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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. Alex

    My little sister used to have horrible mood swings that made it impossible to deal with her. Since she was placed onto the pill, her mood swings have been much less drastic and she is easier to deal with. The pill is not only for preventing unwanted pregnancies and preventing the Catholics' precious pro-life bull. It helps my little sister be a much better person instead of lashing out at people. It has made my girlfriend's period much more manageable. I can't count how many times I have laid in bed with her (*gasp* BEFORE MARRIAGE?!), just holding her, trying to make her feel better because it feels like her ovaries are being ripped out.
    We have plenty of over populated orphanages that many citizens in this society cannot adopt from. Why not take care of those kids first?

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

    So, can one of the real catholics here educate me? Contraception is a sin because it is God's decision whether or not a human is alive at any given point, right? It is not our place to mess with the plan. So, obviously, contraception and abortion are out. But what about fertility procedures? God didn't want you to have a baby, so who are you to overrule him with fertility shots? And prenatal care? If it is God's plan that your newborn should die of a childhood illness, who are we to deny him? When you get down to brass tacks, God probably wanted grandpa to die a while ago and that's why he had three heart attacks. God keeps trying, and these sinful medical professionals keep thwarting the plan.

    Of course this is ridiculous, but so is the insistence on adhering to outdated dogma.

    I might also add that with all the talk about the middle class in the political arena, keep in mind that without contraceptive techniques, there would be no middle class.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • sonny chapman

      10-4.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • mgw123

      I think you hit the nail on the head. The Catholic church has a great general message of service, forgiveness, and unconditional love. But their outdated dogma will be their downfall. In a modern new millenium, nobody wants to be part of a religion that makes them feel guilty for utilizing one of mankind's invention that help with familly planning.

      One could argue that priests are the most unnatural concept.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • pattyo27

      Love it! Well said!

      February 11, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • bct21

      I'm a Catholic but only for the past 10 years. I'll try to answer... I think at the core of it is that life is a mystery. We can do things to improve our chances of life but to blatantly "play God" is not church teaching. But church teaching is based on a lot of history and is there to help. You could argue that the church just wants more butts in the pews by not paying for the pill but it also does not recommend IVF either. Same with end of life issues. Basically, humans are humans and if we don't have a set of rules to go by we'll by nature corrupt & ruin things. I'm sure I'm not using the right wording but it is easy to say something is outdated dogma by only looking at the last line of a book that has been in process for 2,000 years (i.e. 9 times older than the government trying to tell it what to do).

      February 11, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • HMcD

      bct21:
      I appreciate the comment. My problem with the whole construct is that technically, all disease eradication, all medicine, all surgery, etc. could be considered "playing God." Any time that argument is used, I counter that without human intervention, whole civilizations would be wiped out. Is that part of God's plan? For the catholic church to use that argument to deny birth control but not blood transfusions is hypocritical. Remember, if God wanted polio to be eradicated, he would have done it himself an not needed Jonas Salk...

      (...and to any trolls... yes I know polio is alive and well in other parts of the world...)

      February 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  3. Smart

    Absolute sillyness. First if you deviate from the official positions of the Catholic church you are NOT Catholic by definition. I can run around calling myself a Martian but that does not make it true. Second this person was taking medication for mood swings and severe menstrual cramps. As long as she did not intend to use the medication for birth control it is not birth control. The contraceptive aspect was simply a side effect.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  4. Richard

    I am really proud of people like this girl. Not only can they have faith, but also use a healthy amount of reason and logic where it really counts! Better yet, why don't people just realize that, fundamentally, religion and modern rationality just don't mix anymore. The faith has "tried" to stay the same for 2000 years, but, just as Galileo and heliocentrism struggled to show that reality was clearly different than what bare faith could handle, this same scene will be repeated a hundred thousand times more, as real life overtakes 2000-year-old literature.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  5. Nate

    Hey Peter – "Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone." Or better yet, "Remove the plank from your own eye before you remove the splinter from your brother's."

    You sir, along with others I have come into contact with as a fellow Catholic, are the reason we are pigeonholed as narrowminded and obtuse. You have no right to condemn anyone. You have absolutely no right to determine what you believe to be good and evil. That one and only judge, according to Scripture, and Catechesis, is God. And I know, based on your comment, you're not even in the same neighborhood.

    I suggest you pick up the Catechism and re-read the part about the conscience. Perhaps you will be surprise as to what you find.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  6. CARLOS

    FREEDOM OF RELIGION IS DEPENDENT ON FREEDOM FROM RELIGION.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • HMcD

      Indeed.

      February 11, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • John Flaherty

      BALONEY!!!!

      Freedom FROM religion isn't happening. Secularism is it's own default religion and has devastating impacts!

      March 1, 2012 at 1:41 am |
  7. David Rudmin

    It's "disheartening that the Catholic bishops were so opposed"?!!! Don't you realize that by OUR OWN Catholic moral theology, we would be sinning to cooperate with this directive. The principle of Moral Cooperation with Evil (similar to the Principle of the Double Effect) states that for us (or anyone) to go along with an intrinsically evil act (such as paying for contraceptions, sterilizations, and abortifacients, which we DO believe to be evil), 5 things are necessary:

    1. Our own act, in itself, must be good. (But paying directly for sterilizat­ions isn't....)
    2. Cooperatin­g with the sterilizat­ions must be unavoidable (Yes, it's unavoidabl­e)
    3. Our own good intention (to comply with the laws) must not be caused always by means of the evil act. (It isn't....)
    4. We must intend our good intention (i.e. to comply with the laws), and NOT intend the evil intention. (We don't....)
    5. There must be a proportion­ally grave reason to permit the evil act to come about. (There is.).

    As you can see here, the 1st of the 5 criteria fails, so It would therefore be an EVIL SIN for us to obey this mandate. So it's not just a matter of politics or 'finickiness:' It's a matter of our well-informed C-O-N-S-C-I-E-N-C-E telling us "No."

    February 11, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • marc

      Simply put. The use of contraceptives is a mortal sin. This is the teaching of the church. Catholics cannot, in good conscience, participate in any of this. The writer this silly story either doesn't know her faith, refuses to follow her faith, or isn't even Catholic.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  8. Steve

    When we were first married, my wife worked as an R.N. at a Catholic hospital. We are Protestant. The upside of this is that she knew that she worked in a hospital where abortions were not performed. We just took it as a matter or course
    that we purchased our own contraceptives. It was a very acceptable trade-off.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  9. El Flaco

    Miscarriages should all be investigated by the police. Who knows what the pregnant female might have done through malice or neglect to cause it. Stiff jail terms will discourage irresponsible mothering.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • HMcD

      Hello Middle Ages.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • HMcD

      And, if making babies is so important, how about investigating and prosecuting men for masturbating. After all, each sperm cell could potentially be the second coming of Christ, right?

      February 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  10. GregJ

    You can use birth control or even abortion, just don't expect the church to pay for it. That's the issue at hand.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  11. Mark

    This girl has her logic screwed up, if she doesn't believe in the teaching of the Catholic Church why does she cling on, she should just leave and join the rest of the "pick n choose" catholics down the street at the mega nondenominational entertainment no authority church.

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

      Maybe she has decided to use the brain that God gave her. We are all responsible to God for the decisions we make, not to human beings who make up rules that they insist others must follow.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Pat9

      God did give us a mind, and he expects us to use the gifts given to us. He also gave us a conscience. There is nothing wrong with struggling about morality. My son was adopted from Romania. He was one of the lucky ones who got out. Thousands of babies died because contraception was not allowed and families had to abandon children they could no longer support. I'm a Catholic, too, but do you think I don't agonize about whether not allowing contraception to be readily available is truly moral or not?

      February 11, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Parent50

      Mark, since you've never had to deal with the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy, you have no idea what you're talking about. I had the option of converting to Catholicism when I married my husband and chose not to because of what I saw as a church run by a bunch of old, white men out of touch with the needs of women and people of diverse backgrounds. I still feel that way. The world has moved on since Jesus Christ walked this earth. The church, unfortunately, has not.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • visitor

      Because her church is her church, Mark.

      If it wasn't for women who were defying the Church (in fact, just about all of them), there would be NO ONE in the churches, because women are the ones who bring in their families.

      As the hierarchy knows it.

      February 11, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  12. AvdBerg

    98% of all catholic women use some form of contraception. That should have been the end of the debate but obviously not when the media gets involved. It is an issue that is after the wisdom of man and the spirit of this world and not after God (1 Cor. 2:4-6).

    For a better understanding of the history of the Catholic Church and all its deceptions, we invite you to read the articles ‘The Mystery Babylon’ and Popes and the Princes of This World’ listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    Since Obama opened Pandora’s Box on this issue, we also invite you to read the article ‘Barack Obama ~ President of the United States of America’.

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain the deep hidden mysteries of God and how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.

    The Word of God is God (John1:1), it is truth and there is no lie in it (Hebrews 6:18).

    Seek, and ye shall find (Matthew 7:7).

    http://WWW.AWORLDDECEIVED.CA

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

      CULT ALERT – This is a TROLL on this site, they are only here to peddle their garbage website and book. They are LIARS. Click the report abuse link to get rid of this TROLL!

      February 11, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • AvdBerg

      .........

      You don't know what spirit you are of as you are spiritually blind (Luke 9:55).

      For this reason our message remains the same: Ye must repent and turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan (whose spirit you are of) unto God (Acts 26:18).

      You judge after the flesh (John 8:15), the believers judge after the spirit of man. Even though we don't know your name, we know you and what spirit you are of (Luke 9:55).

      He that is spiritual judgeth (discerneth) all things, yet he himself is judged of no man (1 Cor. 2:15).

      Seek, and ye shall find (Matthew 7:7).

      http://WWW.AWORLDDECEIVED.CA

      February 11, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  13. Tim

    I have gone to catholic schools all my life and the way your teachers have talked you is not what teachers tell us in catholic school. I am sorry your teachers have failed you in the catholic school system. And you should be embarrassed of your sins and not writing an article about them on cnn.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  14. HieTide

    Like someone saying, "I am a committed vegetarian who eats chicken at will. Just chicken, no other meats, because I am a realist and know that no one can realistically abstain from chicken. I love being a vegetarian."

    Who we are is most clearly defined by what we do, especially when others are not looking.

    Also, I'm not Catholic, but I'm pretty sure the multiple partners and abortion pills open up even greater cans of worms than contraception. This author is not someone committed to a set a beliefs, but is rather someone concerned with how a religious system can make them feel.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  15. Leanne

    Thank you so much for this article. It truly expresses the thoughts of many with a similar story. I've attended Catholic school since kindergarten, Jesuit High School and University, and am now pursuing a master's at a Catholic University. I have taken birth control, used condoms, and Plan B. A health care plan that covers the cost of these items should be available to every woman, no matter where you work or study. This plan is not forcing anyone to take contraception, it only gives people who CHOOSE to use it the opportunity to do so without having to dig deeper into their pocket. Thank you.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • HieTide

      The health care proposal was not forcing anyone to take the pills (or forcing them to not take the pills), but it was forcing people to provide the pills against their religious convictions. Seems like a major religious right like this should trump people's desires not to "dig a little deeper into their pocket." Those who want the pills and can't acquire them at their local catholic hospital are certainly free to acquire them elsewhere, or if a customer, to take their business elsewhere.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Annie

      The point is that it forcing people to pay for it who believe it is wrong, thereby violating their first amendment right to religious freedom.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  16. Erin

    Very nicely written–honest, relevant, and thoughtful. You send a very powerful, important, and empowering message with your words. Amen, sister.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  17. PatSJ

    Female's body, Male rules.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Annie

      Catholic Church, God's rules. Dont like it find another church.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • HieTide

      Male and female bodies being forced to provide contraception and abortion pills against their religious convictions, females (Sebelius) rules

      February 11, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • MaryAG

      PatSJ you hit it on the head. The church's views on contraception are all about discrimminating against women and have nothing to do with anything based in supposed mandates from God. Every single major religious domination in the world discrimminates against women. Women can't be priests, women can't use contraception, women have to wear burka's, women can't go to school, women can't be rabbi's, women obey your husband's every command. Why any woman in the year 2012 would attach themselves as a member of any religious organization is way beyond me. Its actually detrimental to our health and well being and in fact, our
      very existence.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  18. JD

    Catholics: Keeping the world populated since 33 A.D.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  19. Peter

    She is not a Catholic. She is in mortal sin. Hell awaits the vast majority for their evil. 'In the end of time, evil will be called good. And, good will be called evil.' Wow, so true now.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      If you ever bothered to read your Catechism, you would know the three requirements for "Mortal Sin". One of them YOU have no way of knowing. Ignorant judgmental idiot.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Visitor

      Birth control is a mortal sin? But War Isn't?

      That means 98 percent of Catholic females are d-amed.

      It will be lonely in Heaven with all those soldiers and priests. Who is going to do the cooking?

      February 11, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      Nice god ya got there..preparing hell for the "vast majority".

      February 11, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • sparknut

      I'd prefer to follow Jesus: "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her."

      February 11, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Mike

      Doesn't seem very "Catholic" of you to judge others, does it, Peter?

      February 11, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  20. givemeabreak

    Religion blinds people from the truth.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:13 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.