Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Celebrated Matthew Shepard & The Forgotten Mary Stachowicz

By Barbara Kralis

How many of us American Catholics are willing to admonish the sinner (which is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy) and to evangelize? Not many. But Mary Stachowicz was willing, and for doing so she was brutally murdered. The crime was committed in Chicago on November 13, 2002, the feast day of St. Frances Cabrini — virgin, and the first U.S. saint to be canonized.

Mary, the gentle, devout 51-year-old Catholic mother of four asked a homosexual man, Nicholas Gutierrez, 19, “Why do you want to have sex with boys instead of girls?” Gutierrez said she began to counsel him about his problem.

Gutierrez confessed that he became furious when Mary asked him the question. Allegedly, he brutally punched and kicked Mary; next, he mutilated her body with multiple stab wounds. While Mary was still alive, he shoved a garbage bag over her head, strangled her, and jammed her body into the crawl space under the floor of his Chicago apartment, located above the Sikorski Funeral Home, where they both worked. The Funeral Home is right across the street from Mary’s parish, where moments before she had received Holy Communion.

Her mutilated body was discovered three days after she was slaughtered.

Mary, a Polish-English translator, was witnessing to her Catholic faith and was murdered — martyred — for it.

The mainstream secular news media don’t want to touch this story, because it’s about homosexuality.

Legislation has been passed in certain states to make it a punishable criminal offense to speak out against homosexuality. In New York City, “tolerant” Democrats have made it a crime to condemn homosexuality using Bible verses. In Canada, it’s illegal to speak one’s convictions concerning the practice of homosexuality. TV, radio, and print media in Canada cannot use Bible passages that condemn homosexuality without penalty. Some Canadians have already been jailed for their convictions.

Most Christians are already timid about teaching God’s truth on the mortal sin of sodomy, without the added fear of being imprisoned for doing so. Mary wasn’t intimidated.

The allegedly Catholic Senators Tom Daschle and Ted Kennedy are co-sponsoring a bill that would increase the federal government’s ability to prosecute “hate crimes,” that would give homosexuals more protection under federal law than heterosexuals. In other words, a heterosexual person isn’t worth as much as a homosexual person.

That Mary cared enough to intervene didn’t surprise her pastor. “She was a very intense person concerned about the good of the parish, always seeking things for the poor as well as the spiritual welfare of people,” said Fr. Francis Rog of St. Hyacinth Catholic Church.

Alas, Mary is forgotten, even though her murder was less than six months ago. Where’s the outrage from Christians? From Catholics? From America’s bishops?

The two Chicago dailies treated the story gingerly: Of Mary’s murder, the Chicago Sun-Times on November 18 carried the headline, “Arrest in Funeral Home Death.” The day before it said, “Body Found in Funeral Home Was Stabbed.” The Chicago Tribune carried the headline, “Body Identified as Missing Woman.” The final piece published in the Tribune was subtly headlined, “Quarrel Preceded Slaying, Officials Say.” The subhead, in small print, gave the only hint about what took place: “Suspect’s Lifestyle Allegedly at Issue.” In almost every other city, the story was censored. Homosexuals have preferential treatment in the media. Within a 30-day period, in 1998, over 3,000 articles were written about Matthew Shepard, the homosexual college student killed in Wyoming. What a double standard!

Reactions to the murder of Mary on homosexual websites and chat lines have been reported to range from “She deserved what she got” to “Where do I send a check for Gutierrez’s defense?” to “Maybe this will send a message to the religious zealots to mind their own business.”

Peter LaBarbera, senior policy analyst for the Culture and Family Institute for Concerned Women for America, said: “If a gay man had been murdered for trying to convince someone to be gay, it would be a national news story and deemed a hate crime. But when a gay man murders a woman who tried to convince him to change, the media spike the story. If Matthew Shepard’s murder deserved national media attention, then why not Mary Stachowicz’s?… It’s going to be hard for people to say this is not an anti-Christian hate crime committed by a homosexual activist.”

Mary Stachowicz’s death is similar to that of St. Maria Goretti, her namesake. St. Maria was brutally stabbed to death as she resisted Alessandro Serenelli’s sinful, lustful advances. Will we ever witness the repentance and return to God of Mary’s murderer, as we witnessed the dramatic conversion of Alessandro Serenelli, Maria’s murderer? Alessandro spent the rest of his life traveling the world to witness of God’s mercy and forgiveness until his death in 1970 at the Capuchin convent of Macerata, where he lived out the final days of his life in reparation. Above all, will we ever see Mary Stachowicz recognized by the American bishops for her courage?

[Barbara Kralis, former editor of the Catholic newsletter Semper Fidelis, directs, with her husband, Mitch, the Jesus Through Mary Foundation in Howe, Texas. The foregoing article by Barbara Kralis, "The Celebrated Matthew Shepard & The Forgotten Mary Stachowicz" was originally published in New Oxford Review (May 2003), and is reproduced here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706. Barbara Kralis may be reached by email at]

Related: The Blagojevich connection.


Anonymous said...

I am a lesbian, a proud lesbian. It is wrong to imagine that gays and lesbians approve of this murder, certainly. Painting all of as being happy about this poor woman's brutal end is morally wrong and duplicitous - it is using her death as fodder for propaganda. It is disrespectful of Mary's life to use her death in this way.

I am so sorry about this good woman's murder. It was wrong and it is a tragedy. She didn't deserve it. No one deserves murder. I hope her killer is suitably punished; he should be.

I am hopeful that even those of us who disagree on matters of religion and sexuality can agree that murder in all its forms is wrong. I am also hopeful that religious leaders will think long and hard about how to practice their religion within our democracy. It is unwise to try to make the US a theocracy, to try to make everyone live under the rules of one's religion. Care should be taken (not to protect life - for no one should be at risk of murder for speaking her mind) to respect the democracy within which we all live. Does that mean conservative religious people need to approve of homosexuality? No. No more than progressives need to approve of narrow religious views. Rather, it means we need to make space for each other.

If we can find ways to empathize with each other rather than judge each other, both groups can better honor life, love, and morality.

My deepest sympathy and compassion to Mary's family and friends, and to all who are touched and saddened by the horrible injustice of her loss.

Best -

Anonymous said...

Her question was infuriatingly naive, and she should have realized the danger of addressing a complete stranger with an intimate question in public, in country full of violent psychopaths.

Anonymous said...

Dark Horse said...

Laura, good points that few would disagree with, tho I hope you're not using your comment as an pulpit to promote the lifestyle you announce you're "proud" of.

Anonym, I thought I read that they were neighbors and knew each other. In which case, why would the comment be "naive"? She wasn't talking to a complete stranger.

The high sounding words from the last link blog makes the same point as Laura, but I say equal time. Why doesn't the news give equal time?

I never heard of Jesse Dirkhisng. I never heard of Mary Stachwits. Who HASN'T heard of Matthew Shepard?

Anonymous said...

The news ignored those murder victims, but doesn't the news ignore most murder victims? When the news takes up such a story, it is for purposes of falsification, as in the somewhat simplistic and idealized version of the Matthew Shepard story that the media shaped.

Lutheran said...

The press is not so imaginative. Instead, it continues to draw up it's own perception of reality as defined by shocking events and bending over backwards for all previously self-defined minorities. Churches and people identified as Christian first are ignored. There is only reference to them if the community is in hardship and so then the media practically demand their soup kitchens and donation centers.

And so back to this story, it didn't last in the media because it identified Stachowicz from the start as a Catholic Christian as if this were something the audience should be raising its eyebrow towards, puffing a "Well, see there you go", or best of all, sneering at.

The sexual preference of Gutierrez was never primary. He was seen initially as a victim who possibly was harassed to the point of snapping. The audience did not react as expected--people from a much larger area than Chicago wrote in wondering how it could be that beating and stabbing someone to death was at all a reasonable reaction even if a person did non-violently confront one with her own beliefs, not to injure but to heal. Each time the media tried to reinvent the story, it was forced to include the goulish details of the murder. And not many people at all relished hearing/reading about another murder.

In the long run, the horror of the last of events between these two people remained just that to the audience. The media's push against Stachowicz as "That Catholic" failed. And that is a good thing.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

Tolerance of unnatural sexual practices and willful blindness toward the people who "proudly" announce their unnaturalness to the rest of us is the law of the land. This is the strange fruit of the civil rights movement.

This being the case, I can only laugh at those who rattle on and on about the United States as a "Christian" nation. It is no such thing, and probably never has been. It is a nation of buyers and sellers. In such a nation, respect is accorded to anyone with dollars in his hand. It is the phony respect of peddler for customer, but it passes, because it has the force of law behind it.

Christ has no chance in such a nation, any more than he did in the land over which Pilate ruled as governor.

But hooray!, we all agree that murder is bad.

Frank Elliott said...

How is religion not a self-defined minority status?

Religious people have been covered by federal hate crimes laws since 1967. How can can religious people make the claim that this hate crime act makes religious people less protected than gay people?