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. Elizabeth

    Using birth control for pregnancy prevention is wrong (as opposed to the mental issues you were having). Shame on you for selling yourself as a "Catholic". You aren't following church teaching. Yes, this is your choice but don't use this liberal propaganda machine to voice those opinions when you are choosing to not act as a Catholic would or should.

    February 11, 2012 at 7:09 am |
    • Mirosal

      @ Elixabeth .. and did you expect to get pregnant EVERY time you had se'x? Or are you still waiting for your first time?

      February 11, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • Chad

      I agree that Catholic teaching is draconian and cares little of the health concerns of women. Doesn't the bible equate the fairer gender as property? As ridiculous as their stance on birth control, they are able to make up their beliefs as they go along. The question I have is that since you disagree with their teachings, why do you still define yourself as a Catholic? If you no longer follow their teachings, which I applaud, why do you feel the need to call yourself a Catholic when you are no longer practicing. Find a religion that shares your own views instead of remaining in an organization that you disagree.

      February 11, 2012 at 7:23 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      Elizabeth thinks god is stupid. Elizabeth' church declares in Moral Theology that the crux of a moral act is "intention". Then she intentionally, deliberately, purposely, objectively goes about making a PLAN, takes temperatures, abstains, makes graphs, goes to PLANning classes, and she thinks god won't notice her INTENTION. What a crock. Who gives a crap what the old men in red dresses say ? You DO realize, that a committee of your best theologians recommended a change in that policy a few years ago, right ? The old man in the white dress said no, (although Pope John Paul I was said to be about to reverse the stance, when he was murdered)...oops "died of a heart attack"....hahaha.

      February 11, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      No one is EVER going to find they agree 100 % with anything of any group. It's "their church too", and they get to define it anyway they like. The "church" is not the hierarchy.

      February 11, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      "Shame on you for selling yourself as a "Catholic"."

      The No Trues Scotsman Fallacy is used too often by the christards. You don't get the right to say whether or not she is a true Catholic.
      Elizabeth is a hypocrite.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • sparknut

      And yet the church approves of methods where couples avoid intimacy at certain times of the month to avoid pregnancy. How hypocritical!

      February 11, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  2. Howie76

    Thanks for sharing your story about the real life of a 22 year old and needs for contraception.

    February 11, 2012 at 7:09 am |
  3. MoreChoices

    The people who think this issue is about religion are completely missing the point. The much bigger issue is how is it that these government officials think they have the right to require insurance companies and/or employers to offer certain things in their insurance plans. Contraception is a good thing. It makes sense that most insurance companies would want to offer plans that include it. It makes sense that most organizations would want to include it in the health insurance plans that they offer to their employees. But the government should not mandate it! That is by far the most important aspect of this issue. And to those who would say it's needed because contraception can be too expensive for some people to afford... what?! How could you not know about the method that is available to everyone that is completely FREE and 100% effective for preventing all STDs and pregnancy? It's called abstinence. Look it up!

    February 11, 2012 at 7:06 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Right!!! Not!!! Abstinence is not the answer! The USA has the highest teenage pregnancy rate and expecting teenagers to remain abstinent is like asking the sun not to shine-it's simply not going to happen. What about those who are ra.ped? Abstinence is not within their control and they should not have to ensure the potential consequences. What the government is saying is that if a religious organization uses a public health insurance plan, they can not opt out of covering the contraceptive portion of that plan due to their own beliefs. It is time the church learned to keep its noses out of the bedrooms of people and got their own cult of pe.do.philes under control.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  4. Dana

    Ms. Morthole, it doesn't matter what you, I or anyone else thinks about birth control. The fact of the matter is that it is a well-known basic teaching of the Catholic Church, and there are those who evidently wish to follow that teaching much more closely than you do. That being said, the First Amendment guarantees the right to practice one's faith without coercion from or fear of the government. It does not guarantee the right for someone else to pay for one's birth control. There is absolutely no doubt that, weighing one against the other, someone else's freedom of worship trumps your inconvenience of having to buy your own birth control. It's not even close.

    February 11, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • Melissa

      The Catholics are free to worship all over the place ! How can you make someone cover the expense of your cildbirth?

      February 11, 2012 at 7:14 am |
  5. tooly

    You claim to be "catholic" but you are openly and willingly espousing a position that is in conflict with the Church position. Statements like "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." demonstrate that you are willing to give yourself to a man without the commitment of marriage and without being open to the high call to parenthood that comes with it. Instead you are supporting your own will in the matter. Preventive healthcare is about preventing disease, it is not about preventing God's creative power in the universe. Being Pro-Life requires a consistent ethic from conception to natural death – it really is that simple

    February 11, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      No it's not simple at all. You want it to be reduced to simplicity, because that's all you can deal with.
      You as'sumption that the ONLY function of s'ex is for procreation is ridiculous. Do post menopausal women, and women post hysterectomy have to stop having s'ex ? Were is it established the "giving yourself completely" HAS to result, potentially, in a pregnancy, or the "high call" bla bla bla. You have not established the validity of ANY of your as'sumptions.
      You want US to pay for pregnancy care right ? THAT'S NOT preventive care. Did you yell and scream when they started covering Viagra ? THAT'S not preventive care.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:12 am |
  6. Mary

    CNN, this piece is interesting but does not deserve the placement on your homepage it was given unless your next article that goes in that same spot is about the real issue. This article inadvertently directs the the conversation to a judgement point on whether or not religiously conservative people should just "get with the times" It would behoove you to use the same editorial style and now shed light on the issue at hand: government intruding on a group's right to practice their religion freely. Letters to the Editor typically fall near the back of a paper, so make this a story that is also relevant to the factual events of our time if you're going to put it out there like it is one.

    February 11, 2012 at 7:01 am |
  7. lastofall

    Being for God and for secularism at the same time is only self deception. Do you not know that when you use the wisdom of this world to justify the course of your behavior, then you are shutting out God´s will; and you cannot have it both ways. As you have prescribed to secular reality that one must become active in relations, how is it that you cannot accept God´s reality, that a person can also abstain from fleshly lust which war against the soul? Why at all would you approve worldly logic over God´s will, and then even say that its the right way. If you are going to attempt to represent God, then you cannot represent the world at the same time; choose one, because you cannot have both.

    February 11, 2012 at 7:00 am |
  8. augustghost

    Religion is for the weak and freightened

    February 11, 2012 at 6:52 am |
  9. unowhoitsme

    Is the Catholic church willing to pay for the care of all the unwanted pregnancies when they are born?

    February 11, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • Melissa

      That's exactly what I have been wondering. Also as far as their insurance goes, how would you like to be the company that covers the expense of childbirth but can't cover birth control? This is not an example of government sticking it's nose in religion, this is an example of religion sticking it's nose in medicine. If it's a sin to practice medicine then don't practice medicine. What's next a hospital that refuses to do blood transfusions or treat sinners?

      February 11, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • grogg


      February 11, 2012 at 7:12 am |
  10. Bubba

    Religion is a controversial thing that gets nasty at times. Every religion has followers who think they are right and all the other religions are wrong. People of faith are the most intolerant ones on the planet., especially muslims and christians.
    We'll find out who is correct at the end of the line.....if anyone is!

    February 11, 2012 at 6:44 am |
  11. Rick

    You are completely missing the point. What most people are upset about is the Government forcing the Catholic Church to do something. So much for the 1st Amendment. Furthermore, why is this necessary? Contraceptives are available everywhere. Typical CNN taking something out of context to further the Obama agenda...

    February 11, 2012 at 6:42 am |
  12. Dodney Rangerfield

    Catholics for contraception – where the rubber meets the road.

    February 11, 2012 at 6:38 am |
  13. Seth Riddle

    You are amazing! Thank you for standing up to the Bishops of the US who don't care about women's or human health and happiness. If only all Catholics were like you...

    February 11, 2012 at 6:34 am |
    • Elizabeth

      Then the church would dissolve... what a silly comment. Don't call yourself Catholics if you aren't following the rules! Better yet don't advertise your sins via national media.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:51 am |
    • Hugo

      Elizabeth, in your words, what is the New Covenant?

      February 11, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • tooly

      Anyone that is like her, is not truly Catholic. Look there are 3 types of truth....individual truth, societal truth and THE truth....as best as it can be known through the teachings of the Catholic faith. You may disagree with what the Church teaches however that does not in the end matter. The Church has defended its pro-life, pro-creation stance for 2000 years. Although it's shepherds have not always been true to its teachings, the teachings none-the-less have remained unchanged.

      February 11, 2012 at 7:08 am |
  14. Sheila

    Karalen, you wrote a very imformative article. I am also a Catholic. I truly believe that there are other avenues that the Church should be following. I am tired of sitting in the pew on Sundays and hearing that the Catholic Bishops are so against the Obama Health Care. Instead of "bashing" government policies and programs, I feel that the Catholic Bishops should be pushing for sermons that deal with love and acceptance of others. I am on the verge of leaving the Church. I truly love the Mass, but I cannot tolerate the attacks on groups that happen during the sermons . When I leave Church, I feel frustrated and disappointed. This is not good for the soul!

    February 11, 2012 at 6:32 am |
    • Melissa

      Bishops talk about healthcare at church ? Wow. I'd be upset too

      February 11, 2012 at 7:19 am |
  15. Rick1948

    Why should Catholics be for contraception?? To keep their 15 year olds from having babies. How about that for a good reason?

    February 11, 2012 at 6:31 am |
    • Phillip Campbell

      Because it is a timeless teaching of the Church as handed down by Jesus through oral tradition via the Apostles and their successors. Prior to 1930 EVERY Christian Faith knew it was wrong, but somehow the numbers changing on the calendar justified their changing it.

      February 11, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      Where EXACTLY, did Jesus EVER say ONE thing about birth control ?

      February 11, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  16. Bikermike

    Nice religion. You pick and choose which parts you want to follow and ignore the rest of your church's teachings.
    That would explain the priests and little boys.

    February 11, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • Phillip Campbell

      Exactly! Her rejection of the Faith is the same as those Judas Iscariot style priests who betrayed the faith to commit evil acts.

      February 11, 2012 at 7:14 am |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things*

    February 11, 2012 at 6:27 am |
    • Bubba


      February 11, 2012 at 6:38 am |
    • just sayin

      For the better

      February 11, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • Mirosal

      Just like a placebo, it's all in your own head.

      February 11, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • Hugo

      Bubba, prayer increases the level of oxytocin in the body.

      (Did you expect a scientific answer?)

      February 11, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • Hugo

      Mirosal, what's wrong with a placebo (if it works)? Is there a reason to object to a working placebo?

      February 11, 2012 at 7:02 am |
    • Mirosal

      Nope, not at all ... but to want to continually try to force us to pop one, yeah, THAT I object to.

      February 11, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • Mirosal

      Besides, who is to say that prayer works? Who (or what) are you praying to? This 'god'? uh-huh... well, for that you'd have to prove that there actually IS a 'god' who hears the prayer, then decides on a course of action for it. Then you can tell me if if really works or not. And if this 'god' changes its mind because of the prayer, then 'god' is not omniscient. If 'god' is omniscient, then the game is already rigged and prayer is moot.

      February 11, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • Prayer changes things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things *

      February 11, 2012 at 7:27 am |
  18. Bertrum Redneck

    Thank you Kathleen – that took a lot of courage to say the words you have written here. I wish you well in you life, you seen like a deep and thoughtful person who has taken the time to weight the outcome of you actions and thoughts,

    February 11, 2012 at 6:18 am |
    • eddie53

      Just like you I have to agree with Karalen. This reminds me my country of birth the Philippines, population 98 million, 70% of which are Roman catholic which I am one. The government for a long time knew that it does not have the economy to support that large population and had been advocating use of birth control but the catholic church under the late Cardinal Jaime Sin furiously objected and the bill went nowhere. I am born catholic, baptized catholic, educated in an all boys Jesuits managed catholic church and will die catholic. I am few of the lucky ones who happened to have a college educated parent who can afford to send their kids to college. And, I am one of the few elite who follows the teaching of my church but not the people who run it. I believe the people running my church should look on reality. "Go and multiply" is no longer a reality for us. For a period of 50 years we went from 28 million to 98 million. Our economy’s growth is stagnant mostly controlled by Chinese Filipinos but our population grow exponentially. Filipinos cannot keep making babies knowing too well that unless you are rich you cannot give them the proper education. Birth control is our only option to manage the population or a war, and I disagree with the latter option.

      February 11, 2012 at 7:18 am |
  19. TG

    The Catholic church has condemned the use of birth control, which the Bible leaves as a personal decision, as long as there is no conception, but in the past has murdered individuals for merely possessing the Bible. In one case, John Foxe (1516-87) was told of a widow named Smith (or Smythe) who had taught her children the Ten Commandments and Jesus' model prayer, often called the Lord's Prayer. Instead of teaching her children in Latin, she taught them in English. For this "crime" she was burned at the stake, along with six men who were similarly charged. Because this wicked injustice angered the people, the local bishop spread the word that the victims were burned for the "greater crime" of eating meat on Fridays and other fast days.(Foxe's Book of Martyrs, 1570, describing "persecutions and horrible troubles" that had been "wrought and practiced by the Roman Prelates, speciallye in this realm of England and Scotland")

    The Catholic church has also forbid marriage to priests, yet the apostle Peter, whom they say was their first pope (meaning "papa"), was married and in which Jesus healed his mother-in-law of a fever.(Matt 8:14, 15) The apostle Paul wrote that "the inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons......forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be partaken of with thanksgiving by those who have faith and accurately know the truth."(1 Tim 4:1, 3)

    February 11, 2012 at 6:15 am |
    • Lisa

      FYI – just so you know
      Birth control is not condemned by the Catholic church. Artificial Conception is. There is a difference. NFP, or Natural Family Planning is a type of birth control that the Catholic church fully supports, and it is done with out chemicals, or devices.

      THe Catholic Church has many married priests now. They were Episcopal Priests who have converted and allowed to stay married.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • Phillip Campbell

      In Genesis Chapter 38:9-10 it says: “But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother's wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD, and he slew him also. “ Onan engaged in what must be the oldest form of contraception, the withdrawal method. Some make the claim that he was slain, not for the contraceptive aspect, but because he did not raise up offspring for his brother which was the custom at the time. This custom is sometimes referred to as "the Law of the Levirate". However, death was not the normal punishment that was reserved for breaking this custom.

      The normal punishment for not raising offspring for one’s brother is given in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 which states:” "If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead shall not be married outside the family to a stranger; her husband's brother shall go in to her, and take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his brother who is dead, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. And if the man does not wish to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate to the elders, and say, 'My husband's brother refuses to perpetuate his brother's name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.' Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak to him: and if he persists, saying, 'I do not wish to take her,’ then his brother's wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot, and spit in his face; and she shall answer and say, 'So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.' And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, The house of him that had his sandal pulled off.” Thus the punishment given for this offence was not death, but public embarrassment. Furthermore Onan’s father and younger brother both broke the very same law and they weren’t struck dead. Judah even admitted that he was in the wrong with regard to this law (Gen 38:26).


      Priestly celibacy is a rule that the Pope admits is not bound by Christ and could therefore change. However, citing 1 Corinthians 7:10 the Catholic Church takes St. Paul's advice that it is better for them not to marry. The call to penance by fasting from meat is due to Christ's admonition to do penance lest ye perish from Luke 13:3. The Church does not forbid meat at other times as did the local group that Timothy was forced to deal with at the time. As for the story about the martyrs it seems spurious, but it is possible that a Judas Iscariot style bishop wrongfully killed innocent people. However, the Church has never taught that murder is morally permissible. It is similar to this girl claiming to be Catholic, but not living the teachings.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:38 am |
    • Hugo

      Lisa, do you mean artificial contraception instead fo artificial conception?

      *Why* does the Catholic Church ban artificial conception? Why doesn't the Catholic Church do as well a job as the young woman who wrote the article in stating their reasoning? (Frankly, I'd expect many Catholic leaders to have far superior communications skills yet I haven't seen them exhibited. Why is that?)

      February 11, 2012 at 6:41 am |
    • Hugo

      Phillip, thanks for trying to explain. The main problem I see with the first paragraph is Onan did more than attempt to prevent pregnancy. Semen doesn't just spill because someone is walking around. More is needed! The first paragraph fails on logic grounds.

      I have trouble seeing how the second paragraph is relevant to the issue of contraception. It's relevant to the issue of taking care of family members. But that's off topic.

      Corinthians 7:10 (NIV) says To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. Perhaps you meant 7:1. But then there's the issue of 7:5.

      I'm not going to deal with the meat issue. The article is about contraception.

      In closing, Christ gave us a New Covenant. Any review of the OT should take the New Coventant into consideration. I don't see where you've done that.

      Please try again.

      February 11, 2012 at 6:57 am |
  20. Pavloosh

    Typical CNN move – anti Catholic and anti religion.

    February 11, 2012 at 6:13 am |
    • Mirosal

      Then for all your relevant news, may I suggest you start watching Jack Van Impe's little 1/2 hour "religious" news show? He'll tell you just how the world will end, and he'll use real, legitimate headlines to do it. Yeah, you can trust him (eyeroll).

      February 11, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • Hugo

      Newspapers publish editorials. CNN publishes editorials written by non staff. (Newspapers publish "letters to the editor.")

      Do you have even a shred of evidence that CNN is not being fair? Specifically, is there a representative of the Catholic Church who is willing to write a well written article for CNN? Can you identify that person by name? Is this person willing to write an article in a blog instead? (If so, are you willing to point us to that article?)

      Let's see if there's any belief behind your belief... (I suspect not. Your challenge is to prove me wrong.)

      February 11, 2012 at 6:32 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.