Sunday, April 27, 2008

It's Time for GK to Break Away from CFC

In my article, "Quo Vadis, Gawad Kalinga?" (September 21, 2007), I said: "Gawad Kalinga is not just an organization, it's a movement -- an ideal, I must say -- driven by an army of believers: volunteers, advocates, beneficiaries, and benefactors. Indeed, Gawad Kalinga has taken a life of its own. It's scope has expanded to become an all-inclusive humanitarian movement. But does that mean that evangelization cannot be a part of Gawad Kalinga's mission? Sure it can. But not within the context of Couples For Christ. At the end of the day, there is only one way for Gawad Kalinga to go: move forward…on its own."

At the time I wrote the article, Frank Padilla had already formed a breakaway group, the Couples For Christ Foundation for Family and Life (CFC-FFL). However, Gawad Kalinga (GK) remained with CFC. After the split, the two groups went their separate ways and the furor subsided. But underneath the appearance of civility between the two groups, the rivalry between their leaders continued underground, shielded from the scrutiny of the media.

About two weeks ago, a news article written by ABS-CBN News' Carmela Fonbuena titled, "Vatican admonishes Couples for Christ over Gawad Kalinga," struck like a 50-foot tsunami. Fonbuena said, "The Vatican has chastised the Couples for Christ (CFC) group supportive of Gawad Kalinga founder Antonio Meloto for the 'erroneous steps [it has] taken' when it decided to shift focus from the spiritual to the social. The group was instructed to make a public apology." Further, she said, "Central to the concern of the Vatican was the direction taken by CFC-founded social action group Gawad Kalinga (GK). The Vatican disapproved of CFC's 'overemphasis on the social work' and GK's openness to donations from groups that promote artificial family planning."

The basis of Fonbuena's article was a letter dated March 11 sent by Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Laity to CFC President Jose Tale which said that CFC should "counterbalance the overemphasis on social work…" And in regard to donations from entities who promote "artificial family planning" -- specifically, use of condoms -- Cardinal Rylko said, "Your decision to stop receiving this type of funding will help recover the good standing of your association Couples for Christ."

Fonbuena said that Cardinal Rylko's letter was the result of Tale's March 3, 2008 visit to the Vatican, where he "admitted [that] some mistakes have been made and a certain scandal and confusion [was] caused among the faithful."

It is interesting to note what William M. Esposo said in his recent article, "Tony Meloto's sanctification," to wit: "In a September 20, 2007 posting on (website of Frank Padilla's breakaway group), Padilla admitted having sought and talked to Cardinal Rylko. Padilla stated that he went 'to speak with Archbishop Rylko and apprise him of the situation of CFC. That is my responsibility as the one who got our recognition and as the one whose name appears in our recognition.' Now, do you think that Frank Padilla told Cardinal Rylko the whole unvarnished truth or did he try to sell to the Cardinal his slanted version of the controversy?"

If Tale indeed admitted that some "mistakes" were made, then it is presumed that Cardinal Rylko addressed only those "mistakes" admitted by Tale. I believe, however, that if Tale did not go to the Vatican, the rift between CFC and CFC-FFL would have remained underground and the Vatican would have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the imbroglio. In essence, Tale forced Cardinal Rylko to react to his admission that some "mistakes" were made.

So, what now? Before we proceed, let's take a quick look at the history of CFC: In 1993 Padilla together with several others broke away from another Catholic lay organization, the Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon (Joy of the Lord), to form CFC. In 2002, another split occurred when the Families in Christ Jesus (FCJ) was formed by a splinter group within CFC. The organizers of FCJ believed that CFC was veering away from its evangelistic mission when it started raising funds to build homes for the poor. They were of the belief that CFC should not be in the business of fund-raising. At that time, Padilla was the head honcho of CFC. Ironically, it was for the same reason that Padilla formed the CFC-FFL. It's amazing how history repeated itself in so short a time.

I said in "Quo Vadis, Gawad Kalinga?": "The CFC-Gawad Kalinga relationship was like a case of a square peg in a round hole: no matter how you try to fit it in, it won't fit in. Gawad Kalinga simply wouldn't work the way it was conceived or, more appropriately, the way it evolved into what it is today. One can argue that nothing is wrong with what Gawad Kalinga has been doing. Indeed, nation-building is one of the noblest missions to pursue. However, the Couples For Christ is not about building a nation; it is about building the Church. And that was the reason why the Vatican recognized and sanctioned CFC in 2000." It seems that Cardinal Rylko merely reinforced what the Roman Catholic Church is all about.

One of the leaders of FCJ told me: "CFC and GK are both right in their missions. However, the members have to choose between the two missions using their own personal charism." In other words, they have to choose between "winning the souls" and "building communities for the poor."

PerryScope: by Perry Diaz

I believe that it's time for Gawad Kalinga to break away from Couples for Christ and to stand on its own, without any ties -- directly or indirectly -- to the Vatican. By severing its ties with CFC, the Vatican cannot interfere with GK. GK can then work unrestricted with any group. It would then become a true humanitarian movement and in that capacity it can do more "miracles" in uplifting the poorest of the poor, not just in the Philippines but anywhere in the world where GK is needed.

CFC and CFC-FFL could then reconcile and reunite into one cohesive organization, and continue what they were mandated to perform when the Vatican recognized and sanctioned them in 2000. With a reunified -- an reinvigorated -- CFC, it can then extend its evangelical work in Gawad Kalinga villages. CFC and GK can then say that they're building communities for the poor as well as winning their souls. It's a win-win solution and I'm pretty sure the Vatican couldn't be happier.