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  • Crime and punishment    June 17 
Slain Phoenix priest killed with fellow priest's gun
Maricopa County Sheriff's Dept.
Maricopa County Sheriff's Dept.

On Monday, police in Phoenix, Arizona, announced that they've arrested a homeless ex-convict for the June 11 murder of a Catholic priest, Rev. Kenneth Walker, and the beating of his colleague, Rev. Joseph Terra. The accused, 54-year-old Gary Michael Moran, has already spent at least eight years in jail for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and drug charges, and police say he stole a camera and car from the priests.

The story of the assault is where the tragic story gets interesting. According to police, Rev. Terra opened the door of the Mother of Mercy Mission rectory to look into noises in the courtyard when Moran attacked him and beat him with a metal rod. Injured, Terra retrieved his .357-caliber handgun from his room, but Moran allegedly took it from him and robbed Terra at gunpoint before the priest blacked out. When he woke up, Rev. Walker had been shot by Terra's gun.

Terra was able to give Walker last rites before he died later that night. Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini notes that the two priests "operated in a tough part of town," then asks the obvious question: "Should a Catholic priest carry a handgun?" They are legally allowed to, of course, Montini notes, adding that he has "read that the church has no overarching policy on priests and weapons. Nor does the Phoenix Diocese." But, he adds:

The former altar boy in me can't imagine any of the priests I met as a kid carrying a weapon. Passing through our parish once was a priest who was said to have served as a battlefield chaplain during World War II. When asked if he was afraid to be in unarmed in a war zone he laughed and said, "I wasn't unarmed." Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a rosary. [Arizona Republic]

Times, apparently, have changed.

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