June,  2007


As might be expected, the news media treated publication this week of a Vatican document addressing the morality of driving as a cute off-beat item. That an institution many still regard as steeped in medieval trappings would focus its attention on so modern an issue was sure to titillate viewers and readers. And the story -- naturally -- was for the most part limited to the document's 'Ten Commandments' for drivers.

Even a casual reading, however, showed that that apparent anachronism was both serious and sincere. The 'Commandments' go to the heart of matter. They occupy half a page in the 18-page document which turns out to be an insightful treatise on a problem everyone seems to recognize but no one is willing to deal with unless and until it affects them personally.

Yet, as the document points out, road accidents resulted in some 35 million deaths worldwide during the 20th Century and 1.5 billion injuries. "It is noteworthy," the document states, "that around 90% of accidents were due to human error." Error as used there is a broad term -- inclusive of inattention and carelessness in its literal sense.

Unlike most theological documents, 'The Pastoral Care of Road Users' is easy to read and understand. It's all there: aggressive driving; running red lights; cellphone use; the shameful lack of prudence, patience and charity on the road. Those topics are presented in a context few of us have ever considered in that regard but which is fundamental to all human experience. In short, the document is well worth reading and considering whatever one's religious persuasion happens to be.

Will Catholics, at least, become better drivers? Hardly likely. It's even doubtful if many, if any, pastors will even bring the topic before their congregations. It would be well if the document were to serve as the cornerstone of a effort to bring the church's influence to bear on the issue, but that probably is not going to happen. Unfortunately, an insightful appraisal of a vital topic seems to have merited not much more than a sound bite and a quick read.

(CLICK HERE to access the Vatican document)

2007. All rights reserved.

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