My Take: Why I’m a Catholic for contraception
February 10th, 2012
02:30 PM ET

My Take: Why I’m a Catholic for contraception

Editor's Note: Karalen L. Morthole is a senior majoring in political science at Catholic University of America.

By Karalen L. Morthole, Special to CNN

I have been a Catholic my whole life. Baptized as a baby and confirmed in the seventh grade, I attended weekly catechism classes and received a Jesuit education. Never once did the opinion of the church on a person's use of contraceptives surface.

In high school, I was prescribed birth control to balance my hormones. I suffered from terrible mood swings that had negative effects on my relationship with my family and got me into trouble with teachers. I also experienced menstrual cramps so painful as to be debilitating; sometimes, they left me unable to move.

My mother, a devout Catholic, had no problem with my taking birth control, because she recognized the dramatic effects this simple medication had on my life. Birth control gave me a new, healthy and balanced way to live. As a 22-year-old woman, I am able to think more rationally because of birth control.

Teachers at the Jesuit high school I attended urged students to protect themselves when they became sexually active, to use condoms to stamp out the risk of contracting a viral sexually transmitted disease that would affect the rest of their lives. Some would criticize my teachers for that, but I thank them. My peers and I were taught by caring and realistic teachers with experience making decisions to promote their own health. Some had seen the horrors of sexually transmitted diseases.

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Birth control, condoms and emergency contraception have all served their purpose in my life, because each work in different preventative ways. Birth control has aided my mental health, giving me a clearer head; condoms have protected me from contracting diseases from sexual partners. Emergency contraceptives were there when I was uncertain about whether I’d become pregnant and needed reassurance. I’m not ready to raise a child on my own.

Even though the official Catholic Church teaches against contraceptives, I do not feel immoral using them. They’ve allowed me to live my life without the fear of unwanted pregnancies or deadly diseases.

My religion has played a large part of my life, laying the groundwork for my personal relationship with God. It has taught me how to respect others, be a human with integrity and help those in need. Catholicism is a beautiful religion that supports family values and tolerance of others and leads us to serve others, a teaching I’ve adapted into my everyday living. The Catholic Church does an exceptional job standing up for those who live in poverty and suffer injustices.

But on contraception, the Catholic bishops have taken a stance that violates the basic rights that affect millions of Catholics across the country and shows a lack of concern for women's health.

It is disheartening that the Catholic bishops were so opposed to the Obama administration's decision to require religious institutions like hospitals and colleges to provide their faculty, staff and students with access to reproductive health care, which includes birth control, emergency contraceptives and condoms. Even after the White House announced a revised policy Friday that exempts religious institutions from having to pay for the contraception coverage, at least one bishop voiced disgust. The U.S. bishops said in a statement Friday that it's "too soon to tell whether and how much improvement (there's been) on core concerns."

The bishops have gone so far as to threaten to cease health care coverage to the faculty and staff at my college if it’s forced to comply with the Affordable Health Care Act.

Even though the church will not support women's health needs and denies them opportunities to care for their physical and mental health, it does apparently condone other uses for condoms. In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI endorsed the use of condoms for male prostitutes, saying condoms “can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility,” and could help “in the intention of reducing the risk of infection.”

In my view, any sexual activity that spreads deadly diseases is sinful because it shows complete disregard for human health and human life. The Catholic Church believes that condoms negatively impact the sexual lives of men and women, preventing reproduction and the creation of life.

I believe that condoms are, in fact, pro-life. They help women and men act responsibly in regards to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Condoms also prevent unintended pregnancies that could result in abortions, another issue that the Catholic Church has strong views about.

As a Catholic, I stand with President Obama's decision to require religious institutions to provide access to contraceptives. I believe that birth control can be used by religious people without having a negative effect on someone’s faith. Catholics value human life. I believe that includes acknowledging the rights of women to take care of our bodies.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Karalen L. Morthole.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (1,826 Responses)
  1. Joe


    February 11, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • cmonyall

      Well said Joe.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  2. Mary

    This young lady had said what most of the Catholics believe, including myself. I think that the Catholic Church should not
    be in the business of condemning people who use birth control. The Catholic Church should stay out of the medical business.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Heath

      This is not an issue of the Catholic church forcing their teaching upon people, it is an issue of the Church being forced to disregard their teaching. No one is stopping anyone from using birth control, natural methods, or 'emergency' contraception; they are simply saying I don't want to provide it for you.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Mike in SA

      Exactly, Heath. If the government can FORCE the Catholic Church to act contrary to their beliefs where does it stop? The short answer is it doesn't. If this is left to stand, then the government can also FORCE religious schools to no longer teach creationism, government can FORCE religious hospitals to perform abortion on demand, government can FORCE a Catholic DIOCESE to recognize gay marriage, government can FORCE...

      February 11, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  3. Sandy

    This young woman has so eloquently said it all. If only the male dominated Catholic Church would turly care about life and not just talk the talk. Thank you for your very insightful view.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  4. Tessa

    This church has turned a blind eye to so many vile things – but birth control, whoa, now there's a sin.
    The church has only the power that people give it. The fact that it remains such a powerful force speaks to the gullibility of our species. Come on people, step outside the box of your indoctrination. There is so much information available in this era – all you have to do is read. And think.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  5. SillyRepublicansPokingNoseInAgain

    I personally think that the Catholic church loves to poke their nose in areas it shouldn't worry about. If its supposedly money they are worried about then how about castr a tion of their priest that cost millions every year for se xu al assault of little b o ys. A person who works for the church may want pills or contraceptions to avoid children at their time in thier lives. The republicans are just trying to do anything..... anything to stir the current guy out of office and get their millionaire in office to aide the top 1% and forget about the rest. They have much riding on the current election such as:
    Drillling everywhere and running lines like the Keystone to assist the 52 Billionaire Koch bros...
    Reduction of polutiion laws that will pay back the super pac funding that want to polute with no conssequences ever....
    Go to War with Iran for oil.....
    Never ever pay taxes and allow corps like GE continue to offshore and pay no taxes which send money overseas and not home....
    Get more breaks for millionaire....
    allow the seperation of the classes to fit their agenda....
    ignore the non weatlhy...
    take obama care away and say their pro life for bith but after that let the kid die if no insurance because that cost money....
    So yep Welcome to the potential Republican Party of Wealth....

    February 11, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Tessa

      You're right. The Republicans are just looking to make a scene . . . ANY SCENE.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  6. marisstella

    As soon as you adopt a philosophy of the ends justifies the means, you are on a slippery slope. St. Paul warned about this in the epistle to the Romans when he stated, "Why not say–as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say–'Let us do evil that good may result'?"

    February 11, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  7. James

    We are catholics and regular church goers involved in many programs at our church and we have used contraceptives to limit our family to 3 children. If the church hierarchy were allowed to marry and were on salaries, there is no doubt in my mind that they will change the rule on birth control. I am glad for this controversy as it spurs debate on the issue. Evangelicals use contraceptives and they are putting themselves forward as the true conscience of society.....what a joke!

    February 11, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • SillyRepublicansPokingNoseInAgain

      The Priest should use contraceptions when being pedifilistic crazy people of the cloth for the kids sake.....

      February 11, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Heath

      Why do we have to pay for other people’s contraception? Especially when there are so many views swirling around on the topic (don't use, natural only, monogamy vs not, vasectomies, emergency contraception concerns, etc.). Let each person have their personal freedom. If this were the case the Catholic Church would not be upset about this issue.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • ryan

      Well... why should I pay for your social security? I'm not gonna get it by the time I'm old enough, so I'm essentially throwing you cash every paycheck. Same answer, if you want to equalize everyone then you have to abandon your morals because everyone has different ones.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  8. David Lauryn

    Thoughtful piece but it neglected to draw the crucial distinction between abortive and non-abortive methods of birth control. Abortion is immoral. Non-abortive birth control, in my view, is good; not least because it reduces the demand for abortion. I very much wish that the Church would draw the same distinction.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Lisa

      Contraceptives HAVE NOT decreased the number of abortions performed in this country. On the contrary, the use of contraceptives has INCREASED the number of both single mothers and abortions. The increase of single mothers has increased the number of children who live in poverty. The research is out there, it's not hard to find. Google it yourself and come back when you actually have FACTS.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      Lisa, how about you list ONE ?

      February 11, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  9. M.Hohn

    Ok so take birth control. it is your choice. Just shouldn't be a rule that SOMEONE else pays for it.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  10. cmonyall

    Are there no Catholics reading this but me??? The young lady who wrote this article is NOT Catholic. She only chooses to identify herself as such. To be CATHOLIC you must promise to and then adhere to the Church's dogmatic teachings. When you choose to go against the Church's teachings you have , in effect, EXCOMMUNICATED yourself from the Church. The young lady is a PROTESTANT who attends a Catholic Church but is no longer Catholic. This is elementary school religion class stuff and if the young lady truly attended Catholic Schools she should have had an understanding of this by about the fourth grade. c'mon ya'll get some facts instead of thinking you can get your theology from a series of You Tube videos.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • SillyRepublicansPokingNoseInAgain

      So do you want all women to breed and have mulitudes of children and then go on social programs like welfare to raise the kids? Maybe a special fund can be set up for those popping out children every year that can't afford children. WOW you must of time traveled from the 1800"s to get your beliefs..... Where do you stand on priest and young alterboys that get them later in life paid millions for the special attention paid by them special priest? Get a clue.....

      February 11, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Michael

      Well said, comeonyall! The Church has been very clear – not perfect. People forget the Church answers to the Lord, not the people, as Pope Paul VI stated so eloquently in his encyclical, "Humanae Vitae".

      February 11, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Cathy

      Thank You! If you are a true Catholic, you follow the faith and all it teaches and believes.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • dcon

      The church's position on birth control is NOT dogma. Please understand the difference before you so callously dismiss the authenticity of this young woman's faith. She has every right, indeed a moral mandate, to follow her well-formed conscience. The Church is the People of God, and it is estimated that 95-98 percent of married Catholics use birth control. So apparently the People of God hold a position different from their bishops.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Catholic Physician

      You are not the only Catholic reading this. It is very sad that Ms. Morthole (the author) has been in the Catholic education system for her whole life and still misunderstands what it means to be Catholic. To all those reading – she does not speak for all Catholics; she does not express the Catholic viewpoint.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      "what it means to be catholic" = code for : agree with ME or you're not a Catholic.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • cmonyall

      Anyone can find the Church's teaching on this subject. There is no need to speculate or interpret the teachings by how you 'feel' on a particular day or within a particular culture. In our Church, we write down what must be believed in order to remain in communion with the Church. We call this the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church'. See "The Fecundity of Marriage" paragraph 2366 through 2372.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • visitor

      Balony! Do you not know why babies are baptized in Catholic Churches? That makes them CATHOLIC! They may grow up bad Catholics, apostate Catholics, promiscuous Catholics, alcoholic Catholics, but unless they are excommunicated, or somehow themselves renounce the Church, are still CATHOLICS, especially if they went through Confirmation. That is how it works. Read up on your sacraments.

      February 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Bizarre

      Excommunicated Catholics are still Catholics and remain bound by obligations such as attending Mass, even though they are barred from receiving the Eucharist and from taking an active part in the liturgy (reading, bringing the offerings, etc.).

      February 11, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • cmonyall

      Sorry troops, but excommunication is something a Catholic does to themselves, not something the Church 'does' to them. Once again, and I cannot stress this enough, Catholic doctrine is not something that can be learned from watching You Tube. You must study the teachings of the Church as taught by the Church herself. This is not a faith which can be understood and then expressed simply by emotions and feelings. Those who willfully remain ignorant of the Church's teachings on faith and morals will not be excused simply because of their baptism. Baptism is the Sacrament which brings us into the Church. It does not keep us there when we engage in serious sin, nor does it keep us grafted in when we reject the teachings of the Apostles. Please take what you post seriously..... people are watching and easily misled

      February 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Bizarre


      Excommunication is a PENALTY imposed by the Church.


      If you want to say that you *put yourself* in prison by committing a certain crime, go right ahead. It's ridiculous semantics.

      February 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • cmonyall

      bizarre, please forgive the following 'cut and paste' but it explains this much more succinctly than I can what the Church means when the word 'excommunication' is used. I did not earlier use the word in error or frivolously.

      February 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • cmonyall

      hmmm.... nevermind. It appears my post has been declared 'anathema' by CNN 🙂 Too much truth I guess.

      February 11, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  11. petemg

    This is more than providing contraceptives. It has to do with the fact that Obama wants to dictate to others. If we are not careful Obama will have created a Marxist state. Would he just suddenly dictate how many children we should have or dictate what church we should/should not attend. It is more than religion. Can't women get contraceptives free without question. Besides I thought we were a country who separates church and state. It appears Obama wants religion in politics.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Armadillo

      No, if the Republicans have their way and stop funding Planned Parenthood, women will not be able to get birth control for free. It has been one of the only places that women could get free reproductive help. I suspect if Viagra wasn't covered things would be different. Men in charge of womens health. As though they get pregnant.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  12. Walter

    I couldn't care less whether women use birth control or not. If you want it, buy it yourself and use it.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  13. arlojones

    2012 and we still believe in invisible gods?

    February 11, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Walter

      People believing in "invisible gods" to provide for them are just as bad as those who feel they should have whatever they need provided to them by the government.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • petemg

      I may believe in an invisible god but I do not worship worldly goods as most people do. It is the same. I believe in my God, but many people show their importance in how much they own.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  14. Julie

    "The Catholic Bishops are against this." Did anyone ever bother to ask the Catholic Nuns or the lay people of the church who are actually doing work in the real world? How exactly do the Bishops think that the size of the families sitting before them in church have shrunk so severely over the past 50 years? Why do we let a bunch of old men in big hats who will never have to deal with the potential of pregnancy or monthly changes in hormones or the potentially deadly STDs dictate a personal health care decision? Yet another reason I will be the first generation of my family to not raise my children as Catholics.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  15. Johnson

    Most of us are for contraception. The ban on contraception was put in by Paul VI in the 60s without real thought about modern times. All those who made the decision were old and now dead. It is time we recognized reality and that the sheep don't follow a stupid shepherd.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • SillyRepublicansPokingNoseInAgain

      Just like the shephard said to the flock in the old days of lets get the fl*ck outtahere.... 🙂

      February 11, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  16. PiousBaloney

    Ironic that many Americans against contraception and pro-life are also the first warmongers asking my child to go die in a senseless war.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  17. Jenn

    If Catholic Members have problems with core rules of the Catholic faith, they should LEAVE the Catholic faith and find another religion that more closely matches their values. I also had issue with the Catholic views of women. I explored the Protestant sects and found that they gave women choices and more power to worship Jesus without feeling ashamed or being made to feel like second class citizens.
    The author should consider that she is no longer "Catholic" and maybe that's not a bad thing. Religions were created by people – and are therefore naturally flawed. We are all God's children. Even the women.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • ZZeyn

      Agreed – religions had to have been created by people who some believe had misinterpreted extra-terrestrials who visited us thousands of years ago as gods – their technologies were misunderstood as being divine; because if all people had received the same message without room for interpretation, there wouldn't be this many versions of religions. And if gods return some day and see what has become of us, then I bet these people who oppressed women will find their punishment!

      February 11, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • MyCNNTake

      What is wrong with trying to better the Catholic church?

      February 11, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Ron

      We are not all God's children until we accept Him by faith, and that means more than just saying the words. As for this issue, it is not just about contraception, it includes abortion which is a direct violation of our Declaration of Independence, but more important, a direct violation of Gods Law. It is not just a Catholic problem but shoud be a wakeup call to all people of faith.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • a friend

      I have found most people who make statements like yours comes from not being educated on the Catholic faith and then make claims that are not founded on facts, but opinion of the time. Remember it was 2,012 years ago. Jesus started the catholic faith and left it to the first Pope Peter to continue. Is there any other organization that old. Must be for good reasons. Spend some time looking at the history of the church.Some religions were created by people. You are right. The Catholic Church was created by Jesus.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • ZZeyn

      A friend; why was the Book Of Enoch not included in the teachings?

      February 11, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Tom

      Strange, I have found the opposite to be the case. It is many of the Protestant churches who condemn abortion even when the life of the mother is at stake, while many Catholic bishops will condone abortion in that instance. In other areas, it is the Protestants that treat women far worse than Catholics.

      How about this for an idea. If you are a women, associate yourself with persons who treat women well. If you are a man, treat women well. Who cares which groups you associate with as long as you act in a proper manner and you encourage those around you to act in a proper manner.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • visitor

      Frankly, because people are baptized Catholics at birth, and consider themselves Catholics. They have every right in the world to question the Church they were baptized into.

      If the Catholic Church wants to count them as members, the member have the right to question doctrine.

      Some Catholics don't like this, and we all understand the Catholic Church is not some sort of democracy.

      But the Catholic Church has evolved greatly in a number of directions over two thousand years. That will continue, and some some Church members want to stay in their Church even with its hypocrisies. I see no reason why they shouldn't stay, and speak up if they want to. I choose not to. This young woman is brave, and frankly, she reflects most Catholic women.

      February 11, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  18. Irishcat

    This has nothing to do with womens health....if you work, you can afford to buy the pill, if you don't work it will be provided for you, and last but not least, you have planned parenthood that is more than happy to take care of all of your reproductive needs. There is absolutely no reason that the Catholic church should be forced to do something that is 100% against their beliefs.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • a friend

      Agreed Irishcat. Plenty of choices out there for womens health already. My comments are more for those who think they know more on morality and faith than the Church Jesus started 2012 years ago. I recommend some research first. Those arguing against it probably have not spent too much time understanding the Cathoic position.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  19. daisy

    I agree with this young woman. It is about time women take back control over their lives instead of bowing down to religion that are ruled by men who want women to be second class citizens of the world. Owning your own life is freedom.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  20. Rideitout

    If I want to make love with my wife, do I really need a priest-referee under my bed with a bullhorn?

    February 11, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • daisy

      well said, well said!

      February 11, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Irishcat

      No priest under your bed.....they don't ask your wife if she is taking birth controll, they just don't want to be the ones offering it to her.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • K2

      Especially a Priest-referee that has no personal concept of what it is to have a wife, conceive a child and raise that child. Well maybe most of them don't know...

      February 11, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Ron

      You people are taking this to some rediculous levels without even knowing the churchs argument.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:10 am |
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