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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. kevin

    I can't help but notice her comment, "I do not feel immoral using them". Your relationship with God is not simply about feeling good. It's about living your life in accord with God's will. For example, Christ's sacrifice on the cross probably didn't "feel" good. But it was His Father's will. So He did it. I think the author (and many of the commenters) should have a serious look at the Theology of the Body. Once read, it's clear that contraception is not acceptable. It's not simply the choice of the Pope or the Bishops. This transcends their authority and, hence, cannot be changed.

    February 11, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • joewilson

      maybe she's woken up from the delusion and realized everything she has been told is a lie. maybe she wanted to take back control of her life and stop being a pawn to truly sentient humans.

      carry on with your nonsense. you are easier to control that way.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:04 am |
    • kevin

      The delution, joewilson, is that we humans are "in control" (as in "maybe she wanted to take back control of her life").

      February 11, 2012 at 6:30 am |
    • joewilson

      i wouldn't expect you to know what taking control means.

      continue to stay by the rules in your book. do not attempt to rationalize any further. it is not permissible for lower humans to express mental autonomy.

      remain subservient.

      February 11, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      except "contraception" IS ok, as long as you don't take a walk to the drug store to get some, NFP....
      NFP IS an attempt at contraception. What ? Your god doesn't know what you're up to ?

      February 11, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  2. maelstromphysicist

    LOL! Young college woman using birth control for "balancing her hormones." Nice try. Why don't Catholics just admit they aren't really Catholics. You can't pick and choose what you want to believe and call yourself Catholic. There's a name for those kind of people: Cafeteria Catholics. Pick and choose what you want to believe. Totally defeats the purpose of the faith in question. This is why I hate religion.

    February 11, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • joewilson

      gentle. she's testing out her capacity to reason.

      you can't rush these things. these people are simpletons that require careful guidance into independent function.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:06 am |
    • Josh

      You clearly have no clue concerning medicine, it's uses, applications, and functions. Keep trying your "faith healing." Darwin had a theory about that. . .Oh, that's right, you don't believe that. Good.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:11 am |
  3. Illuminati

    You are no longer Catholic if you use contraceptives.
    You are for things as long as it pleases you and against anything that is an inconvience to you.
    You can not have it both ways.
    Your 90 year old grandmother is an inconvience also.
    You might want to get rid of her.

    February 11, 2012 at 6:00 am |
    • Aunt Acid

      Exactly. Pick and choose which bits you want to follow and yell and scream when others don't follow the bits that you chose to adhere to. Wake up, America.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:02 am |
  4. Robert

    I'm not Catholic.

    To be a Catholic you have to believe the moral teachings of the CC is infallible. You have to believe that when the Pope teaches on matters of faith and morals he is infallible. Various popes have stated birth control is a mortal sin. No, the author of the article is NOT Catholic.

    CNN is in propaganda mode to try to:
    1) Try to help Obama get reelected;
    2) Assail religious freedom;
    3) Try to make Christianity look bad. CNN has a pro-gay, anti-Christian, pro-Marxist agenda.

    February 11, 2012 at 5:58 am |
    • Phillip Campbell

      THANK YOU! You so nailed it.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:04 am |
    • Josh

      Why don't you take your precious Fox News and yourself to that Moon Colony with Newt.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:07 am |
    • joewilson

      yep. the country is falling apart. all those darn marxist young ones ruining this great moral country.

      you make me laugh.
      carry on with you delusion. i'll be glad when your generation is covered in dirt and the rest of us can get on with civilization.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:08 am |
    • Elizabeth

      Hooray for your comment. Even a non Catholic understands the rules, nice job!

      February 11, 2012 at 7:06 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      No you don't. You don't HAVE to do anything. If you accept THAT authority paradigm, then maybe, but who says you HAVE to accept the authority paradigm spouted by the Pope. There are many alternatives.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • visitor

      Actually, none of that is true. You are a Catholic if you are baptized Catholic.

      February 11, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  5. mdb1218

    I thought the real issue here was freedom of religion..... the government telling a religious organization that it must do things that defy its beliefs and convictions............

    Oh, and since when does Obama just openly dictate? All of a sudden he speaks a contraceptive mandate into law and we just assume it to be the law of the land? What happened to the legislative process? Representation?

    February 11, 2012 at 5:56 am |
    • John

      This is NOT a religious issue - it does NOT restrict or stifle what the church can believe, condone, or preach. It's a health policy issue. Can an employer dictate to its employees what type of health care they are allowed to have? Nor is this a cost issue, insurance companies charge less for health care that includes contraception - because it reduces the cost of health care.

      Did you know that 28 states already have pass similar legislation? The Catholic Church could legally defend their position if they refused payments from the federal government. Do that (like the Amish) and they can do anything they want.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  6. Aunt Acid

    People still believe this nonsense? I suppose none of you eat fish either?

    February 11, 2012 at 5:54 am |
  7. Poof

    I applaud the vote for contraceptives but your religious convictions are still a failure.

    February 11, 2012 at 5:51 am |
  8. John

    Yes, she's Catholic - as I am and I'm very proud of her position. The Pope is only infallible on questions of doctrine. Birth control is not such a matter.It's out-dated and back-assward thinking like women can't be Priests, and Priests must be celibate.

    This issue is about personal freedom and choice over corporate (employer) power to prevent their non-Catholic employees access to proper health coverage. What if this was a different religion that didn't believe in immunizations and refused to cover flu shots for employees? It's a health issues plain and simple.

    February 11, 2012 at 5:51 am |
    • Mirosal

      the pope is NOT infallible, not by any means of the word. He is human (sort of) and WILL make mistakes. All humans do, and will. He wasn't chosen by any deity, he was elected from among his peers, in a back room, cut off from the outside world until a vote was reached. The doctrine you speak of was also man-made. A regular human being, and man-nade doctrine. Now, about that infallibility??

      February 11, 2012 at 6:04 am |
    • Elizabeth

      Oh gosh you think women should be priests and we should be aborting our young. Both are not Catholic teachings at all, hence making you not a Catholic. There are a few women "priests" in California... of course they have no ability to turn ordinary bread and wine either. It's kinda like playing house or in this case playing church. Maybe you should join their church instead.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:59 am |
  9. devonshire

    There is a major difference between contraception and emergency contraception. Contraception stops inception, emergency contraception, morning after pill ends "inception" or ends a new life. If you were just taking birth control for hormone balance that would be a medication, but to delve further and go beyond inception goes against the teachings of the church.

    February 11, 2012 at 5:45 am |
    • LOL

      looks like 50 million women are going to suddenly have 'hormonal imbalances'.

      February 11, 2012 at 5:48 am |
  10. Sarah

    I am surprised that the Catholic church still teaches that. I am 29 and in a nursing program with 1 child already. If I were to get pregnant, I could not finish the program and my 1 child will likely grow up under-privileged. I am not Catholic, but if I were, I sure would be taking birth control too. Would the Catholic church recommend that someone like me amongst their ranks get divorced during my 15 months or be abstinent during school? I know at least 2 Catholic ladies that take birth control for "hormonal" reasons. I wish the pope would quit making women feel guilty over taking responsibility.

    February 11, 2012 at 5:44 am |
    • joewilson

      i congratulate you as a fellow member of high society.

      please refrain from interacting with the simpletons. we do not wish to empower the lower society with thought and reason. they must continue to live as delusional pawns.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:12 am |
  11. Trigster

    Now make the logical jump to why they don't want you using contraception: More Catholics in the world. That's it. That's all. Organized religion is a racket.

    February 11, 2012 at 5:43 am |
    • LOL

      Catholics now need to have 12.6 children per family to keep up with Muslims.

      February 11, 2012 at 5:46 am |
  12. mike

    This article misses the bigger point. The main question isn't whether contracpetives are right or wrong. Its not if its OK to be Catholic and use contraceptives. The main question is do people and organizations have the right to not participate (or pay for) in what they believe to be wrong. In this case, its obvious the goverment is overstepping its authority and breaking the 1st amendment rights of these organizations.

    February 11, 2012 at 5:43 am |
    • If you want a theocracy, go establish one for yourself

      Then why hasn't anyone raised this point before in the states where this already is a law?

      February 11, 2012 at 5:45 am |
    • dinabq

      Why is the catholic church owning businesses in the first place if "religion" is their main concern? This is NOT about religion, its about businesses and ones owned by churches playing by the same rules as all other businesses. If religions don't like it, let them sell all their business holdings and stick to religion only.

      So contraception interferes with procreation. Guess what? So do STDs, and sometimes permanently. Why doesn't the church go back to saying the earth revolves around the sun? Maybe their real fear is they won't have enough children to molest if women are given rights to their own reproductive health. The MEN of the catholic church should stop telling WOMEN what to do.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:10 am |
    • Dale S

      This has already been law since 2000. The only change is now employers have to provide contraception without a co-pay.
      So, really, the catholic church is complaining about their $18. Typical in my experience, all the homily/sermons in my youth were about how much more money all of us had to donate so the priest could get that new color tv.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:15 am |
  13. rose

    The argument is not about birth control and the individual use of it. The argument is that the government has no place dictating what religious organizations should provide in the way of birth control. It is what we fought to secure from the English over 200 years ago...freedom to practice religion without governmental intrusion into the churches. Obama sticks his finger into everything in our society and poisons the well.

    February 11, 2012 at 5:41 am |
    • If you want a theocracy, go establish one for yourself

      Let's say you work for a major corporation. And this corporation's head happens to think that, say, blood transfusions are immoral. Are you fine with not having a blood transfusion covered because your employer has different beliefs than you?

      The first amendment does not entitle religious entities to do anything they want to.

      February 11, 2012 at 5:44 am |
    • Mirosal

      @ rose ... ok I'll concede your freedom of religion. But on the flip side, we are also guaranteed freedom FREOM religion. You say the gov't has its fingers into everything. And religion doesn't? You want to impose religious laws into our society. You lobby our lawmakers to persuade them to vote according to your "holy book".You're all over the TV begging for 'donations'. You come to MY door to recruit me. Before you start in on what gov't is doing, take a good close look at what your religious brethren are attempting to do to the gov't. Can you say "17th century Puritanism"?

      February 11, 2012 at 5:52 am |
    • Josh

      False. This isn't about government telling the Catholic Church what is right and wrong, or what to preach. The government has a fundamental right, indeed, a duty, to make sure hospitals are following guidelines and procedures (no matter what kind of hospital). This isn't government telling a doctor what to believe or think, it's about making sure that the doctors religious beliefs do not interfere with certain legal medical practices.

      February 11, 2012 at 5:54 am |
  14. ANANT

    Standy by you Karalen..... funny to see people go against that is a common sense thing...

    February 11, 2012 at 5:39 am |
    • jj

      In all fairness, it would be common sense to toss out the Bible in its entirety.

      February 11, 2012 at 5:52 am |
    • joewilson

      @jj

      no no. we must not liberate the mentally enslaved.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:14 am |
  15. AJ Amadi

    The catholic church didn't teach you you the difference between right and wrong, how to treat others, family values, etc etc. Human morality taught you that. In fact, it taught religion that! Unfortunately, the people who invented religion added other useless, sometimes dangerous concepts as part of their teachings. You are smart enough to pick and choose which ones are dangerous and ignore them. Now if you grasp the fundamental problem with religion, maybe you could help others also realize that.
    I urge you to watch "Letting Go of God". It will change your life for the better.

    February 11, 2012 at 5:35 am |
  16. Josh

    This woman is just as much a Catholic as any other so-called Catholics on this post. She has her opinion and reason(s), and you have yours. Religion needs to keep out of medicine. You don't hear medical doctors telling bishops what to preach about on Sunday mornings, or any other time. Not only that, but you don't hear politicians telling priests what to preach about either. This woman has a right to privacy, a right to choose what she thinks is right and wrong, whether a particular chuch agrees with her or not. I'm not religious at all, but shouldn't these decisions be between her and her god (Yes, I didn't capitalize it because I don't think there is one, or two, or any at all). The courts have already ruled on abortion (Roe), and also on particular statutes (Conscience Clause) regarding this matter. The morning-after pill is not considered an abortion as pertaining to the conscience clause. Not only that, but can't a religious person ask for forgiveness for a sin? Some of you act like you've never done anything against the Catholic Church's teachings. Does that mean you're not Catholic anymore? How about you keep your religion out of medicine, and we'll keep the teachings of Nietzsche out of your church.

    February 11, 2012 at 5:31 am |
    • LOL

      that'd never fly. makes too much common sense. (religion != common sense)

      February 11, 2012 at 5:33 am |
    • Phillip Campbell

      Josh, the problem with this is that she claims to be Catholic yet espouses a lifestyle that is in direct opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Faith. She should have the right to live her life as she chooses even if tha tmeans leaving the Catholic Church, but should not claim to be something she is not. Her claims are similar to someone claimg to be an atheist yet posting an article in the name of all atheists that describes her belief in a pantheon of Gods. It's not like I'm advocating stoning her but I don't like her nonchalantly misrepresenting the faith to which I belong. The beauty of free speech is that I believe she has a right to do it even though it is a deceptive claim she makes of being Catholic, but that also gives me the right to say hers is a deceptive claim.

      February 11, 2012 at 5:48 am |
    • LOL

      but all she has to do is ask for forgiveness after the movie and she's good to go.

      February 11, 2012 at 5:51 am |
    • Josh

      Phillip Campbell: If there's any problem, that's a problem for her and her god. You have as much Freedom of Speech as she does. Since when does this woman even attempt to "speak for the whold Catholic Church?" The answer: She doesn't. This is her opinion, her belief. Since when do you get to make the once-and-for-all decision concerning the Catholic Church? She's Catholic as much as you are, and more importantly, at least she's honest about it.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:01 am |
  17. freethinker

    While I don't agree with some of the comments here, this discussion is remarkably civil (at least for CNN). Quite refreshing.

    February 11, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • LOL

      no one's threatened bombings or invasions because they're not muzzies.

      February 11, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • freethinker

      @freethinker

      ... well then again, maybe not. It was nice while it lasted, though.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:35 am |
  18. LOL

    Maybe she just doesn't want to wind up broke and starving with 13 kids like all those countries who speak Spanish and practice ___________.

    February 11, 2012 at 5:23 am |
    • LOL

      The trinitarian formula doesn't work with applied physics and transubstantiation makes you a cannibal as well.

      February 11, 2012 at 5:27 am |
  19. Robin

    Karalen, you may claim to be a catholic but you aren't! Religion is sort of a package deal. If the pope is God's representative on earth and the pope has decreed that contraception is unlawful it should be interpreted as the will of God. What kind of catholic can act contrary to the will of God and still claim to belong to His faith? (btw I'm not catholic)

    February 11, 2012 at 5:20 am |
    • *facepalm*

      Your understanding of the RCC teaching of papal infallibility is ... lacking, to say the least.

      February 11, 2012 at 5:35 am |
  20. Contra Contra

    This woman is not catholic if she does not believe and follow what the catholic church teaches. She can delude herself all she wants at the buffet of catholicism and pick and choose what she keeps and what she doesn't, but in the end, she makes herself a god as a result...

    February 11, 2012 at 5:15 am |
    • *facepalm*

      If someone thinks that evolution is a valid theory for how we got here, does that also make them not a Catholic? Where do you draw the line?

      February 11, 2012 at 5:16 am |
    • Af090391

      Catholics believe in evolution actually.

      February 11, 2012 at 5:37 am |
    • *facepalm*

      Actually, no, they don't. The RCC teaches that evolution is potentially a valid theory. However, it also teaches that we all come from only two people – a single man who was actually named Adam and a single Woman who was actually named Eve. If humans are the product of evolution, this cannot be true. The RCC is most definitely at odds with the theory of evolution. Looks like it's time for a Catechism refresher.

      February 11, 2012 at 5:41 am |
    • Laura Martin-Lauzer

      This is the kind of thinking that stagnated the Church in the Middle Ages. Dialogue will help to move the Church forward. She is simply voicing the opinion of many Catholics who are passionate about their faith, but who want to be responsible when it comes to bringing children into this world. Women no longer get married at 15-18 years of age, and we no longer need to have 10 children in ensure at least half of them will survive childhood. Add to those facts the staggering cost of raising and educating a child today. Limiting childbirth is pro-life because one is then investing in the life of the children she brings into the world.

      February 11, 2012 at 5:54 am |
    • Laura Martin-Lauzer

      Catholics do believe in evolution. The Church teaches that the story of Genesis explains WHY the world was created (and that is was created with purpose and in an orderly manner), not HOW it was created.

      February 11, 2012 at 5:57 am |
    • joewilson

      @contra contra

      very good. keep deluding yourself and stay obedient.

      good to see you're well versed in the lies we feed you. carry on with your subservient existence. and remember, do not doubt your belief in god. mental autonomy is dangerous.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:16 am |
    • Sid Airfoil

      I agree that you can't be a Catholic by picking and choosing which rules to obey. But the Catholic Church seems to get the right to pick and choose which laws to obey. Ironic, isn't it?

      Sid

      February 11, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      The "Catholic Church" is NOT the hierarchy. The "church" is the people. The people use birth control, and no longer believe all se'x outside of marriage is sinful. So she IS a Catholic. Your narrow definition is non-biblical. Do you give "Catholic" tests before you let them in the door on Sunday ?

      February 11, 2012 at 8:33 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.