A common term we use to describe certain folks is ‘Cafeteria Catholics,’ with the most easily identifiable being politicians like Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and Andrew Cuomo. For issues with which they agree, they hold up Catholic beliefs and cite doctrine to support their political points of view, while simultaneously dismissing the Church’s philosophy regarding subjects with which they disagree. Using government resources to fund any program for the less fortunate and allowing illegal immigrants to pour across our border is what Jesus would have wanted us to do, they tell us. Meanwhile, murdering babies in their mothers’ wombs and locking down churches at the drop of a hat is perfectly fine, in their contorted opinions. They are the essence of duplicitousness.
For those of us who are committed to Catholicism, for those who truly consider themselves devout, we understand our obligation to comply not just with teachings which are easy to embrace, but with all aspects of Church dogma. We don’t get to just pick and choose as if we’re at a buffet. We are fully aligned with the need to help those in poverty, though perhaps we disagree with the role which government should play in that effort. We understand that life begins at conception, regardless of the circumstances which cause a pregnancy. And we also understand the problems with capital punishment, as made clear by Church catechism.
Human life is sacred in all forms, regardless of how despicable a certain individual may be. The Church teaches us that each soul is inviolable and deserving of dignity. We try to offset our instinctive craving for justice and revenge via firing squad or lethal injection with the satisfaction of knowing that a lifetime behind bars is hell-like in its own right. We push to utilize the labor of those convicted to fund their own imprisonment so as to not be a burden on taxpayers. And while we pray for God’s comfort for a murderer’s victims and their families, we do our best to put out of our minds the personalities of the murderers themselves. Lock them up, throw away the key, and let’s move on. But sometimes the misdeeds of people are so wicked, government conducted executions become extremely difficult to oppose. Such is the case with a woman named Nicole Johnson.
Killing another human being is one of the worst sins one can commit, but when the victim of a killing is a child, the transgression is somehow taken to another level. Last Friday, police in Baltimore conducted a routine traffic stop of Nicole Johnson and found the 33-year old was driving with a suspended license and other minor infractions, but police also made another gruesome discovery. Johnson had the decomposing bodies of her niece and nephew in the trunk of her car. Both children had been severely malnourished, with 7-year-old Joshlyn and 5-year-old Larry weighing only twenty and eighteen pounds respectively.
Johnson later admitted that Joshlyn had died over a year ago after Johnson had struck the girl multiple times, causing her to fall and hit her head, at which time Johnson put her niece’s body in her trunk. Then two months ago, the emaciated Larry went to sleep and never woke up, according to Johnson, who then put his corpse in the trunk as well.
These two children didn’t just die too young at the hands of some cold-blooded murderer, indiscriminately ending their lives with some quick method. The short lives of innocent Larry and Joshlyn must have been utterly horrific. They were undoubtedly physically abused by Johnson, as evidenced by the girl’s fate, and they were both starved. Imagine a 7-year-old being so food-deprived that she only weighed twenty pounds. Imagine the pain, anguish, and fear those two children must have endured, and then consider the indignity committed upon them by simply sticking their little bodies into the back of a car to rot. It’s difficult to feel anything but fury for the individual responsible.
If we then factor in her reaction to the ordeal, any feeling of mercy for Johnson becomes almost impossible. According to the police filing, prior to the bodies being discovered and after initially being told that her car would be towed, Johnson told police, “It don’t matter, I won’t be here in five days. Y’all going to see me on the news making my big debut.” Breathtaking callousness and disregard.
The State of Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013. Additionally, Nicole Johnson has not been convicted of a crime in this matter; not yet. Therefore, it’s possible she’s not guilty. It’s also possible that the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot not only exist, they vacation together. But the horrifying deaths of these poor, harmless, and blameless children begs the question: If Nicole Johnson is determined to be guilty of killing these children, and if Maryland had not abolished capital punishment, would you be in favor of Johnson being sentenced to death?
For those who vocally oppose abortion, we do so on behalf of the most innocent among us: unborn children who can’t speak for themselves. For those who vocally oppose capital punishment, they do so on behalf of the least innocent among us: evil creatures such as Nicole Johnson. The doctrine of the Catholic Church does indeed recognize degrees of sin, and in the case of taking human lives, there can be no more obvious distinction of degrees than when comparing these two situations.
Serial killers John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy were executed for their crimes, and it was possible for Catholics to both oppose their executions and not feel any empathy or regret when they occurred. There are thousands of other Americans who are currently on death row as well, some of whose malevolence are equal to that of Nicole Johnson. If/when they ultimately find themselves facing their executioners, most of us won’t be losing any sleep or speaking on their behalf. We’ll be saving our energy for those more deserving, and we’ll be praying for the souls of victims like Joshlyn and Larry.
P.F. Whalen is a conservative blogger at TheBlueStateConservative.com. His work has appeared in multiple publications, including Human Events, the Western Journal, and American Thinker. Follow him on Parler @PFWhalen.
Photo by Ellen Dunn Photography at Flickr.