When the Vatican released “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road” — a kind of Ten Commandments of driving that instructs Catholics to incorporate religious morals into their daily commutes — it became a subject of international interest and, in some cases, ridicule.
Locally, however, the guidelines’ message has, for the most part, fallen on deaf ears.
Julia Harmon, a junior at MU, was just one of many local Catholics who said they had no knowledge of the care of the road guidelines. “I haven’t heard anything about these commandments,” she said. “I haven’t read them.”
The organization that perhaps has been the most receptive to the release of the guidelines has no official religious affiliations. “Any help that we can get from any group, be that religious or not, we are grateful for,” said Capt. Tim Hull of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
The guidelines were issued by Cardinal Renato Martino of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. In the past, Martino has embraced such controversial issues as support for genetically modified foods. He has also urged Catholics to stop donating to Amnesty International because the organization supports abortion rights, according to The Associated Press.
When Martino expressed his disapproval with the United States for its role in the execution of Saddam Hussein, a senior Vatican official stressed that the cardinal was expressing his personal opinion and not that of the pope.
“It is not as the news has reported,” said the Rev. Mark Saucier of the Diocese of Jefferson City. “One cardinal who works in the Vatican issued it. It’s not any kind of mandate.”
Indeed, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops declined to publish the guidelines for dioceses in the United States, said Sister Mary Anne Walsh, the conference’s director of media relations.
“It’s such an unfortunate thing that this is something that the media has picked up on,” Saucier said. “The Vatican releases many other documents about world issues like war and poverty that the media does not cover.”
The guidelines, which are broken down into four sections, do encompass more than 10 ways to be more civil on the highways.
The first section examines the phenomenon of human mobility, which has become increasingly dangerous as more people and goods are moved from place to place. The guidelines reflect the Vatican’s recognition of these growing dangers, because travel is, “rooted in the Word of God.” Followers are instructed to value others above themselves while on the road.
Less discussed in recent accounts of the guidelines is the second section, which focuses on the connection between the roadways and prostitution. As described in the document, “‘customers’ approach women from their cars, which may even be where the trading of their bodies take place. Pastoral care of the street should examine these situations, which are unfortunately common.” The exploitation of women is viewed by the church to be a form of slavery and is of significant concern due to increasing numbers of sexually transmitted diseases. The guidelines instruct followers to care and give shelter to such persons.
The final two sections cover issues related to the poor and the homeless, including runaways, youth prostitutes and immigrants who are forced to seek refuge in the streets. Yet again, followers are asked to offer their homes and their support to those in need.
The Rev. Jeremy Secrist of Columbia’s Our Lady of Lourdes Church said that more people should take a look at the guidelines because they touch on universal themes of humanity and responsibility toward others.
“I think that the Holy Father was trying to express that we all need to have a reminder to have a sense of charity, and prudence and justice,” Secrist said. “We need to have a sense that life is not just a rat race.”