David Gibson: The Catholic Church offers some rules for the road

Beneath the drollery, however, was widespread puzzlement as to why the Vatican would be devoting time and resources to such a mundane topic. Doesn’t the Holy See have more serious worries, such as war and famine, and of course the salvation of souls? One explanation is that the document was generated by the Vatican agency headed by Cardinal Renato Martino, a longtime curialist whose flair for the juicy soundbite has periodically irritated his higher-ups.
Yet if this week’s document was not exactly Benedict’s doing, it does reflect a concern the pope has expressed several times. And, as the extensive footnotes in the document show, every pontiff from Pius XII to Pope John Paul II has voiced reservations about the world’s burgeoning car culture. Indeed, it is not much of a leap to see the Vatican’s “Highway Code” as an important amplification of the church’s ethic of life.

According to Steve Koepke, director of the Mississippi-based Sacred Heart Auto League–yes, such a thing exists–vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among Americans from 3 to 33 years old. “I think this document fits quite well within the church’s teachings on the respect for life.” Vatican officials also noted that across the globe vehicular accidents result in 1.2 million deaths and 50 million injuries each year.

Moreover, as Mr. Koepke rightly notes, there is no small virtue in the church addressing itself to matters of everyday life, in the trenches where the battle between faith and fear plays out. “Driving and its dangers and frustrations are something that everyone can relate to,” Mr. Koepke said. In fact, people everywhere, but especially in the U.S., are driving more than ever before, and usually under pressure to arrive ahead of the growing number of other drivers whose very presence makes the longer commute even longer and the likelihood of crashes ever higher. As the Vatican document notes, driving can bring out the “primitive” side of modern man, encouraging a “domination instinct” and reducing interpersonal communication to an exchange of obscene gestures.

Read the whole piece.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

8 comments on “David Gibson: The Catholic Church offers some rules for the road

  1. libraryjim says:

    So the question is no longer “WHAT would Jesus drive” but “HOW would Jesus drive”. Ok.

  2. Fr. Greg says:

    Actually, I think both questions are appropriate.

  3. Mike Bertaut says:

    I have to admit, at first glance my initial reaction was “What the heck has Rome stuck its nose into now???” Upon reading the piece (all 36 pages of the Vatican Issue) and considering what I go through on my 45 minute (one way) commute to work each day, I find myself hoping they elevate the piece to the level of Magisterial Pronouncement and incorporate it’s premises into Canon Law and the Catechism!!! Oh MY, if there is a more tempting opportunity for sin than behind the wheel, I’m having trouble identifying it.

    I especially liked the suggestion of prayer when driving, I catch myself doing this all the time and it’s very calming for me.

  4. Words Matter says:

    The Catholic Church is HUGE… there’s an apostolate for everything and someone’s concerns are going to surface somewhere. I’ve never heard of the Sacred Heart Auto League, but it’s existence is not a surprise.

    Given the prominence of vehicles in society today, this sort of thing isn’t a surprise, if you stop to think about it. And yes, it’s a perfectly valid facet of Catholic social teaching.

  5. libraryjim says:

    I got a little dashboard ‘stick-up’ in the mail from the Sacred Heart Auto League a few months ago. I put it up in my car, but the heat was too much for it, so now it sits in what used to be known as the ‘ashtray’ (now called the accessories tray?).

  6. libraryjim says:

    Fr. Greg,
    At the risk of taking this thread in a new direction, I had a weird thought!
    Jesus would have driven an old converted (no pun intended) school bus, so that He and the disciples would all be able to travel together. It probably would not be yellow, but maybe re-painted, hopefully not psychedelic colors!

  7. Fr. Greg says:

    Hee-hee. Risk accepted. The first thing I thought of, when first reading this story, was the song “Plastic Jesus”. “I don’t care if it rains or freezes, ‘long as I got my plastic Jesus riding on the dashboard of my car”. Now, your comment reminds me of both “Jesus was a Capricorn” and the song “Convoy” by C.W. McCall (can you tell I came of age in the seventies?) which refers to “eleven long-haired friends of Jesus in a chartreuce microbus” who, in the convoy, are placed behind the “suicide jockey” carrying a load of dynamite because “he needs all the help he can get”. :coolsmile:

  8. libraryjim says:

    Fr. Greg,
    Yeah: “I don’t care if things get hairy/ as long as I got magnetic Mary/sittin’ on the dashboard of my car!”

    You forgot “Drop kick me, Jesus, through the goal post of life!” And wasn’t there a song “Would Jesus wear a Rolex”?