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June 19, 2007

Vatican Issues "10 Tips for Better Driving" -- Another Point of View

Ap_bible_car Everybody's talking about it today. It's at Yahoo, the Detroit Press, it's even at AutoBlog. Apparently, the excellent drivers at the Vatican have issued a 36-page document called "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road," which extols the benefits of driving while also warning that cars can be "an occasion of sin." I have no doubt that Jay Leno will be covering this on his show tonight as well.

I'm torn on this subject. On the one hand, I think it would be a good thing if people could be motivated by anything, including Holy Spirit, to be better drivers. On the other hand, I'm not sure I want the Pope and his entourage, people who probably don't really spend too much time behind the wheel, telling me what to do with my car.

In all fairness, the actual document is divided into four parts, with only the first part devoted to "road users (motorists, lorry drivers, etc.) and railway users, and to the people who work in the various related services."  Part one of the document, "The Pastoral Care Of Road Users" states that "Moving from place to place, and transporting goods using different means, have characterised human behaviour since the beginning of history," and continues on to say "Therefore, road and rail transport are a good thing, as well as being indispensable requirements of contemporary life." There you go: The Vatican says that cars are good! Detroit should send them candy...

However, because "Our lives are conditioned by the car, as mobility has become an idol, which the car symbolizes," the Vatican felt it necessary to address the pastoral needs of motorists. There's nothing wrong with urging drivers to obey traffic regulations and drive with a strong moral sense. But they even suggest that drivers pray when behind the wheel... Somehow, I don't think the occasional utterance of "Oh My GOD! Did you see what that Bozo just did?!" counts as a prayer, so the guidelines suggest drivers make the sign of the cross before starting off and saying the rosary along the way, somewhere between putting on my blush, reading the paper, talking on the phone, and adjusting my radio.  The next "Hail Mary!" just might be my last... and instead of "Oh God" it just might be "Oh... nevermind...."

Therefore, as you go about your day virtuously moving from place to place in your vehicle of choice, the Vatican suggests the following Decalogue, "in analogy with the Lord's Ten Commandments": 

1. You shall not kill.

2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.

5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

7. Support the families of accident victims.

8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

10. Feel responsible toward others.

Ap_dashboard_jesus If you need additional assistance in your prayerful driving techniques and calming your tendencies for road rage, consider bringing along your own personal dashboard Jesus to help you remain focused on these commandments.

And if you're one who likes to do the research beyond the condensed summaries that flood the first pages of the Google search for "GUIDELINES FOR THE PASTORAL CARE OF THE ROAD" you can read the entire document here. You'll find the document does more than just extol spiritual methods to improve our driving; it actually even attempts to educate drivers in such areas as how to leave a proper distance between cars, as in section 53, where it states "Road users should not drive too fast, and should calculate a wide margin of time, which is theoretically and psychologically necessary to brake. They should not overestimate their own abilities and quickness, and should constantly monitor their attention and conversation. In this regard, travelling companions should also be aware of their responsibility." It's long, but might be worth a read, especially if you're preparing to renew your driver's license.

Of course, if you have the misfortune of having to go to your local DMV, you just may be beyond the benefit of holy prayer...clearly, Heaven isn't where you're going.

By Brandy Schaffels
A Conveniently Catholic Contributing Editor

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