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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. PatSJ

    Did you notice that it is usually a MALE who is making the negative comments about this article? Women's bodies, male rules.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Visitor

      I've noticed for years. Religious men always spend more time worrying about women then worrying about the actions of fellow men. Women are just easier targets. Besides, who is going to drag the family to Mass on Sunday morning? Men?

      February 11, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  2. Darwin

    If MEN could become pregnant, then birth control and abortion would be two of the sacred sacrements of the church.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • TC

      Its funny how atheists try to be comical on a subject they know nothing about. Why are you even here?

      February 11, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  3. Robert L

    "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." Quite distrubing for somone to spew this sort of propoganda, leave the Catholic Church if you don't believe that the "Church is the Pillar and Bulwark of the Truth" (1TIM 3:15). If the teaching of contraception does not make you feel "immoral' what other feelings do you have?

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

      Well, she definitely sees no problem in fornic-– since she really needs contraception for that. She is a buffet Catholic but she'll come around

      February 11, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  4. petena

    the word is they are. Not "their". My ilegal students know better.

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

      Don't you mean "illegal"?

      February 11, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  5. Guitar

    Good to hear from a voice of reason and rationality regarding this issue. Unfortunately, the Catholic church still clings to their Medieval philosophies, (you know, when they could torture and kill people in the name of the church). No where in 'the bible' does it say not to use birth control, that's just another made up rule. Archaic, irrational, and like many have said on here, why are they still even the slightest bit relevant here in the 21st Century? Just Sheep to keep the Vatican wealthy, while protecting pedophiles. BTW, I went to parochial school with sadistic nuns so had been exposed to the lunacy early on! Finally 'saw the light'.

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

      A voice of rationality from a 22 yr old who Fornic-tes – what a leader you have in her! You must be the same age or the same level of thinking.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  6. Jim

    Another misguided college student.

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

    I say all those Catholics who never practiced birth control in their married or un-married lives raise your hand! Oh, I don't see any hands......

    February 11, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • TC

      99% do but its not going ot change the official church teaching. Last time we all checked, Christianity rules were not decided by popular vote.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • anonymous

      99%? that's impossible. that's assuming that 99% of Catholics are female and of child-bearing age. you are misguided my friend.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • TC

      Ding Ding! We have a winner here folks on least educated person of the day. The person above thinks only females use or need contraception not to mention the fact that if one partner uses the contraception so does the other. THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK OR WRITE>

      February 11, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  8. Kim

    With any luck the Catholic Church and it's followers will disappear over time.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • TC

      And with any prayer, people like will realize you are not the center of the universe but God

      February 11, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  9. John

    http://www.catholicsagainstcontraception.com/

    February 11, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  10. Larry

    Jesuit education. Explains why she turns her back on Catholic teaching.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  11. pct

    A

    February 11, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  12. Joe citizen abroad

    Why this is even a debate in the 21st century is beyond ridiculous.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • J

      Amen.

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

      Its a debate becasue God and morals don't change with time. Atheist I take it? If so, why are you here?

      February 11, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • craig bilds

      YOU are VERY simple. You need the government to take care of you.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Fn0rdz

      TC: Really? Explain the change in morality from the old to new testament then. Explain why it was okay to stone adulterers back "in the day" but it's not okay now. Explain why slavery was condoned in the bible but it's not okay now. Go ahead, I'll wait.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Hal B

      You are 101% correct, Joe. It's high time the Catholic Church embraced the 21st century with regard to women's reproductive rights and women's rightful place in the church, such as serving as priests and bishops.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  13. UtahProf

    First of all, I am not Catholic – I think the Catholic church is controlling, manipulative, and cultish. That said, I 100% support the Catholic church in railing against this requirement. I do so because our government has slowly chipped away at our Liberties over the past 200 years and now we find ourselves slaves (comparably) to their machine. ANYONE that stands up and says ENOUGH! and challenges them is a friend of mine, I can assure you. We have experienced a death "by a thousand cuts" strategy by the government – the people of this country had better wake up before we all bleed to death.

    "Loyalty to my Country always. Loyalty to the government when they deserve it." – Twain

    February 11, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Larry

      I don't believe for one minute you are Catholic.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • TC

      You live in Utah and you think the Catholic Church is cultish? You are probably the least educated prof on the planet then.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • petena

      I am a Catholic but you need to be aware that when churches become employers, then the churches must abide by employment standards and laws just like every employer. And that includes providing insurance that includes contraception. No one is asking you to take a pill. But YOU definetely need one. For your craziness that it.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Tessa

      As long as the Catholic church is a accepting money from the government for their hospitals, or getting a tax break (that the rest of us have to make up for in our taxes), or requiring their workers to pay a portion of their medical premium, they should not get a PASS on this issue. They should have to follow the rules like everyone else.

      I'm off to a garden class that I hope is full of nice, sane, aethiests.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Tessa

      oops. I meant atheists . . . nice, sane atheists.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Visitor

      TC, I actually agree with you there.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  14. rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

    If Rick Santorum becomes president, he will criminalize masturbation. Anybody wanting to play with themselves will have to sneak into Canada.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • craig bilds

      Well, then. I guess you know what to do with yourself. Let the blisters rise.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Joe citizen abroad

      ...or run for Congress.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Pleae consider heading elsewhere than north to Canada. There simply are not enough Tim Hortons in Canada for another 250,000,000+ people.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  15. craig bilds

    Saying you are Catholic, but believe in using contraception is like saying you are celibate but like to screw.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Joe citizen abroad

      If true catholics never questioned the church hierarchy, there would be no Jesuits. Are they not true catholics?

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

      I just cant understand why people continue to attend a denomination they disagree with. There are many that have the same non-belief system you have. Perhaps you should find one and join it.

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

      that's funny because there are actually some nuns using birth control to control hormones and other natural bodily functions and it can help reduce the risk of cervical cancer. this isn't saying that using birth control means that you can screw everything that moves but it isn't like you're going to go to hell for using contraception it's called being responsible think about it would you rather have people having abortions or would you rather have them fix the "problem" in the first place. I'm a very devout and practicing Catholic and I am proud of it but I personally don't see a problem with contraception being used for medical reasons. And if the government wants to have contraception to be included in mandatory healthcare plans it is their right to do that. just because catholics don't believe in it that doesn't mean we can criticize others for using it and if you are a devout Catholic and believe that contraception is immoral then don't use it! its called free will buddy we were given it to make our own decisions.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  16. barry

    shouldn't even be a disussion, the church has ruined enough people. their nothing more then freeks. ASK A PREIST WHY THE CHURCH HATES THE MASONIC ORDER. WATCH HOW THEY FREEK OUT.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  17. leonel a urdaneta

    There is nothing wrong with taking birth control pills for control of moods or to treat other conditions. Catholic doctrine doesn't oppose that. Just as it is OK for a doctor to perform an operation or a medical procedure that has a good chance of causing an abortion in a pregnant woman. All of that can be done as long as the primary intention is not preventing conception or causing an abortion. This is called the principle of the secondary effect. So , Karen is not doing anything wrong in the eyes of the church by using birth control meds to balance her hormones. And as for the rest above, who are you to decide who is or is not a "good catholic"? Instead of bickering, we should support each other, pray for enlightenment and read St. Francis of Assisi's prayer and Dostoyevsky's The Great Inquisitor.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  18. Lustrum

    A woman should not be a prisoner of birthing or legal abotion decisions just because
    she alone has ovaries. Birth control that is foolproof is good to just a little equalize them
    with men who when they pull out there "birthing decisions" so to say are over.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  19. Bee

    Im a Catholic and I know this religion is full of hypocrisies. I love my faith for God, but I HATE the bureaucracy that is the Vatican. I can pray at peace in my house and be kind and loving to my peers. No need for pedophile-priests, weird nuns, overpriced churches, corrupt preachers, or gold thrones for the Pope. Just me and my God… just as Jesus taught us to worship. Thank you God for giving Scientist the knowledge to cure diseases and viruses AND for making birth control pills.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      The trouble with that is, from the start, Christianity comes in groups, (communities). THAT "individualistic" paradigm is non-biblical. It creates heresies like ole Joe Smith, (Mormonism).

      February 11, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Paul

      Agreed!!!

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

      LOL what a rebel I am ^_^

      February 11, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Bill

      Martin Luther found the hypocrisy and the bureaucracy in the Vatican to be a problem too. You either follow the teachings of the Church or you protest like Luther. You are Roman Catholic or you are a Protestant. Pick.

      February 11, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Bizarre

      Bee,

      Sorry...

      The heretic who is aware that his belief is at odds with Catholic teaching and yet continues to cling to his belief pertinaciously is a formal heretic.

      If you do not keep these rules, you are a heretic:

      * Attend Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation.
      * Go to confession annually if not more often or when needed.
      * Receive Holy Communion during Easter. Receiving weekly or daily is encouraged, though.
      * Observe laws on fasting and abstinence: one full meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; not eating meat on Fridays during Lent.
      * Obey the marriage laws of the Church.
      * Support the Church financially and otherwise.

      The penalty for a baptized Catholic above the age of 18 who obstinately, publicly, and voluntarily manifests his or her adherence to an objective heresy is automatic excommunication ("latae sententiae") according to Can. 1364 par.1 C.I.C..

      So, it looks like you are excommunicated. No big deal really, though, do not fret.

      February 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  20. Bill

    Karalen,

    By definition you are not Catholic. By questioning the teachings of the Church...by not blindly following the dictates from the Bishop of Rome, you are protesting...you are a Protestant. Very few American Roman Catholics are true Catholics...

    February 11, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Mike

      Who put you in charge of deciding who is a "true" Catholic and who isn't?

      February 11, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Anne

      Those that say she's not really a Catholic like Bill – everything that I've read or been taught in the Church has said that once you are baptized catholic, you're Catholic for life regardless. Just because someone doesn't agree with the magesterium of the church doesn't mean they're no longer Catholic.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:17 am |
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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.