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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. Curly

    The leaders of the church do not care about womens reproductive rights because they are busy molesting boys.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Michele

      This comment is nonrelevant to the issue at hand. Grow up TROLL.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  2. Heath

    I'm not a Catholic and I use birth control in my marriage, but I have no expectation for someone else to pay for it for me (religious or secular) and even more so if it violates their conscience. Also, Plan B, 'emergency contraception' is the even bigger question, as this abortive 'contraception' violates many non-Catholics consciences as well.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • anonomyous

      "Plan B" is no more an abortive drug than birth control pills. It contains progesterone (just like BCP) and prevents ovulation, creates a "hostile" environment for sperm, slows down the migration of an egg if ovulation has alreay occured, and theoretically prevents implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb if by a slim chance an egg is actually released and fertilized. However this last claim is only theoretical, they have never been able to prove it really happens. This is the same modality of BCP. With these pills there is still a slim chance that an egg will be released, and an even slimmer chance it could get fertilized, but theoretically, just like with Plan B, a fertilized egg would not implant in the uterus. If you don't have a problem with BCP, you shouldn't have a problem with Plan B either. It is basically a big dose of BCPs. That is the problem with this country, people don't know what the hell they are talking about!

      February 11, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  3. Steve

    I'm catholic but do not go to church often and when I do I dont go to communion for this very reason. The church does realize that families are smaller because of birth control right? As far as having the church pay for contraception, they are tax exempt, and have paid a lot more for molestation charges. Besides, the smaller the catholic family is, the more money they have to give to the church.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Nii Croffie

      The chicken and egg analogy holds here: smaller families-more money-less catholics-less political influence-close parishes-dead church-bye. Why is it that people swallow theories like large families make you poor. If your children are well trained and educated why shud u be poor?

      February 11, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Steve

      Membership isn't shrinking because of smaller families, its shrinking because of two reasons. Priests who can't practice what they preach. (A small number there, but they have done great damage to the church.) And two, the belief that contraception should not be used in a catholic marriage.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  4. Russ139

    The Catholic Church and the Republican Party seem to be racing each other to see who can lose the most members in the shortest amount of time.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • TR

      I was brought up Catholic and Republican and I couldn't agree with you more.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • John

      Well, at least they are holding to their principles. Maybe it would be easier to simplify the issue... if you join a club there are established rules. You may not like all of them all but If you want to be a member, you do. The same goes for religious and political affiliations If you don't like the way its run let your shoes do the walking. Complaining is only going make you look like a fool.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  5. TownC

    This is about freedom of religion not contraception. Should a religion be able to act on its' beliefs or be forced to provide services it finds objectionable. Whether you believe or don't believe in contraception is irrelevant. Even if you find these services to be essential to a woman's health, you have to acknowledge they are ubiquitous. So the church not providing these services does not deny people access to them Also, if church employees want these services covered by their insurance, they are free to get a job elsewhere.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • Russ139

      That's a very dangerous path to go down. Be careful.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Heath

      Your 100% right; this is not the Catholic church trying to stop people from using contraception; this is the US government trying to force people to pay for services for others that may violate their conscience. If you want to use contraception, then pay for it yourself or visit Planned Parenthood.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • TownC

      Believing in freedom of religion and freedom of conscience is dangerous?!!? The path the Obama Administration has chosen is dangerous and an insult to all who believe in religious liberty.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      There is no such thing as "a" religion. No one asked Catholics what they think or want.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  6. Jim

    There are plenty of Catholics who support birth control. That does not mean the government can force the church itself to support it.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • Russ139

      We live in a society in which Government makes organizations do things all the time that they would rather not. Civil Rights, for instance, which was condemned from many southern pulpits for decades.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      The "plenty of Catholics" ARE the "church itself". The "church itself" is not hte bishops.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  7. photoman1

    Watching UP with Chris Hayes this morning he had Father Bill Daley from Notre Dame Law on to discuss this matter. My understanding is that birth control pills are covered if prescribed for a non-birth-control condition.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  8. Judy

    Well said Karalen! it was so encouraging to read your article. You are and inspiration to this generation of women. With all the influences between church and state women/people need more forthright individuals like yourself as teachers/mentors.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:35 am |
  9. NKBL

    Thank you for a sane, rational response to an overly-hyped issue. Since the Bishops are taken care of by the church for their entire lives, they don't have the financial issues. It's easy for them to butt into the lives of "everyday" people. Go away.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:35 am |
  10. jom

    Just a case of the state media finding a random Catholic that can deliver the liberal talking point. The truth if you can't accept or abide by the tennets of your faith then it's time to move on to something else. You either are Catholic all the way or your not. The real lesson is that religious freedom is under attack by Obama and the left. The very thing that our country was founded on.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Northlite

      Ya know one of the Ten Commandments is, variously translated: Thou shalt not lie or Thou shalt not bear false witness. Meanwhile the Republicans make up lies and spread malicious innuendo about Obama, who I freely admit is not perfect. Still all the He's a secret Muslim, He hates America, He's a Commie, etc–are out and out falsehoods. You know it and all the right-wing neo-Nazis who sprout this crap know it. But yet you repeat these falsehoods over and over. Does that mean that you hate your religion, because you are certainly violating one of its sacred tenants? Does that mean you should leave your religion, because you treat its commandments as if they were written on toilet paper? And what about all the defenses of the wealthy corporate people who exploit their workers, cheat their customers, etc. Didn't Jesus say something about the wealthy not going to heaven. But you venerate the wealthy as if they were the highest priest in the land. So before you point your finger, try looking in the mirror, you lyin'(you're obviously a Republican so it goes with the turf) hypocrite.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Concerned Lutheran

      True enough, though I imagine most Catholics are quite comfortable being in communion with the Catholic Church and living lives that conform with their own consciences. I've heard such people called "cafeteria Catholics", but if most Catholics are such why not drop the "cafeteria" part. At any rate, I'll make my plug for reformation: reform the strange out of touch hierarchy of celibate men. The few pedophiles among them has caused enough pain, but the rest are trying to enforce a peculiar moral standard that people are just not willing to follow.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  11. jayleigh

    You are missing the point entirely. As a catholic you should read the decrees from the church on why they don't support birth control. You can agree or disagree with it, but there is reason behind it. It really boils down to it being an attack on love and life, when people use abortion and birth control and allow themselves the freedom to sleep around and not worry about babies. If you don't believe those things, YOU ARE NOT CATHOLIC. That is ok, but stop lying to yourself.

    One of the reasons our world is messed up is people wont stand up and say the truth. Most people that go to church are full of crap and only support the church as a social organization. Yet these BS beliefs are strung out for everyone to live by. Start understanding your real truth and living it. If it's Catholic fine, but don't say your catholic and don't believe in the things that make you Catholic. Maybe your not so sure about this Jesus guy either...look inside yourself and stop living a lie.

    This is coming from an agnostic who married a Catholic, who has never used Birth Control with her in 11 years of marriage.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Mike

      You said "reason" in connection with religious decree. *snicker*

      February 11, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Stephen

      "...an attack on love and life, when people use abortion and birth control and allow themselves the freedom to sleep around and not worry about babies..." Does anyone else see how sick and twisted this ideology is?

      February 11, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • Al

      No more sick and twisted than saying two men are a viable couple

      February 11, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Thomas

      jayleigh, spot on. It does not shock me that Catholic U (leave it to the Jesuit schools) has so many students who espouse such so called "enlightened" pseudo-Catholic views. As a Catholic, I do not necessarily understand every teaching in the Church, but I accept her teachings based on a foundation of nearly 2000 years. I certainly could find one of many thousands of denominations that "meet" each of my specific wants but, it is not about 'me' it is about the truth and there is only one eternal truth.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  12. mikem

    Young lady. You might think you're Catholic, but you"re not. YOu're a cafeteria Catholic. If you use condoms and are unmarried, you're immoral according to the your church. Leave the church and join a more liberal one.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  13. maxine

    i am Catholic and think if you can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em.
    So I am very pro birth control for all.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • vanessa

      Its the truth, if you can't feed 'em don't breed 'em...never heard that before but got to admit I like this one.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  14. A Friend

    On behalf of my fellow Lutherans, I warmly invite you to give the LUTHERAN church a try. The Episcopal Church is also a great alternative to the Catholic Church.

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

      As a Catholic, I wholeheartedly agree, please, go there. And for you Lutherans and Anglicans/Episcopals that are concerned about the way your church is going, come to the Catholic Church.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  15. Jimbo

    What happened to my earlier comment?

    At the age of 22, I too lied to myself. Self delusion is the foundation of sin. We talk ourselves into believing that the sin isn't really a sin. In fact, it's a good thing.

    Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and pray. If you cannot accept these truths, you should find yourself another faith.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • Al

      Bingo. At 22 I knew everything and the older I have gotten, the less and less I know...

      February 11, 2012 at 8:30 am |
  16. aginghippy

    I'll take the Catholic church leaders a bit more seriously when they begin to adopt and raise every child born to a child, start giving some of their billions to help feed the children of large and poor families, and when they develop a cure for AIDS. Only a naive imbecile thinks that people will abstain from se.xual activity. Even the priests are so frustrated that they turn their attention to little boys. The Catholic church would have millions having children they cannot afford to feed and clothe, while offering precious little relief from the abject poverty. Of course, I'll always be amazed at the fact that members of any religion are unable to see that men wrote the "holy sciptures"; men who were dealing with such shame over the natural urges of the human body, that they needed to convince their followers that God is as preoccupied with s*x as they were. God, evidently, even has a preference regarding the appearance of the male organ, if the Jews are to be taken seriously.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • Al

      You probabaly didn't realize this, but the Catholic CHurch is the second largest provider of social services in the U.S., right after #1, the Federal Government.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Nii Croffie

      The church n de other religious bodies r on de whole voluntary orgs. De writer shows this. However a govt is not voluntary and holds virtually unlimited coercive power unless de citizenry gain a sympathetic ear within it ready to make de changes. Ask Libyans-Gadaffi 2 Sharia. Democracy swerve!

      February 11, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • aginghippy

      Al, Can you provide a source for that bold claim? All you have to do is look around at the number of Catholic families with many children, struggling to survive, to know that the church is hardly taking care of those they shame into avoiding contraception.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  17. Willow

    As a fellow PMDD sufferer, I have to say that this is one condition the church never takes into account. I'm not religious, but I have other reasons why I'm not religious. Telling women who suffer from a condition that, in a friend"s case, make them pass out from too much blood lost that they cannot do the one thing that would help such a condition is just shortsighted. Some women could not keep their jobs because of the mood swings PMDD causes. This is a real medical condition, it is *not* just PMS. It is much worse than PMS. And by ignoring its existence and encouraging women to suffer with it every month until they go through menopause, the religious community does women a disservice.

    But then, I suppose many religious extremists want women to suffer, as our mere existence to many is apparently the cause of all sin in the world, to the point where we should cover up from head to toe, stay indoors, and never have a career.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Just my opinion

      PMDD is a culturally bound syndrome.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Michele

      PMDD is a bunch of crap. I supposedly have it too, and the first thing they wanted to do was shove birth control down my face. Now I ask you, WHY would anyone with half a brain want to drug themselves with hormones on a DAILY basis, especially with estrogen which is highly linked to breast cancer and is the "female testosterone" instead of just toughing it out for a few days? Answer??? It makes big pharma lots of money! People wonder WHY breast cancer is on the rise? People wonder WHY women are becoming more and more over aggressive? It's not rocket science. Take a few ibuprofen, have extra tampons and/or pads with you for a few days, and you'll get through it....just like I do and many others that don't want to put that crap into our bodies. You're brainwashed by the medical field...and YES, I work in the medical field!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Michele

      Oops...I forgot something. MOST women that take the pill are also clueless to how it actually works and to what it does. If more women were to educate themselves past the point that it helps to prevent pregnancy and helps with PMS, bleeding, cramping and such, perhaps they'd stop using it!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Elaine

      Willow, I've had PMDD (or whatever you want to call it) related migraines and sickness that almost "paralyzed" me and made me wish I were not on this planet, so I'm glad I didn't go to Michele for help. I'd love to know what her degree is in, but Estrogen does have its place beyond birth control for many conditions that may be worth the risks.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  18. badlobbyist

    ....."has taught me how to respect others, be a human with integrity and help those in need. ....supports family values and tolerance of others and leads us to serve others, a teaching I’ve adapted into my everyday living. .....an exceptional job standing up for those who live in poverty and suffer injustices."
    All of these things are very good and positive can be accomplished without religion. Have faith. Have faith in your fellow man that he/she can accomplish incredible things w/o the need to subjugate themselves to other men/women who claim to have knowledge on a Divine.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  19. Kaci

    Flinders, the butler, not even amusing, just lame. Obviously, you have some personal issues.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  20. Heath

    Though not Catholic, I'm with the Bishops on this; why should they have to pay for a medical benefit that violates their conscience? If contraception is important to you personally, then pay for it personally; free will is not violated. Also, the lumping of 'Plan B' so called 'emergency contraception' into the same category takes things a step further. I have no problem with contraception, but I do not consider an abortive drug contraception.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Michele

      Couldn't agree with you more...contraception is supposed to prevent pregnancy and the first par ot pregnancy is fertilization. Those other types of contraception expell the embryo. I'm not religious about this, but what people are neglecting to see here is that this issue isn't about the church vs women's rights. It's about the gov't overstepping its boundaries and forcing people into things against their belief system. Why should I get stuck paying for YOUR contraception? Go buy it yourself. As a worker in the health care system, I can't tell you how many claims come through for the pill alone. I don't want to hear that it's cheaper to give someone the pill than it is to have a baby either. If you rack up the cost of the pill over the lifetime of an average American woman that uses it, it adds up. Now there's no copays, so the insurance company or the employer (if self-funded) is going to get stuck eating the full cost which is just going to lead to higher premiums AND more layoffs in order to subsidize the cost. People are so dumb sometimes. Let's say your birth control RX costs you $14 for a 3 month supply...about $7/month if going through mail order, as one of the perks of going through mail order is you have less of a copay. Now, your premium is going to go up about 15-20 bucks a month. No big savings there. You're actually paying for the copay ($7) with an increas of $13/month in premiums. You're now spending more money, and it's going to cost me more too now...and I don't even use the crap!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Jean

      Obama has offered to exempt them from paying, it just has to be available at the employee's expense. They refused.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • anonomyous

      "Plan B" is no more an abortive drug than birth control pills. It contains progesterone (just like BCP) and prevents ovulation, creates a "hostile" environment for sperm, slows down the migration of an egg if ovulation has alreay occured, and theoretically prevents implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb if by a slim chance an egg is actually released and fertilized. However this last claim is only theoretical, they have never been able to prove it really happens. This is the same modality of BCP. With these pills there is still a slim chance that an egg will be released, and an even slimmer chance it could get fertilized, but theoretically, just like with Plan B, a fertilized egg would not implant in the uterus. If you don't have a problem with BCP, you shouldn't have a problem with Plan B either. It is basically a big dose of BCPs. That is the problem with this country, people don't know what the hell they are talking about!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Dragoon

      ok two quick things on this.
      First: those who are confusing "Plan B" with Mifepristone need to do a little reading and understand that they are very different drugs with very very different uses.
      Second: On the matter of age and faith. Someone once said "at 20 you think with your heart and at 40 you think with your head." I ask you where does faith lay and where and where would you find the wisdom to take care of your own physical and mental health? Seems to me that on this issue a good number of people are confusing them.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:57 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.