One of the great challenges facing organized religion is how to remain viable in an increasingly secular and scientifically-oriented society. Toss this in with rampant materialism, church scandals (specifically those of the Catholic Church), and the fringe religious sects that–though the minority–get the majority of media coverage thus effectively tarnishing thoughtful and intellectually rigorous belief systems, and you’ve got a rough row to hoe if you’re set with the task of capturing people’s attention. In other words, there is a sense of organized religion’s failure to meet the contemporary needs in many societies. While Father This-and-That extols the virtues of piety, the eyes of the congregation will gloss over and minds will wander to the evening’s plans unless he can make it meaningful to a contemporary and impatient audience.
This is not like any other profession meant to instill learning on a sometimes resistant or potentially distracted group of people. If Buddha didn’t have awesome stories to get his points across, would he have been as widely admired? If Jesus couldn’t talk to followers in a way they could understand, in a way through which they could see the importance of his message in their own life, Christianity would have had a heck of a time getting off the ground.
So, any religious organization is also its own PR firm of sorts. They are charged not only with maintaining the tenants and doctrine of their specific set of beliefs but also with the daunting task of keeping the message pertinent to their adherents.
Enter Cardinal Retano Martino, head of the Vatican’s office for migrants and itinerents, who released this document which blends core Catholic beliefs with modern realities of driving:
The Vatican’s Ten Commandments for Drivers*
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.
I think this is a great document. It’s good advice, it’s in a form people can relate to quickly and easily, and–most important–it speaks to contemporary issues while adhering to the tradition from which the list came. If Catholicism or any religion is to remain a force in our society (and I think all religions should have a voice in society), then it’s wise to package the message so it has value and meaning in our contemporary, material-driven culture.
Any faith’s main goal ought to be the spiritual, mental, and physical well being of its followers. All three should be addressed in fair measure, and it seems that Cardinal Martino understands this.
Certainly, there are things we could nitpick here, such as, “What exactly does he mean by ‘occasion for sin'”? But that’s not the point just now. The point is that he made an effort to guide Catholics with a set of suggestions which will help them integrate their faith in their day-to-day lives. If a religion can be called as much, it ought to provide guidance in all facets of life, and not just those hot topic issues that cause so much conflict and argument.