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A Priest is Married

July 6, 2021

In “Coda” my novel about a Republican Senator whose life is altered by the death of his wife in an automobile accident and a sentence of treatment for alcohol addiction at the Betty Ford Clinic in Palm Springs, the Senator is ministered to by a Catholic priest, Fr. Peter Ford.

A lot of thought and personal experience goes into developing a fictional character but in the case of Fr. Ford I was able to build his character on an actual Catholic priest, Fr. Howard Lincoln, a  celebrant at a church in Palm Desert until his retirement.

I saw Fr. Lincoln only three or four times at Christmas Mass in Palm Desert and developed my fictional character from experiences at graduate school at Notre Dame and a concentrated Latin course for adults with “belated vocations” that I took at Loyola of Chicago. The title “Coda” which in music is a symbol meaning “repeat“ is taken from the CODA Gallery in Palm Desert where the Senator purchases a statue of a woman in a blue ball gown.

As I contemplate a sequel to “Coda,” I can now add color to my fictional Catholic priest. Fr. Howard Ford has announced that he has married the Church Secretary.

There are procedures for “laicization” of priests but few if any are granted permission to marry. Fr. Lincoln’s decision has elicited criticism and official expression of “mixed emotion.”

The official announcement cited canon law and stated that “according to canon law, any priest who attempts marriage, even civilly, incurs an automatic suspension because such an action constitutes a break of the promise of celibacy made at the ordination.”

Frankly, given the ordination of homosexuals to the priesthood and the cover up of actions of priests who are pedophiles, Fr. Lincoln’s decision should be accepted, not criticized.

At Notre Dame, the orthodox Catholic scholar Ralph McInerney thought that becoming a priest for a short period was good for building character. Fr. Lincoln is retiring from being a Catholic priest and we should thank him for his service and pray that his marriage is blessed.

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