A reader writes:
I find Richard Mourdock's views on abortion repugnant, but I find myself in the oddly sympathetic to him as everyone piles on him for his remark on conceptions arising from rape. As far as I can tell, he said that conception was a gift from God, not that rape was. Much of the commentary, including TNC's, conflates the two, seemingly deliberately. To hang the latter around Mourdock's neck seems to me to be blaming him for not having solved the problem of theodicy (reconciling an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God with the existence of evil). I'm all for having high standards for our elected representatives, but to demand that they solve a problem that has flummoxed theologians and philosophers throughout history seems to me excessive.
Another is on the same page:
It strikes me that the discussion swirling around Mourdock’s rape remarks is “theodicy 101.” If you are a relatively orthodox Christian who believes God is omnipotent and loving, then you have to understand and explain why evil exists. In my more Catholic past, I would say that God allows people to choose between good and evil, because if he didn’t, their actions wouldn’t really be “good,” they’d be dictated by God. Now, I’m not sure what I believe.
Anyway, Mourdock clearly didn’t mean to say that rape is God’s intention. And you have to consider him at least logically consistent, because if you truly believe that a individual human being exists right at conception, then why should that person be killed because his or her creation was non-consensual and/or violent. It might have been a more palatable explanation of his views to say that "the sin of the rapist should not be paid for by the death of the child that was created by this terrible act."
The whole controversy points up the problem of basing public policy on half-baked theology. You will notice that those "allies" who condemn his statement don’t really explain why they are condemning it, because then you would wade right into the mess that he jumped into …