to create life.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:35 am |
    • Ting

      This is how the God of the Bible feels about ra pe.

      If a man is caught in the act of rapi ng a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her. Deuteronomy 22:28-29

      October 26, 2012 at 2:45 am |
  14. Mirosal

    How about if somebody ra'pes Mourdock ... then would THAT be "god's will" in that case too? Let's see if HE likes being on the receiving end of things.

    October 26, 2012 at 2:02 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      In terms of r@pe being god's will, it would only apply if Mourdock also got pregnant via immaculate conception like what happened to Mary.

      Incidentally, as I'm sure you know... the bible is full of instances of "legitimate r@pe".
      Judges 21:10-24
      Numbers 31:7-18
      Deuteronomy 20:10-14

      Can you put a price on r@pe? The bible says, yes.
      50 pieces of silver and marriage and we're square.
      Deuteronomy 22:28-29

      Unless... the victim doesn't cry out for help... then she has to be stoned to death.
      Deuteronomy 22:23-24

      October 26, 2012 at 2:16 am |
  15. Bostontola

    Is your god omniscient? If so, the republican is right.

    October 26, 2012 at 1:46 am |
    • Jesse Christo

      I don't think He knows for sure or maybe He just doesn't know what "omniscient" means.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • Ting

      He is also omnipotent. Conclusion: the god of the Bible is evil.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:15 am |
    • Will

      The funny thing is if God were to intervene and take free will away so that the world could become paradise under his authority, no longer having any cause to disbelieve, people would still complain that they don't have the freedom to be evil. You don't get it both ways... this 'reality' is the deception. What comes next is the truth and you only have the moment to chose to be faithful to what is righteous by practicing peace love and mercy. If you do not, then don't blame God for this world that with your God given freewill you've manifested for yourselves or his divine justice that is soon to be revealed.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:20 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      Actually, if you took away their free will then no, they would not complain because that would require free will to do so.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:31 am |
    • sam stone


      how does god's omniscience jibe with the concept of free will?

      for any action anyone takes, god knew about it from the beginning, no?

      how can god be disappointed with our choices when he knew what our choices would be from the beginning?

      this supposedly righteous judgement seems much more like entrapment than justice

      also, proxy threats are laughable, and flag a weak argument

      October 26, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  16. GO_GOP

    Seek Jesus and be saved. Remember he died for our sins. Accept everything in life as a gift from our Lord.

    October 26, 2012 at 1:46 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Got some proof for your claims? Didn't think so. Fuck Off!

      October 26, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • GO_GOP

      No Gods: There is a special place in hell for you and your ilk. Seek Jesus before it is too late.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:55 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Sorry, I am not a member of your cult so your superstitions do not apply. Please seek help for your mental illness.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:59 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheese makers

      So GOP, he deserves to go to hell because he doesn't believe in you god? That is why your god and your religion is an immoral monstrosity, and it seems by extension you are too.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:25 am |
    • ScepticStill

      GO_GOP- "Accept everything in life as a gift from our Lord. how very islamic of you. to be a muslim is to "submit to the will of god"

      October 26, 2012 at 2:33 am |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      I've been seeking jesus my whole career. Where is jesus. Well, he's not under the cushions on the couch, I've looked there dozens of times. I know... I'll wait till he dies, then it should be easy to track his rotting corpse. He is the word that became flesh after all.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:41 am |
  17. Ben Money

    See the stupidity that religion causes? Be done with it people and wake up!!

    October 26, 2012 at 1:42 am |
  18. Fernando

    Many of you do not possess the level of spirituality required to grasp the mysterious nature of God and His ultimate purpose in exacting acts of evil upon us. Those who spiritually evolve so that they may accept the mysteriousness of God, are likewise capable of accepting the mysterious ways of the Republican party and will never question “trickle-down” theory or why we wage “shock and awe” revenge on those who neither harmed us nor possessed weapons of mass destruction, or their GOP congressman/car dealer's explanation of climate change, or abstinence only, or the NRA, or Fox News. Pray, and devote yourselves to the sublime mystery of the Republican Party.

    October 26, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • miscreantsall



      October 26, 2012 at 4:17 am |
  19. Ryan

    I am so sick and tired of these insufferable politicians that forgot to separate church and state, and shove their overbearing and quite honestly reprehensible religion down this nation's throat. It sickens me.

    If only I could live to see the day when people awaken from their delusional fantasies (read: religion).

    All it does is provoke war, promote intolerance, and disseminate a doctrine of morality based not on common sense, but "god's words." Sounds like a dangerous cult to me, yet people are so conditioned to eat this stuff up, they defend it to their last breath.

    Religion sickens me.

    October 26, 2012 at 1:35 am |
    • Will

      Don't be so naive to think that if religion were abolished away suddenly all the world's problems would be solved. From the beginning evil has had but one goal and that is to turn all mankind against God. The day may come where you just might get your wish and like in Ancient Rome you might get to rejoice over the blood of believers... this world is a lie, and what awaits in the next is the eternal truth. Don't let your pride, ego, and self-assumed intellect blind you to humanity's spiritual need. It is lack of spirituality that has the world in this condition not it's abundance of spirituality. Most Christians today are not TRUE christians to begin with. People who threaten with hellfire and think that's the loving way peaceful way to positively change a person's heart is ... well I don't know lazy or misguided if not both. The relationship between God and his children are no different than any true parent who loves and cares for their own child. We can't control our children by fear and force. We educate them and respect their individuality giving them the freedom to learn to walk on their own two feet. So stop blaming God for this world that we as a collective species manifested for ourselves w/ our God given free will.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:39 am |
    • LinCA


      You said, "Don't be so naive to think that if religion were abolished away suddenly all the world's problems would be solved."
      Of course not, but it would be a good start. Unfortunately, abolishing religion would still leave all the morons that clung to it.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:42 am |
  20. keeeleee

    "That’s not to say Obama backers at OSU have stopped trying to deliver young voters in this critical battleground state. They have been at work for months, coaxing out-of-state students to register to vote in Columbus.

    "I'm from Newport Beach, Calif.,” says fashion design major Sarah Dickler, “but I registered here because I was told that it would make a greater impact if I voted here in, you know, a swing state."

    What a shame and crime!

    October 26, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • Observer

      That seems legal as opposed to the group the Republicans hired in several states who created phony registrations.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:30 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      Is it a crime keeeleee?

      October 26, 2012 at 2:34 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.