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Ten Commandments for Road Users – Catholic Church Takes a Stand

DISCLAIMER: VehicleVoice is totally non-denominational and takes an agnostic, i.e. non-biased, approach to analytical issues. This summary details the position published by the Catholic Church on June 19, 2007.
Pastoral Care of Road Users
The Holy See of the Catholic Church in the Vatican has issued a “DOCUMENT OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE PASTORAL CARE OF MIGRANTS AND ITINERANT PEOPLE: GUIDELINES FOR THE PASTORAL CARE OF THE ROAD”. Part of this document are the Ten Commandments for Road Users included in “The Pastoral Care of Road Users”. Other sections include: “Pastoral Ministry for the Liberation of Street Women”, “Pastoral Care of Street Children”, and “Pastoral Care of the Homeless (Tramps)”.
After hearing about the new Ten Commandments for Road Users, we decided to find out exactly what was included and how the Vatican rationalized developing this document. Visiting the Vatican website provides a comprehensive summary of the document and the rationale the Vatican used when developing it. Perhaps the most interesting part of the rationale is that the Church intends to evangelize the issue of the Ten Commandments for Road Users and Road Safety. It’ll be interesting to see how much traction this document achieves internationally and what impact it, indeed, has with driving, drivers, and pedestrians.
Drivers’ “Ten Commandments”
The Vatican document states “We have drawn up a special “decalogue” for road users, in analogy with the Lord’s Ten Commandments. These are stated here below, as indications, considering that they may also be formulated differently.” The fact that the Vatican saw fit to issue a document like this = the whole thing is very comprehensive – is an indication that the Church believes the roads may be getting a bit out of control. Even though this is an “international” document, it likely has a slight “Italian” spin. Now, how in control is traffic in Italy?
I. You shall not kill.
II. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.
III. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.
IV. Be charitable and help your neighbour in need, especially victims of accidents.
V. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.
VII. Support the families of accident victims.
VIII. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.
IX. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.
X. Feel responsible towards others.
The rationale given for the document by the Vatican is shown below the fold.

The Church’s Mission in the “Pastoral Care for Road Users”
Prophecy in a Serious and Alarming Situation
Condemnation of Serious and Unjust Situations, such as those caused by traffic, is part of the Church’s mission, and therefore realisation of its prophetic mission. The number of accidents in which pedestrians bear a grave responsibility is also worrying. The danger of certain car races, and illegal racing on city streets, which create serious risk, should also be condemned.
So, how strongly will the Church condemn organized racing?
Human Error Cause of Most Accidents It is quite common when accidents occur to blame the state of the road surface, a mechanical problem or environmental conditions. However, it should be underlined that the vast majority of car accidents are the result of serious and unwarranted carelessness – if not downright stupid and arrogant behaviour by drivers or pedestrians – and are therefore due to the human factor.

Road Safety Education

Raise Public Awareness of Road Safety Faced with such a serious problem, both the Church and the state – each in their own area of responsibility – should go beyond condemnation and seek to raise overall public awareness regarding road safety and promote corresponding and appropriate education of drivers, as well as other travellers and pedestrians, with all possible means.
Safety Education Involves Intelligence, Willingness and Habitual Behaviour In broader terms, it should be borne in mind that three elements are needed to carry out an action well: knowing what is to be done; having the desire to carry it out; and, finally, having sufficiently developed a series of reflexes and habits needed to carry it out precisely, accurately and swiftly. This also applies to road safety education, which should involve intelligence, willingness and habitual behaviour.
Promote Road Safety Education In this regard, the Church should concern itself with raising awareness and promoting road safety education that takes account of the three elements mentioned: knowing what is to be done, in awareness of the danger, responsibility and obligations deriving from it for drivers and pedestrians; wishing to carry out the action with care and dedication; and, finally, developing sufficient reflexes and habits for precise action that does not entail risk or carelessness.
Use the Church to Promote Road Safety To achieve such ends, in addition to family commitment, the educational potential of parishes, lay associations and ecclesial movements, especially for children and youngsters, should not be neglected.

Pay Attention to Road Ethics
All this means calling attention to and encouraging what might be called “road ethics”, which is not different from ethics in general, but is its application.
Target Audiences

Who Needs to Be Targeted on Road Safety?
An important matter is determining to whom such road safety education should be addressed, taking into account primarily those who are “actively” concerned. As traffic is an issue relating to the common good, the solution to the problem of training motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians involves a whole series of actors and social organisations, as well as individuals and the family, society in general and public authorities.
Ethical Obligation Individuals have an ethical obligation to respect traffic regulations and, therefore, they should have knowledge, gained from training aimed at deepening their sense of responsibility. The role of the family in road safety education is clear and vital, and is part of the experience that must be conveyed to children for a good general education.
For its part, society has the obligation and the right to deal with this issue, because it concerns the common good. The term society is used in its wider and diversified meaning, as it encompasses, for example, schools, private companies, clubs, institutions and the press. The term society also means public authorities and civic administration, whose intervention in this field, as in any others, should be governed by the principle of subsidiarity[27].
Prepare Children from an Early Age Among those “passively” concerned by education, children come first. From a very early age they should be prepared to deal with traffic, an environment where they will spend part of their lives, for two fundamental reasons.
Above all, because teaching children how to move in the midst of traffic means giving them the best means for protecting their own lives. Indeed, many children die on the roads each year, and many others, without losing their lives, are left disabled and physically and/or mentally marked for ever. Moreover, road safety education for children is the best way of guaranteeing a safer and more upright future generation.
School is Where Children Learn About Traffic Safety Stress should also be placed on the irreplaceable role of school, which trains and informs. Above all at school children can achieve a lasting grasp of the ethical foundations of traffic problems and the reasons behind traffic regulations. School is where they learn that traffic issues are part of the wider field of the problems of human coexistence, of which the most urgent regards respect for other people. School teaches aware self-restraint in the use and enjoyment of common goods, and is where courtesy and nobility of spirit in human relations should be learnt.
School is the institution to which both the family and the State entrust a very important part of their educational duties. This makes it one of the most powerful and irreplaceable instruments for comprehensive training of the person, and failure to fulfil this duty to provide road safety education would create a dangerous training gap that would be hard to fill.
Driving Schools Have Responsibility for Regulating Driving Tests An important road safety education opportunity is offered to driving licence candidates. This is a specific training phase, of obvious importance, especially if the person concerned has not received any previous road safety education. Driving schools have a great responsibility, as do the public authorities that are responsible for regulating driving tests.
Drivers and Pedestrians Need Training Finally, the large number of road users need training, not only drivers, but also non-driver pedestrians, most of whom have not received adequate road safety education. As many of them are elderly people, they have slower reflexes to deal safely with traffic. Therefore, they are at greater risk of having an accident.
Appeal by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council
As the aggiornamento of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council took place, preceding Church teaching resounded. Realizing the social changes of the 20th century and warning against pure individualism, the Council also drew attention to the traffic issue, in these terms: “Profound and rapid changes make it more necessary that no one ignoring the trend of events or drugged by laziness, content himself with a merely individualistic morality. It grows increasingly true that the obligations of justice and love are fulfilled only if each person, contributing to the common good, according to his own abilities and the needs of others, also promotes and assists the public and private institutions dedicated to bettering the conditions of human life… [However] many in various places even make light of social laws and precepts, and do not hesitate to resort to various frauds and deceptions in avoiding just taxes or other debts due to society. Others think little of certain norms of social life, for example those designed for the protection of health, or laws establishing speed limits; they do not even avert to the fact that by such indifference they imperil their own life and that of others”.
In seeking to respond in an adequate and pastoral fashion to the challenges of the contemporary world, we catch sight here of what is in some ways a vast and renewed field of apostolate, which requires duly trained and active pastoral agents. We are referring, for example, to the expression of pastoral care towards lorry drivers, who transport goods over long distances; car and bus drivers; tourists travelling by road or on trains; those responsible for traffic safety; and filling station attendants and motorway restaurant staff.
This is also a field of new evangelisation, so dear to the heart of Pope John Paul II. This sector also gives rise to an urgent appeal to seek new paths to bring the Gospel onto the routes of the world – road and rail networks – which are new Areopagi for proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ the Saviour.
Pastoral Care of the Road
Urgent Evangelsing Commitment Faced with this urgent evangelising commitment in industrial and technologically advanced society, and also taking developing countries into account, the Church wishes to arouse a renewed awareness of obligations concerning the pastoral care of the road and moral responsibility regarding infringement of highway regulations, in order to prevent as far as possible the fatal consequences that derive from it. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council requests bishops to have “a special concern for those among the faithful who, on account of their way of life, cannot sufficiently make use of the common and ordinary pastoral care of parish priests or a quite cut off from it”[29].
Evangelisation within the Context of the Road
Spread the Message Through Evangelism and Catholic Radio Stations Evangelisation within the context of the road addresses this special area, by facilitating everywhere the advance of the Joyful Proclamation and the administration of the sacraments, spiritual direction, counselling and the religious formation of motorists, road transport professionals, passengers and everyone who is in some way connected to roads and railways.
Joint efforts should be made to raise awareness of the ethical requirements that derive from traffic and support initiatives and commitments aimed at promoting ethical and human values regarding roads and railways, so that mobility may be an element of communion amongst people.
The Gospel message of love applied to the road issue should be spread within society, thereby strengthening travellers’ awareness of their moral obligations, as well as fostering a sense of responsibility in order to ensure compliance with legislation, thus avoiding offences and damages to third parties.
This pastoral care is addressed, in varying degrees, to everyone connected with roads and railways, including not only road users but also people who make their living in this sector. This pastoral care aims to come close to people in their specific environment, to help them coexist in peace, exercise mutual solidarity and unite them with God, thus contributing to bringing this sector more closely in line with the Christian message, and thereby make it more human.
This entails rediscovering and putting into practice the virtues of road use, above all charity, prudence and justice. The media could be very useful in this task, especially radio which also provides good company to travellers.
Catholic Radio Stations should play a more active role in this field, including through songs and non-superficial content, and by taking advantage of its personal training potential.
Bring Religion to the Road Regarding such specific pastoral care, several initiatives already exist in various countries, some of which are truly creative and capable of achieving good concrete results. Such initiatives include chapels (fixed and mobile) along motorways, and periodic celebration of liturgies at major road hubs, motorway restaurants and lorry parks. Other initiatives regard retail outlets for religious items and Christian information centres for travellers and workers at railway and bus stations; meeting places in parishes, on motorways and at borders; and activities arranged by priests and religious and even lay pastoral agents.
Also included are the spiritual care of road transport workers and their families; motorcycle clubs; rallies and similar gatherings, the blessing of vehicles, the European Car Free Day; national, diocesan and parochial celebrations of the Day of those injured on the roads, or of forgiveness; and collaboration with the pastoral care of tourism and of pilgrimages and other human mobility sectors, and with traffic police chaplains, driving schools and so on.
Missionary Ecclesial Awareness Appropriate response to these pastoral challenges also comes under the responsibility of Bishops’ Conferences and the corresponding Structures of Oriental Catholic Churches. Such an apostolate requires a minimum amount of organisation, or at least a national, diocesan/eparchial or local reference point that provides institutional references to the work of this incipient specific pastoral care. It might also be a appropriate to appoint a National Promoter for this pastoral care, and maybe to start, some Diocesan Delegate, entrusting the responsibility of the relative pastoral activity to a priest or a deacon, even if not on a full-time basis.
In any case, this also requires a more missionary ecclesial awareness on the part of the pastoral structures linked to the territory, which is able to imagine and carry out a “pastoral care on the move”, a pastoral care also of mobility, with a view to achieving real and effective integrated pastoral care. Indeed, “the mobility of the pastoral charity of the Church should be corresponding to the mobility of the modern world”[30]. It would be a good idea to hold meetings at various levels of pastoral agents engaged in this specific apostolate of the road, in order to exchange information and experiences that would help to maximise benefits in this field of new evangelisation[31].
Evangelize Mobility and Its Problems? Mobility and its problems – a true sign of the times – which are characteristic of contemporary society throughout the world, today pose an important and pressing challenge for institutions and individuals, as well as for the Church which has a mission in this respect. Believers in the Son of God who became man to save humanity cannot remain indifferent before this new horizon that is opening up for evangelisation, including the integral promotion of each and every person in the name of Jesus Christ.

1 Comment

  • Editor| July 7, 2007 at 6:00 am

    Tom and Ray Magliozzi – the “Car Talk” guys on PBR released their own response to the Church’s Ten Commandments:
    • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s Lexus.
    • Thou shalt never combine convertibles with comb-overs.
    • Thy horsepower shalt not exceed thy IQ.
    • Honor thy service intervals.
    • Thy middle finger shall only be used in conjunction with thy index finger, to indicate “peace”.
    • If thou are going to pick thy nose, for Christ’s sake, make sure no one is looking.
    • Thou shalt not return thy brother’s car on empty.
    • Feed thy meter, except on the Sabbath, lest thee suffer the eternal boot.
    • Thou shalt keepeth thy 17-year old son bound to the slowest and ugliest 1979 Volvo which hath presenteth itself on the list of Craig.

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