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 --
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
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.
HERE to access the Vatican document)