Bishop: Catholic Mom Murdered by Gay Man ‘Died a Martyr for Her Faith’

Michael W. Chapman | July 11, 2013 | 9:37pm EDT
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Bishop Thomas Paprocki, head of the Catholic diocese of Springfield, Illinois.

( – A Catholic mother who was brutally murdered by a gay man because she challenged him about his homosexual lifestyle “died as a martyr for her faith,” according to Bishop Thomas Paprocki, head of the Catholic diocese in Springfield, Ill., who also said the woman’s “murder was widely ignored by the media,” apparently for political reasons.

The woman, Mary Stachowicz, a 51-year-old mother of four children and devout Catholic, was beaten, stabbed, raped, and strangled to death by then-19-year-old Nicholas Gutierrez on Nov. 13, 2002. He then wrapped her body in plastic and stuffed it under the floorboards of his apartment. After his arrest, Guttierrez gave a videotaped statement to police saying “he attacked Stachowicz after she confronted him for being a homosexual,” reported the Chicago Tribune.

According to the defense attorney, Stachowicz apparently had asked Gutierrez, “Why do you sleep with boys?”

Bishop Paprocki spoke about Stachowicz and her 2002 death during a discussion about same-sex marriage sponsored by the Jesuit Alumni in Arizona group, in Phoenix, on May 31 of this year. In his opening remarks, the bishop talked about the extensive coverage by the media given to the murder of Matthew Shephard, who was killed partly because he was gay, and contrasted that with the minimal coverage given to the Stachowicz case, a mother killed because she shared her Catholic beliefs with another person.

As the bishop said: "A Google search on the Internet for the name 'Matthew Shepard' at one time produced 11,900,000 results. Matthew Shepard was a 21-year-old college student who was savagely beaten to death in 1998 in Wyoming. His murder has been called a hate crime because Shepard was gay.

Mary Stachowicz (1951-2002).

“A similar search on the Internet for the name ‘Mary Stachowicz’ yielded 26,800 results.  In 2002, Mary Stachowicz was also brutally murdered, but the circumstances were quite different.

“Mary, the gentle, devout 51-year-old Catholic mother of four urged her co-worker, Nicholas Gutierrez, 19, to change his gay lifestyle. Infuriated by this, as he later told police, he allegedly beat, stabbed and strangled her to death and then stuffed her mangled body in a crawl space in his apartment, located above a Chicago funeral home, where they both worked.

“I know about Mary Stachowicz, not from the Internet, but personally, because Mary was my secretary at the parish where I was pastor before I was named a bishop.

“She worked part time at the funeral home and part time at the parish. One afternoon, she didn’t show up at her usual starting time. This was unusual because she was always on time. A call to the funeral home disclosed that her car was still in their parking lot and her purse with her car keys was still at her desk, but there was no sign of Mary.

“As Mary’s family and friends prayed and worried about her disappearance, Gutierrez prayed with them. Three days later, her mutilated body was discovered in a crawl space in his apartment.

“Both murders were senseless and brutal, and I condemn them both unequivocally. However, the fact that there are over eleven-and-a-half million more Internet stories about Matthew Shepard than Mary Stachowicz indicates where popular sentiment lies today on the question of same-sex relationships.

“Shepard’s story has received such widespread attention because his homosexuality was the chief motive for his murder.

“Mary’s murder was widely ignored by the media, despite the fact that she died as a martyr for her faith.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines martyrdom as “the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude. "Let me become the food of the beasts, through whom it will be given me to reach God." (2473)

Nicholas Gutierrez was convicted of the murder of Mary Stachowicz and sentenced to life in prison in 2007. In July 2010, Bishop Paprocki gave his official approval, imprimatur, to a prayer that describes Mary Stachowicz as “pure of heart and devoted to chastity” and that if it is God’s will, “she be glorified by the Church” as a saint.

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