View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ticketing a priest! Say two Our Fathers and three Hail Marys

I think someone might have to go to confession over this AP story...

A Brooklyn priest is protesting a $115 parking ticket he got while tending to a dying hospital patient last month.

"On humanitarian grounds, the law should not be interpreted and applied so stringently that it will prohibit a religious leader from doing his work," said the Father Cletus Forson of St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Bay Ridge.

Forson got the ticket around 9:30 p.m. on July 26 when he parked in a no-standing zone in front of Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park. The story was first reported in the Daily News on Tuesday.

Forson said he knew the spot was illegal but he didn't have time to look for a legal spot because he had just received a call from a parishioner desperate to find a priest to administer the sacrament of the sick to her mother. He placed his clergy parking permit on the dashboard and went in.

"I couldn't get any parking," Forson said. "It is my obligation to get there and administer to the needs of the sick."

Forson said that the patient's daughter and a nurse he spoke with both gave him the impression that the situation was serious and he could not wait until the next morning to visit the woman.

He found his car had been ticketed when he emerged from the hospital after about 20 minutes.

"I was disappointed that a car parked in a restricted zone with a clergy sign on it cannot be interpreted to mean that a priest is visiting someone who is sick," he said.

Forson appealed the ticket but Administrative Law Judge Michael Ciaravino refused to overturn it.

St. Andrew the Apostle paid the fine but the head pastor, Monsignor Guy Massie, wrote a letter saying the church was doing so with protest.

City Finance Department spokesman Owen Stone stood by the city's decision, saying Forson was parked in an ambulance zone.

"They need to keep those clear," he said. "Blocking that puts lives at risk, that's why the ticket got upheld."

Forson denied that he was blocking ambulances and said several other cars were parked in the same area where he parked.

"There were four cars in front of me," he said. "It's not like it was only my car that was there."

City Councilman Vincent Gentile wrote to Finance Department Commissioner Martha Stark on Aug. 11 demanding that the ticket be dismissed.

"He was rushing to the hospital to administer the Catholic last rites to a dying patient," Gentile said. "To me this is just another episode in the continuing saga of the city out of control with ticketing."


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