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. Brad

    Ever read Humane Vitae? Read it. Ever had an ORTHODOX (meaning in actual line with the Church's teachings) Catholic education? Get one.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • El Flaco

      Why would I want to do that? How would a Catholic education improve my life? You believe that such an education would make me more submissive to the Church, like you are, but I don't want to be more submissive to the Church.

      The Church leadership is in error here, as it so often is.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      Brad's god is stupid. Brad thinks his god won't notice that his INTENTION is trying to prevent a pregnancy, if he uses Natural Family PLANning.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  2. Pam

    This young lady is the sad product of public (government) education. This debate is not about Catholics and contraceptives. This debate is about government power. Should the government have the power to force you to buy contraception for someone else? Should the government have the power to put you in prision if you refuse to buy contraception for someone else? This is the question.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • El Flaco

      It is the Church that is trying to control the behavior of its employees, whether they are Catholic of not. It is the government that is trying to make birth control accessible to those Americans who want it.

      If a hospital secretary, who is a Protestant, picks up a packet of birth control pills at Walgreens, then what Catholic has been denied religious freedom.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Gail D

      Have you any small idea how many things the Catholic church pays for, contributes to, acquires, hoards that are not moral or in the boundaries of Christianity ?

      February 11, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • UncleVanya

      I think the article said she went to a Jesuit school. That's NOT public. I don't want to buy text books for children in catholic schools. I shouldn't be forced to do so with my tax money.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • 21k

      as a republican atheist, and happy product of a catholic school education, i know that most of the folks in the pews on sunday don't really want to be there. they know there is no god, but are just afraid of what their family and friends will think if they cut loose and go with the truth. don't believe me? just observe how they act outside of church: they drink, use contraception, swear, screw around with people who are not their spouses (see gingrich) and will kill you leaving the parking lot because they are so frustrated they just wasted yet another hour of their lives listening to a possible child predator tell them how to live. if god didn't stop someone as bad as hitler, then he doesn't care or is not there.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  3. Gail D

    I'm Catholic, BUT how christian and responsible is it to bring a child into the world that you can neither afford or are prepared to raise ? A good christian does not bring up a child in want or despair. The Catholic Church is full of it on this one ! Get the Government and the Church out of the BEDROOM !!!

    February 11, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • CMoses

      I see that comment all the time, for the Church to "stay out of my bedroom." Are you implying that no moral decisions take place in the bedroom, or that the Church has no business guiding you towards moral decisions?

      February 11, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  4. K

    Great article. I went to Catholic schools all of my life including all-girls schools, and I agree that teachers who were realistic and caring, especially with regards to personal health, were indispensable to me. Birth control absolutely does more good than harm in the world, and I'm thankful that in a modern society I have access to it.

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

    CNN is such garbage. This iReport is front page news just to stir up trouble. Why don't you post something more CNN newsworthy like an update about the 2 gay monkeys at the zoo again???

    February 11, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • El Flaco

      In short, you disagree with the article.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  6. Redford

    It's not about contraception; its about the government dictating terms to religion.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • kim0606

      and religion dictating terms to women. freedom FROM religion!

      February 11, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  7. slippery

    Who is going to pay for my condoms?

    February 11, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  8. Visitor

    Cafeteria Catholics include anyone who voted for George Bush after the Pope (and most other Church Leaders) decried invading Iraq. Cafeteria Catholics include anyone who praises soldiers who killed after the Pope decried invading Iraq. Cafeteria Catholics are MEN who excuse murder as long as they do it in packs with uniforms. It is never lost on me that Catholics who are vocal about being anti-birth control are mostly Men. Occasionally it is a woman who is married to a vocal man, or someone in an order like a nun, but almost never are the Catholic contraception police women who think for themselves.

    I really don't think any society deserves to be stuck with ballooning birth rates because of a bunch of old men who can't bring themselves to stand up to murdering men and need to fill their church pews. Religious men always pick on women and blame them for evil in society. Read Genesis. Then read Aquinas for a wonderful Catholic view on the sub-humanness of women.

    I was told years ago by a very devout Catholic that women want contraception because they want power, in the context-of they are power-tripping. You see, women who want power is a very bad thing.

    As for "why should the Church pay for this..." 1) Most of the "Church" does already if they offer health care. Maybe the old priests just discovered this? This is very political. Why does this (or any other religious organization) deserve tax-exempt status? 2) These are American standards of health care, not Vatican standards. Anyone is free to NOT use birth control. We should not lower our standards because of the old hypocritical men.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  9. Jackc

    That is wrong, If you were a Catholic then you would be following your faith as well as what it says. To use Birth control is going against your faith. Your suppose to believe and do as the church says. Otherwise your nothing but a HYPOCRITE.

    How long one has been a Catholic does not give them the right to pick and choose. Your either a full Catholic or your not.

    Lets see! hmmmm I know there are laws, BUT oh well, i think I'll only follow the laws I like.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • UncleVanya

      Sieg Heil, mein papist.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  10. informedcatholic

    This absolutely ignores the reason for official Catholic opposition to contraception.

    The reason is that human life begins at the moment of fertilization. Contraceptive pills, including both "emergency contraceptives" and regular daily contraceptive pills, do not prevent fertilization, they prevent implantation. Thus, contraceptives do not prevent the beginning of an "unwanted" human life, they simply condemn it to starvation by rendering the mother's uterus incapable of nurturing it.

    Hormone-based contraceptives are, in fact, not contraceptives, but abortifacients. And that is why the Catholic church opposes their use.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • UncleVanya

      What about condoms?

      February 11, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Visitor

      You are not very informed. Read up.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • PaJC

      Actually, oral contraceptives taken daily, and the depot injectables prevent ovulation, so there is no egg around to fertilize. Emergency contraception prevents implantation, as does the IUD.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • Visitor

      Totally agree!

      February 11, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Nora

      Look up Randy Alcorn's writing on the issue for more resources.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Todd Beaucoudray

      If you can freeze it, it's a not a baby. Get some sense!

      February 11, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  11. Jules

    Heath, For not being Catholic, you are a better one than the one CNN chose to plaster on their front page! (I believe that CNN certainly fulfilled their motive by doing so.) I'm sick of the media portraying Catholics as being people like Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, who really need to re-read their catechisms! It's time that Catholics started LIVING their Faith!

    February 11, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • El Flaco

      Look, freedom of religion means that you believe what you want to believe and you don't believe what you don't want to believe. What is wrong with that? If you go to a Catholic Church, but you think the Church's position on birth control, gay marriage, and the Trinity is nonsense, then so what?

      Believe what you want. Don't believe what you don't want.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • Jackc

      El Flaco

      Look, freedom of religion means that you believe what you want to believe and you don't believe what you don't want to believe. What is wrong with that?
      WRONG, And i'll tell ya why. You have the freedom to PICK the religion, but if your going to pick one and say your IE a Catholic then you either follow it to the T, or your a Hypocrite. When you choose a job, you do as the employer tells you or you leave. Following a faith is even worst, because there are NO penalties like getting fired if you don't. It is called FAITH and Honor. You want to sin, you broke that HONOR.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • badlobbyist

      El Falco – The problem with that is that they are giving $ to the church who then puports to speak for them. So you have $ going into an organization that is saying something that 1/2 of them don't believe. And we end up with these ridiculous objections to common sense issues.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Jackc


      El Falco – The problem with that is that they are giving $ to the church who then puports to speak for them. So you have $ going into an organization that is saying something that 1/2 of them don't believe. And we end up with these ridiculous objections to common sense issues
      What dummm thing to say, You haven't a clue.You give money to the government why?? Because they are suppose to be taking care of thing Like protection with military etc. The Church has to pay bills, like building churches paying to electricity maintenance. If you don't believe in what they say, You simply leave. No one is forcing anyone to stay. BTW it is Called Church for a reason, not an organization. Read before you write would be good advice so you have an idea what your talking about. I;m not Catholic i left 45 years ago, Because I did not believe in following there way of Religion.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  12. Jason

    Leave it to CNN to find a great young and articulate spokesperson to back their liberal "agenda" ... I'll be patiently waiting (albeit not holding my breath) to see the fair and balanced counter article that hgihlights a young, dynamic Catholic woman who embraces her faith's teaching on contraception; and a detailed explaination on WHY the Catholic church believes what they do. Oh wait. This is CNN. I forgot. As well spoken as Karolen is; I think if she delved deeper into the church's teaching on this important topic, she might see a glimmer of truth in the whats/why the church/bishops teach what they do. She, like many, many others, have bought into the lie of our present-day culture of convenience and 'quick fixes'.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Weezer1107

      Bravo, Jason! Excellent response.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Simon

      Thank you, Jason!

      February 11, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Marty

      Written like a true male! One more MAN telling women what they should or shouldn't do with their bodies. If this were a male issue there would be none of this discussion. Ms. Morthole has found balance and health in her Catholic faith. Who are you to tell her otherwise?

      February 11, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • badlobbyist

      I only half joking say....good luck finding that 22 year old girl to speak for the other side.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • GJP

      Marty...Jason wrote like a true Catholic.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      GJP...."No True Scotsman" fallacy.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Visitor

      Why do so many conservatives use the "Oh Wait..." argument, which answers their own question? Do you all talk to yourselves? Those voices in your heads must be very loud.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  13. H

    Thank you for this Karen! I am Catholic and I support the use of contraceptives.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Jackc

      This is simple. If you don't follow your faith and what your faith is about, then your not a Catholic, your a piece of dirt. In other words. BY not following your faith, you have SINNED. You do understand what that means don't you???
      If you don;t want to follow it to the T then leave. You can;t have it both ways. If you really do believe in GOD, then you should not be altering his word. In the Muslim world, you could be stoned to death, But in the world of Catholics, your Sinned and your penalty is with GOD.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      It's "you're". Your English is a sin.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  14. Michele

    Women have been going through PMS/PMDD symptoms since the beginning of time. Rather than our schools and corporations understanding that women go through changes every month which DOES affect our moods and such, what do they want to do? They want to make us ALL play nice all the time and they' don't have "time" to deal with natural occurrences in life. Here take this pill, it'll get rid of all your problems, so you can "function". Robots FUNCTION, people live! Huge difference. More than half the people out there are clueless to how the pill works and/or to what it does to the body, and they're shoving this crap down their throats every day and then want to know why breast cancer is on the rise and why women have become over aggressive! Big Pharma at its best. Can't wait for 20 yrs from now when the lawyers start with their lawsuits for any woman that took the pill. Think they're wealthy now? You haven't seen anything yet, and if I was a judge presiding over one of these future cases, I wouldn't award you a dime. No one shoved the pills down your throat but you! It's you're own fault. The medical field and big pharma make billions of dollars off of these issues, and the public buys it hook, line and sinker. I'm in the health field, so I KNOW what they do, and anyone in the medical field that disputes this should go and have their heads examined...then again, that field is a racquet too!

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

      I really have never known anyone who had pills shoved down their throats. They usually went to a doctor and got a prescription all on their own.

      That being said, yes the pill has its own problems. For the vast majority of women, those problems are miniscule next to the problems posed by an unplanned pregnancy.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Visitor

      By the way, breast cancer rates are falling. As someone in the medical field, you should know that.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  15. UncleVanya

    The dichotomy between the Bishop of Rome and his clergy vs. the majority of the flock is truly amazing. The guilt trip that the first protestant church has laid on its followers leaves me incredulous. I have a friend who is gay and has a "child born out of wedlock". Thanks be to God she didn't use birth control! The child goes to a catholic school and she attends mass. The school doesn't know that the child is a b***tard in the eyes of the church, or doesn't ask. The woman, according to the church, is living in sin and unworthy of communion. YET SHE STILL GOES THERE! And they don't ask. It seems the only ones so upset about all this are the clergy and their overlords. But they really don't want to know. I cannot understand how so many "christians" attend a church which degrades them. Perhaps "sheep" and "flock" are truly the right words, chosen long ago.

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

      Another ignorant person who does not understand the Catholic faith. The Church does not turn sinners away from God. They actually want them to come closer to God and learn the faith and repent their sins. Nor does the Church condemn children for their parent's sins. Research a little before posting instead of parroting what other ignorant people are saying about the Catholic faith. By the way...Catholics in America make up a small portion of the world wide Holy Church. The Pope and the Catholic Church are not out of sync with most 'American 'Catholics'. Most American 'Catholics' are out of sync with their faith to include Ms. Karalen L. Morthole and her mother.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Visitor

      Really GDP? You never heard of excommunication? Look it up sometime.

      My own mother was told by on old Italian priest to repent for divorcing my abusive father. Then another younger "Americanized" priest got her an annulment.

      There is zero consistency even in the clergy.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  16. Christina

    I am Catholic and I stand with you too!!! 🙂

    February 11, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  17. Alfred Brock

    Ridiculous. We need news not someone religious fanatic.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  18. J

    Thank you for this, Karalen.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  19. Daniel

    Why do democrats believe that to control every aspect of everyone's life is good? You lazy people don't want to think for yourselves anymore so you let the government control everything?

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

      Daniel, I can only hope your post is facetious... There is no greater example of demanding "control every aspect of everyone's life" than that done by religious leaders- including by Catholic bishops.

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

      Too funny Daniel because you Repubs want to prevent gays from marrying because you don't agree with it. If that's not called intrusion, I don't know what else is.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • El Flaco

      Actually, it is the Catholic Church which is, as usual, trying to control other people who do not appreciate nor want the Church's control. If a Protestant hospital secretary picks up a packet of birth control pills at Walgreens, then what Catholic has been deprived of religious freedom?

      It is the federal government which is trying to allow a hospital secretary to decide for herself whether she wants to use birth control.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Heath

      Yes, Synapse, but to personally choose to yield yourself to a church order vs being legally compelled to yield yourself to government control is not the same. The church has no formal recourse they excerise against you, except maybe to make you feel bad. The government can take legal action against you.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Commonsense

      The bottom line is this. If you don't use or believe in contraception good for you. This is a health care issue and a basic one at that. Im willing to guess 99% of all young American catholics (50 and younger have used contraception). As you should know the use of contraception prevents std's. Abstinance is not an solution. The Catholic Bishops in the US are so out of touch with the flock its truly amazing.The Catholic church needs to get with the program or strat refusing my money on Sundays. Im Catholic and support a womens right to contraception in thier health care coverage!

      February 11, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Todd Beaucoudray

      People want the birth control, Trig.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  20. clarke

    Very nice article, I agree with her, her mother and her teachers. Very proud of you all.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:42 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.

February 2012