19.6.07

The Vatican Cracks Down On Sinning In Your Car!


The Vatican released a 36-PAGE document entitled "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road," causing drivers EVERYWHERE to wonder how it is possible the Church has time to do this. It even includes a 10 Commandments for drivers. Here are some highlights (the numbers correspond to the items in the document, not the Commandments).

"8. Means of transport... may also promote the exercise of Christian virtues -- prudence, patience, charity and helping one's fellow men and women -- in both a spiritual and corporal level. Finally, they may also provide an opportunity to come closer to God, as they facilitate discovery of the beauties of creation, the sign of his boundless love for us."

It's easy for a Roman Catholic bishop writing from the Vatican to speak of beauty. I'm sure the roads surrounding the Vatican don't resemble my commute.


"Travellers' spirits may also be uplifted by contemplating the various religious symbols to be seen along a road or railway. These include churches, bell towers, chapels, column tops, crosses and statues, as well as places of pilgrimage which may now be reached more easily by using modern means of transport."

The most religion I get on my way up to Deerfield are bumpers clad with Jesus-fish stickers and crosses hanging from rearview mirrors in cars surrounding me. It's hard to feel spiritual when a Jesus fish clad bumper cuts you off by 2 centimeters. I did laugh out loud when I honked at this one guy and he gave me the finger. As he was doing so, I read his "HONK IF YOU LOVE GOD" bumper sticker. Classic. Almost as classic as the four fully-habited nuns behind me in the Beemer with the license plate that read "CAPTLSM." In the words of a very sage bumper sticker writer, "Laughter is God's Sunshine."The fact that I'm usually laughing at someone else's idiotic driving habits may not be what God has in mind, but it's better than trying to run the idiots off the road.

"Places of pilgrimage?" In Illionis?? I USED to be able to see the beautiful Techny Towers when I took Waukegan up north. You came 'round a bend and there they were, beckoning in the distance. At least Wisconsin has the Dells. That seems to be a pretty hot pilgrimage site...


The Towers have become more and more occluded by development over the past 10 years since the Church had to start selling her land to pay the lawyer's fees. Seems "We'll handle it. Trust us." was not as good enough an answer to the kids and their families torn apart by priest sexual abuse as boatloads of cash and outright apologies. Thanks to these priests and the bishops who so wisely hid them in other parishes full of even MORE children (Brilliant move. Brilliant. Again, if I believed in hell....) primo Catholic land is being sold by the square mile. Techny sold not only to developers who built lovely gated subdivision hellholes on either side of the beautiful Techny Towers, but they also sold to Crate and Barrel who built their stark white modern monstrosity of a headquarters right across the street in land that was once all green and fieldy.

And it appears a Whole Foods Market is moving in down the street! Nothing inspires spiritual feeling in me like criminally overpriced meat and produce where a beautiful view once lay. Hallelujiah!

"Christ is the Way, He is the Road"

Christ could use some serious resurfacing along McCormick Ave. He's awfully pockmarked, and they keep filling him with that crappy cheap emulsified asphalt.

"19. Those who know Jesus Christ are careful on the roads. They don't only think about themselves, and are not always worried about getting to their destination in a great hurry. They see the people who "accompany" them on the road, each of whom has their own life, their own desire to reach a destination and their own problems. They see everyone as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of God. This is the attitude that characterises a Christian driver."

I do actually catch myself thinking, "hey, these are people in each of these vehicles. Real people." I look around and think each of these cars contains a person (more than one person per car during rush hour would be such a novelty it would cause accidents all over the road). People with their own lives, dreams, aspirations, hopes. This usually occurs at Skokie Blvd. and Lake Ave. in Wilmette when I'm stopped at that light there by the gas station. I call it God's Corner because every time I'm stopped at it I have this thought. That brotherly feeling wears off as soon as the light turns green and the free-for-all for the merge onto the highway begins, and the guy three cars behind me decides he can gun it and get ahead of me.

By the way, I'm not so much worried about rushing to get to my destination on time as I am that the guy in the next lane is thinking that I'm leaving space between me and the car in front of me so he can squeeze in ahead of me at whim. He invariably DOES squeeze into that space. Then I'll leave space behind me and the next guy will squeeze into THAT space. And so on. And so on. I love to speed, don't get me wrong, and I love my space on the road. MY SPACE! MINE!!

"20. It has been shown that one of the roots of many problems relating to traffic is spiritual."

My car can't fly or travel through other cars. I find that a problem.

"21. A vehicle is a means of transport that may be used in a prudent and ethical way, for "coexistence", solidarity and serving others, or it may also be abused."

......WHAT??

"22. When driving a car some people start up the engine to join a race, in order to escape from the troubling pace of everyday life. The pleasure of driving becomes a way of enjoying the freedom and independence that normally we do not have. This also leads to the practice of road sports, cycling, motorcycling and motor racing, in a healthy spirit of competition, even though risks are entailed."

Keep the "competition" to the Nascar track, will ya? And confidential to you motorcyclists - my car is not an orange agility track cone for you to dodge around, and I do NOT want you sharing my lane by driving beside me on the dotted white lines, between me and the car next to me. Get in your lane and the hell away from me. I think you stuntman wannabees are all idiots, and it takes all my power of will not to prove the fact. This means you, Mr. Wheelie-In-The-Right-Lane-
For-Over-A-Mile-During-Rush-Hour guy. I was not so much impressed at the wheelie as the fact that you were still alive. Idiot. Budweiser's Real Men of Genius campaign couldn't do you justice.

"23. Sometimes the prohibitions imposed by road signs may be perceived as restrictions of freedom...."

Damn RIGHT I do!!

"....Especially when unobserved and unmonitored, some people are tempted to infringe such limitations, which are in fact designed to protect them and other people."

I feel pretty protected by the fact that I make sure there are no other people - especially of the cop persuasion - around when I infringe on road signs and their friendly suggestions.

"24. The fact that a driver's personality is different from a pedestrian's personality should be taken into account. When driving a vehicle, special circumstances may lead us to behave in an unsatisfactory and even barely human manner. Let's now consider the principal psychological factors that influence drivers' behaviour."

When I see a driver drive across a crosswalk when a pedestrian is clearly about to cross, MY driver's personality does tend to get a bit inhuman. I tend to try to make up for his rudeness by stopping for an extra-long time, you know, to let the guys behind me know that stopping is the right thing to do.

Then I track the guy who ran the crosswalk. Sometimes I go out of my WAY to glare at him to my satisfaction. And if he gives me an excuse to honk at him *BEAM!!!!!* Oh, JOY!!!! What a feeling.

"25. The domination instinct, or the feeling of arrogance, impels people to seek power in order to assert themselves. Driving a car provides an easy opportunity to dominate others. Indeed, by identifying themselves with their car, drivers enormously increase their own power. This is expressed through speed and gives rise to the pleasure of driving. This makes drivers wish to experience the thrill of speed, a typical manifestation of their increased power."

I do not identify myself by my car, but by the fact that I'm a better driver than everyone else on the road.

Speed, by the way, Mr Bishop Guy, is not a "typical" manifestation. Ask the million people on the road in front of me slowing me down.

"The free availability of speed, being able to accelerate at will, setting out to conquer time and space, overtaking, and almost "subjugating" other drivers, turn into sources of satisfaction that derive from domination."

...okay I'm guilty of that, especially on the expressway. I LOVE passing other cars. Love love LOVE it. But you won't see me weaving in and out of traffic to do so, oh no. Wastes too much gas, and I can't focus on my iPod! GET OUT OF THE LEFT LANE!!! MY LANE!! MINE MINE MINE!!!

By the way, "setting out to conquer time and space".... what am I, a Time Lord? AWESOME!!! GET OUT OF MY LANE! I'M A TIME LORD!!! MY LANE!!! MINE MINE MINE!!!

"Vanity and personal glorification"

uh oh.

"26. Cars particularly lend themselves to being used by their owners to show off, and as a means for outshining other people and arousing a feeling of envy. People thus identify themselves with their cars and project assertion of their egos onto them. When we praise our cars we are, in fact, praising ourselves, because they belong to us and, above all, we drive them. Many motorists, including the not so young, boast with great pleasure of records broken and high speeds achieved, and it is easy to see that they cannot stand being considered as bad drivers, even though they may acknowledge that they are."

*WHEW!* I thought he was going to say something about applying mascara and curling my hair at 75 MPH! Let's just say, you won't hear me bragging about my bitchin' hot Honda Civic sedan with the dodgy shocks, except to say maybe once in a while that IT GOT ME THERE ALIVE! I didn't think it would happen, but IT GOT ME THERE ALIVE!

I rarely speed anymore - especially in our friendly neighborhood states of Michigan and Indiana...And Tennesee....And Wisconsin....because every time I do it costs me a ticket. Every. Time. Must be my bitchin' wheels! I'm obviously a testosterone-ridden MENACE OF THE ROAD! FEAR ME! *rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrchugchugsputterrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr*

My husband has played a major role in slowing me down. He cranes his head over to see the speedometer, leans back, looks at me and make a dry comment about my speed, usually something along the lines of "the speed limit's 45" when I'm going, say, 86. My mom used to do the same thing, only she'd exclaim, "We're going THAT fast! Wow! I had no idea! What a smooth ride!" Not quite as effective. In fact, usually I'd respond by popping the speed up even MORE to show her how smooth 96 was!

"Unbalanced behaviour and related consequences"

Uh-oh.

"27. Unbalanced behaviour varies according to individuals and circumstances, and may include impoliteness, rude gestures, cursing, blasphemy, loss of sense of responsibility, or deliberate infringement of the Highway Code. For some drivers, the unbalanced behaviour is expressed in insignificant ways, whilst in others it may produce serious excesses that depend on character, level of education, an incapacity for self-control and the lack of a sense of responsibility."

...I am so guilty of this. But I have to get it out before I get to work, or I'll lose my job. Nothing personal you !#!@ing $%^@$ of a *&^@#$* who honked at me when I was waiting for a pedestrian to cross the @#*&$#^$ing street you @&&hole!!!! Nothing personal.

"29. ...Cars tend to bring out the "primitive" side of human beings, thereby producing rather unpleasant results."

I have yet to see anyone flinging poop out their window. Good thing, too. If they wanna start that game, we've got plenty of dog owners who don't clean up after their precious pets. I'm just saying, you might not want to start that game. Not with me.

"We need to take these dynamics into account and react by appealing to the noble tendencies of the human spirit, to a sense of responsibility and self-control, in order to prevent manifestations of the psychological regression that is often connected to driving a means of transport."
"Noble tendencies?" He IS saying I'm a Time Lord!! WOOHOO!! Get in the Tardis, Romana! We've gotta regress!

"IV. Moral aspects of driving"

....? I have never morally degraded my car. That's just sick. I've never even had an impure thought about asphalt.

"Driving means coexisting"

No, I drive myself so I don't HAVE to coexist. If I wanted to coexist I'd take the train.

"30. Coexistence is a fundamental aspect of human beings and roads should therefore be more human. Motorists are never alone when they are driving, even when no one is sitting beside them."

NOW who's suffering the psychological problems, Mr. Man?

"Driving a vehicle is basically a way of relating with and getting closer to other people, and of integrating within a community of people."

See my previous comment about taking the train. And for the record, even on the TRAIN I'd have a book, specifically so I wouldn't have to get closer to other people. I can stay far far away from them, even if they're sitting on half my seat, or using my shoulder for a pillow.

"This capacity for coexistence, of entering into relations with others, presupposes certain specific qualities in a driver: namely self-mastery, prudence, courtesy, a fitting spirit of service and knowledge of the Highway Code. Selfless assistance should also be provided to those who need it, by giving an example of charity and hospitality."

"Entering relations with others." I don't really tend to do that on the road... I did sing Nazareth's "Hair of the Dog" ("NOW YOU'RE MESSING WITH A SON OF A BITCH!") to a truck load of construction crew types once (they sang along with me. My cheapie Civic radio is surprisingly loud!) I've also yelled "TURN OFF YOUR BLINKER..." followed by the latter half of that same Nazareth lyric to many MANY people in the left lane who'd had their right blinkers on for over 17 miles.

"Driving means controlling oneself"

I have to exercise this one every. Time. I get into my car.

31. A person's behaviour is characterised by the capacity to control and master oneself, and not be carried away by impulses. The responsibility for cultivating this capacity for self-control and mastery is important, both in terms of a driver's psychology and the serious damage that may be caused to the life and wellbeing of persons and goods in case of accident.

The fact that I have not killed a showboating motorcyclist proves that I've got this one covered. Day by day. I get through it day by day.

34. The duty to protect goods may be compromised not only by careless driving, but also by not maintaining a vehicle or means of transport in safe mechanical order, by neglecting periodic technical check-ups. The duty to have vehicles serviced should be respected.

I don't remember where in the Bible this came from...The book of Vehicle Maintenance?

35. There are also cases of driving when physically or mentally incapacitated, under the influence of alcohol and other stimulants or drugs, or in a state of exhaustion or somnolence. Danger also derives from citycars, which are driven by youngsters and adults who do not have driving licences, and the reckless use of motorbikes and motorcycles.

I think it's pretty telling that "motorcycles," "reckless" and "mentally incapacitated" are used in the same rule.
"43. The Church's teaching on these issues is very clear."

Again, where, exactly, in the Bible...? I musta skipped that CCD class.


47. "... The gravest sins against human life, deriving from the Fifth Commandment, are suicide and murder..."

That was about the most interesting line in this 36-page document. I didn't realize suicide ranked up with murder, but I guess it makes sense.

V. The Christian virtue of drivers and their "Ten Commandments"

Here we go!

49. Back in 1956 Pope Pius XII exhorted motorists: "Do not forget to respect other road users, be courteous and fair with other drivers and pedestrians and show them your obliging nature. Pride yourselves in being able to master an often natural impatience, in sometimes sacrificing a little of your sense of honour so that the courteousness that is a sign of true charity may prevail. Not only will you thus be able to avoid unpleasant accidents, but you will also help to make the car a more useful tool for yourselves and others that is capable of giving you a more genuine pleasure"

And then he stepped into a limo to chat with Hitler. I can't believe they want to canonize this guy.

"50. ...show "proof of courtesy and charity, by giving way with an understanding attitude to the awkward manoeuvres of learner drivers, paying attention to the elderly, children, cyclists and pedestrians and controlling themselves in the case of infractions committed by other people."

What are they doing all over the road??? Get them off the road!!! Except for the "learner drivers." They're SO fun to mess with!

"51. The exercise of charity by drivers has a dual dimension. The first regards looking after one's vehicle, which means making sure that it is safe from a technical point of view, so as not to knowingly put one's own or other people's lives at risk. Taking care of one's vehicle also means not expecting more from it than it is able to give."

Book of Vehicle Maintenance, Chapter 4, Verse 12.

"The second dimension regards love of travellers whose lives should not be endangered by incorrect and careless manoeuvres that may cause harm to both passengers and pedestrians. The word "love" is used here to mean the many forms taken by genuine charity, namely respect, courtesy, consideration, etc. Good drivers courteously give way to pedestrians, are not offended when overtaken, allow someone who wishes to drive faster to pass and do not seek revenge."

I would be TOTALLY offended if I were overtaken by a pedestrian, and I probably would seek revenge.

58. Whilst God is the rock of Christian hope, Catholic devotion has found many intercessors before Him, His and our true friends, the Angels and Saints of God, to whom we entrust ourselves to surpass the dangers of the journey, by divine grace. We recall Saint Christopher (Christ's Bearer), the presence of the Guardian Angel, and the Archangel Raphael who accompanied Tobias (Tobias 5:1 ff.), whom the Church regards as the protector of travellers. Also significant are the titles given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in relation to travelling. Indeed, we invoke her as the Madonna of the Way, the Pilgrim Virgin, icon of the migrant woman.

I don't trust any saint who's had his saintship revoked to get me anywhere safely. I trust my driving.

59. Resorting to our Heavenly Intercessors should not make us forget the importance of the sign of the cross, to be made before setting out on a journey. With this sign we put ourselves directly under the protection of the Holy Trinity. Indeed, this directs us above all to the Father, as origin and destination. In this regard, we recall the words of the psalm: "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways" (Psalms 91 [90]:11).

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh, I won't be putting my money on this one. I think I'll stick to driving safely instead.

I'm very glad they specified BEFORE setting out on a journey. Isn't crossing one's self and praying while driving in traffic as dangerous than yabbering on a cell phone? In either case your talking to someone invisible. I think the Vatican should do a study.

The sign of the cross thus entrusts us to our guide, Jesus Christ (cf. John 8:12). The Emmaus encounter (cf. Luke 24:13-35) reassures us that the Lord meets everyone along the road, lodges in the houses of those who invite him, travels with us and sits beside us.

"...lodges in the houses of those who invite him" ...waaaaaaaaaaaaaait a minute! Is the Lord a vampire???

Maybe the Lord feels safe staying at people's houses along my journey, but I'd sooner sleep in my car hidden in a ditch than trust a stranger who offered me a bed for the night.

60. During a journey it is also beneficial to pray vocally, especially taking turns with our fellow travellers in reciting the prayers, as when reciting the Rosary[26] which, due to its rhythm and gentle repetition, does not distract the driver's attention.

It will however, put you to sleep. Singing along with David Bowie and The White Stripes puts me in a fantastic frame of mind and their spunky lyrics, mingled with the breeze coming in through the open driver's side window guarantee keeping me awake and alert. And I won't frighten my passengers. Or myself.

This will help to feel immersed in the presence of God, to stay under his protection, and may also give rise to a desire for communal or liturgical celebration,

I can't wait to start group prayer groups up and down the Edens during my commute.

...if possible at "spiritually strategic" points along the road or railway (shrines, churches and chapels, including mobile ones).

In addition to yelling to my fellow drivers, I can also chase down mobile churches! Cool! It would probably just be easier (and my voice won't become as hoarse) if I just turn my Honda into a shrine. Can it have a David Bowie theme?

Drivers' "Ten Commandments"

Here we go!

61. In any case, with the request for motorists to exercise virtue, we have drawn up a special "decalogue" for them, in analogy with the Lord's Ten Commandments. These are stated here below, as indications, considering that they may also be formulated differently.

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.


VI. 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
.

These commandments are pretty lame compared to the originals, really. What about "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's bitchin' Mercedes 300SLK? Now THAT's something I need to work on. Maybe it's my background in testing, but I think #V could be written better. Sounds like you shouldn't express power and domination, but you should sin instead....? Seems it would be awfully dangerous to sin while driving. Except maybe impure thoughts. And even those would be dangerous for Shannon if I found out they weren't about me. Heeeeeeeeeeeey, just why is it he doesn't drive....???

63. It is quite common when accidents occur to blame the state of the road surface, a mechanical problem or environmental conditions.

See my earlier comment about McCormick road.

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.

We're at #79 and they finally say something important. Unfortunately, the stupid and arrogant drivers aren't reading this document, whereas my not-so-stupid and arrogant ass is. Perhaps I should start sending license plate numbers to the Vatican so Ratzy's gang of inquisitor thugs can track them down and excommunicate them.

80. 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.

I'm pretty sure the road itself will be the only one to listen to anyone joyfully evangelicizing and proclaiming out his or her car window.

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.

Traffic - ethically you should move along at a steady pace and not back up. Your jams and delays are causing the value of life of me and everyone on the road around me to decline.

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.

The only roads I "love" are through pristine forests and along beautiful vistas; through open countryside, etc. Again, maybe the guy who wrote this has the most beautiful commute through Italy, but I have to look at billboards for casinos and "gentleman's clubs." Maybe you should be addressing this brilliant piece of literature not to drivers in general but, I don't know, maybe to, say, people who have the power and wealth and clout to beautify the roads. Seems to me that a beautiful drive, even if there's a ton of traffic, will promote a more brotherly, friendly outlook. Da Mayor will be expecting your e-mail.

81. 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.

YEAH! Shut the talk show hosts the hell up. They are NOT good company. Oh. My. God. Inane chatter + commercials - good music + stupid on-air pranks and stunts + NPR fundraising campaigns = RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Church should really, along with the beautification of streets, promote the PodFreq. I can listen to the music on my iPod through my radio, and only tune in for traffic updates. It is almost scary how, in rush hour traffic, my blood pressure shoots up to almost normal the second I turn off my iPod and tune into a radio station.

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.

I think you should probably stay away from radio stations, Catholic Church. I really don't think hearing the latest on what Ratzy said about abortion and those who support it, modern music, premarital sex, women, homosexuals - basically anything he says aside from his support of countries accepting refugees who seek help. Unless you only broadcast in Latin. That would sound cool, and since I'd have no idea what he was saying it may even be soothing. Until my mom translated it for me, then it would be even worse than Eric and Kathy in the Morning.

82. ...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.

I'm gonna have my Honda blessed. Couldn't hurt!

PART TWO
PASTORAL MINISTRY FOR THE LIBERATION OF STREET WOMEN

Uh, nice segue?

I have no smart comments about this section, other than it should be a separate paper. I want to applaud the Church for publishing this section, and for raising awareness on the violence and exploitation against women that is still so prevalent in our society.

85. "Customers" approach street women from their cars, which may even be where the trading of their bodies takes place. Pastoral care of the street should examine these situations, which are unfortunately common, and pay special attention to people who "live" in the streets.

86. The teaching of Pope John Paul II, which condemns the exploitation of women, encourages this pastoral commitment: "Then too, when we look at one of the most sensitive aspects of the situation of women in the world, how can we not mention the long and degrading history, albeit often an 'underground' history, of violence against women in the area of sexuality? At the threshold of the Third Millennium we cannot remain indifferent and resigned before this phenomenon. The time has come to condemn vigorously the types of sexual violence which frequently have women for their object and to pass laws which effectively defend them from such violence. Nor can we fail, in the name of the respect due to the human person, to condemn the widespread hedonistic and commercial culture which encourages the systematic exploitation of sexuality and corrupts even very young girls into letting their bodies be used for profit".

87. Pope Benedict XVI teaches that female prostitution could be considered as one of the forms of trafficking in human beings with these precise words: "Trafficking in human beings -- especially women -- … flourishes where opportunities to improve their standard of living or even to survive are limited. It becomes easy for the trafficker to offer his own 'services' to the victims, who often do not even vaguely suspect what awaits them. In some cases there are women and girls who are destined to be exploited almost like slaves in their work, and not infrequently in the sex industry, too. Though I cannot here closely examine the analysis of the consequences of this aspect of migration, I make my own the condemnation voiced by John Paul II against 'the widespread hedonistic and commercial culture which encourages the systematic exploitation of sexuality' (Letter to Women, 29 June 1995, no.5). This outlines a whole programme of redemption and liberation from which Christians cannot withdraw"[33].

I. Some key points

Prostitution is a form of slavery

88. Prostitution is a form of modern slavery, which may also affect men and children. Unfortunately, it has to be noted that the number of prostitutes in the world has risen dramatically, due to a set of complex economic, social and cultural reasons. First of all, it is important to recognise that sexual exploitation and prostitution linked to people trafficking are acts of violence, which constitute an offence to human dignity and a serious violation of fundamental rights.

89. It should also be taken into account that, in many cases, the women involved in prostitution have experienced violence and sexual abuse since childhood. They are drawn into prostitution by the hope of obtaining sufficient means for looking after themselves and their families, the need to deal with debts or the decision to abandon situations of poverty in their countries of origin, thinking that work offered abroad may change their lives. The sexual exploitation of women is clearly a consequence of various unjust systems.

90. Many prostitutes in the so-called developed world come from poor countries, and in Europe, as elsewhere, many have fallen victim to people traffickers to meet a growing demand from sex "consumers".

Migration, people trafficking and human rights

91. The link between migration, people trafficking and rights is defined in the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children[34].

People who emigrate to deal with the necessities of life and the victims of people trafficking share many aspects of vulnerability, but significant differences also exist between migration, people trafficking and smuggling. Women that are indebted and unemployed as a result of macro-development policies who emigrate to survive and help their families or communities are in a very different situation from female victims of people trafficking.

92. In order to develop an effective pastoral response it is important to know which factors drive or draw women into prostitution, the strategies brokers and exploiters use to keep them under their control, the routes they take from their countries of origin to reach the countries of destination and the institutional resources that are required to deal with the problem. The international community and many non-governmental organisations increasingly seek to tackle criminal activities and protect the victims of people trafficking, by developing a wide range of initiatives to prevent the phenomenon and rehabilitate its victims in terms of social integration.

Who are the victims of prostitution?

93. The victims of prostitutions are human beings, who in many cases cry out for help, to be freed from slavery, because selling one's own body on the street is usually not what they would voluntarily choose to do. Of course, each person has a different story to tell, but a common thread of violence, abuse, mistrust and low self-esteem, as well as fear and lack of opportunities, runs through them. They all bear deep wounds that need healing, whilst they seek relationships, love, security, affection, self-assertion and a better future for themselves and their families.

Who are the "customers"?

94. The customers too are people with deeply rooted problems, and in a certain sense are also slaves. Most of them are over 40. However, a growing number of young people, aged between 16 and 24, are among the "customers". Also on the increase is the number of men looking for prostitutes, more to dominate them than for sexual satisfaction. In social and personal relations, such people experience a loss of power and "masculinity" and are unable to develop relations of mutual respect. These men seek out prostitutes for an experience of total domination and control over a woman, even though only for a short period of time.

95. The "customers" need help in solving their most intimate problems and in finding suitable ways of directing their sexual tendencies. "Buying sex" does not resolve the problems that arise primarily from frustration and lack of authentic relationships, and from the loneliness that characterises so many life situations today. An effective measure towards cultural change with respect to prostitution could derive from associating criminal law with social condemnation.

96. In many cases, relationships between men and women are not on an equal footing, because violence, or the threat of it, gives men privileges and power that may make women silent and passive. Women and children are often driven onto the street, or drawn to it, by the violence they have suffered from men in their homes, who in turn have "internalised" models of violence linked to ideologies which have crystallized in the social structures. It is particularly sad to note the participation of women in oppression and violence done to other women within criminal networks linked to prostitution.

II. The Church's duty

Promoting the dignity of the person

97. The Church has a pastoral responsibility to defend and promote the human dignity of persons exploited by prostitution and to advocate for their liberation, even providing economic, educational and formational support for this purpose.

A multi-dimensional approach

102. A multi-dimensional approach is needed to carry out ecclesial action to liberate street women. This should involve both men and women and place human rights at the centre of all strategies.

103. Men have an important role to play in working towards the achievement of sexual equality, in a context of reciprocity and fair differences. The exploiters (usually male "customers", traffickers, sex tourists, etc.) need to be enlightened regarding the hierarchy of the values of life and human rights. They should also consider the Church's clear condemnation of their sins and the injustice they commit. This is also valid for homosexual and transsexual trade.

104. Bishops' Conferences, and the corresponding Structures in Oriental Catholic Churches, in countries where prostitution is widespread, as a result of people trafficking, should condemn this social evil. It is also necessary to promote respect, understanding, compassion and an attitude of abastaining from judging -- in the right sense -- women who have fallen into the network of prostitution.

Bishops, priests and pastoral agents should be encouraged to tackle this slavery from a pastoral point of view, in ecclesial ministry. Religious congregations should also seek to focus on the power of their institutions and join forces to inform, educate and act.

105. All pastoral initiatives should concentrate on the Christian values of mutual respect and healthy family and community relations, as well as on the need for balance and harmony in interpersonal relations between men and women.

The various projects aimed at assisting the repatriation and social reintegration of women who are prisoners of prostitution are also in urgent need of adequate financial support. Meetings should take place of religious associations that operate in various parts of the world for the purposes of such assistance and liberation.

With regards to "clients", it is vital for the clergy to get involved in and give support to both the formation of young people -- especially men -- and the complex action of human rapport, formation and spiritual guidance.

106. Full cooperation should take place between public and private organisations to bring about the elimination of sexual exploitation.

Collaboration is also needed with social communication media in order to ensure correct information on this extremely serious problem. The Church would like to see the presentation and application of laws that protect women from the evil of prostitution and people trafficking, and it is also important that it does its utmost to achieve effective measures against humiliating portrayals of women in advertising.

Finally, Christian communities should be encouraged to collaborate with national and local authorities to help street women find alternative means of making a living.

III. Rehabilitation of women and "customers"

107. From pastoral relations with victims, it is evident that "treating" them is a long and difficult process. Street women need to be helped to find accommodation, and a family and community atmosphere in which they feel accepted and loved, and where they may start to rebuild their lives and futures. This enables them to regain respect and self-esteem, the joy of being alive and to start a new life without feeling they are being pointed at.

The liberation and social reintegration of street women require acceptance and understanding from the community, whilst the road to recovery of these women is smoothed by genuine love and the offer of various opportunities aimed at satisfying their need for security, achievement and a better life. The treasure of faith (cf. Matthew 6:21), if it is still alive within them despite everything, or its rediscovery, will help them enormously, as it has the power of the goodness and certainty of the love of God, who is merciful and great in love.

108. Potential "customers", on the other hand, need enlightenment regarding the respect and dignity of women, interpersonal values and the whole sphere of relationships and sexuality. In a society in which money and "wellbeing" are ideals, adequate relations and sexual education are necessary for the comprehensive formation of people. This type of education should illustrate the true nature of interpersonal relations based not on selfish interest and exploitation, but rather on the dignity of the person, which should be respected and appreciated, above all as the image of God (cf. Genesis 1:27). In this context, believers should bear in mind that sin is an offence against the Lord, to be avoided with all one's might, entrusting oneself with confidence to the action of Divine Grace.

Education and research

109. It is important to study the problem of prostitution with a Christian vision of life. This is to be done with groups of youngsters in schools, parishes and families with a view to developing correct judgements regarding human and Christian relations, respect, dignity, human rights and sexuality.

Formators and educators should take account of the cultural context in which they operate, but should not let an inappropriate sense of embarrassment prevent them from engaging in appropriate dialogue on these issues, in order to raise awareness and instil due concern regarding the abuse of sexuality.

110. The cause of violence in families and its effect on women should be considered and studied at all levels of society, especially regarding their impact on family life. The practical consequences of "internalised" violence should be clearly identified, regarding both men and women.

111. Education and growth of awareness are vital in tackling injustice in relations between the sexes and creating equality between them, in a context of reciprocity, and taking account of rightful differences. Both men and women need to become aware of sexual exploitation and know their rights and relative responsibilities.

For men, in particular, initiatives should be proposed that deal with the issues of violence against women, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, paternity and the family in relation to respect and charity towards women and young girls, via reciprocal relations, and an examination that includes fair criticism of those traditional customs linked to masculinity.

Catholic Social Teaching

112. The Church should teach and spread its social doctrine, which lays down clear behavioural guidelines and encourages fighting for justice[36]. Committing oneself at various levels -- local, national and international -- for the liberation of prostitutes is therefore a true act of a disciple of Jesus Christ, an expression of authentic Christian love (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:3). It is vital to develop people's Christian and social awareness through preaching the Gospel of salvation, catechetical teaching and various formational initiatives.

Special fformation aimed at seminarians, young religious and priests is also needed so that they may have the appropriate skills and attitudes to be priests, with genuine love, of women who are prisoners of prostitution and of their "customers".

IV. Liberation and redemption

Giving aid and evangelisation

113. The Church may provide a wide variety of services to the victims of prostitution, including: housing, reference points, medical and legal assistance, advisors, vocational training, education, rehabilitation, defence and information campaigns, protection from threats, links with families, assistance with voluntary return and reintegration in their countries of origin, and help with obtaining visas when return to their country of origin turns out to be impossible.

Above and beyond these services, the encounter with Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan and Saviour, is a decisive factor of liberation and redemption, including for the victims of prostitution (cf. Mark 16:16; Acts 2:21; 4:12; Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:11; and 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

114. Approaching street women and girls, in order to redeem them, is a complex and demanding undertaking, which also entails activities aimed at prevention and raising awareness of the problem in the countries of origin, transit and destination of the women who are victims of trafficking.

2 comments:

Shannon said...

I think blogger just had to buy a new server to hold this blog entry. :)

"34. The duty to protect goods may be compromised not only by careless driving, but also by not maintaining a vehicle or means of transport in safe mechanical order, by neglecting periodic technical check-ups. The duty to have vehicles serviced should be respected.

I don't remember where in the Bible this came from...The book of Vehicle Maintenance?"

Heeeeey! What are you, some kind of closet Protestant?!!? You're appealling to the BIBLE? Why not start chanting "solo scriptura" while you're at it?

I plan to write the Pope and ask him to pray for your soul.

Rev Transit said...

I'm sure it makes a husband mighty proud when the little woman comes up with a rant of this length.

I'm looking forward to that Boston to Maine drive.