Vatican ‘corrects’ Couples for Christ’s ‘GK’ focus
By Jeannette Andrade
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:38:00 04/18/2008
MANILA, Philippines—The Vatican merely intended to guide and correct Gawad Kalinga’s “overemphasis on social work” when it sent a letter to Couples for Christ (CFC) chiding it for its “erroneous steps,” according to an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, chair of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on the Laity, Thursday told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the Vatican had the authority and duty to remind and guide lay groups.
He said he did not think that the letter from the Vatican referring to Gawad Kalinga—a social action group that was founded by the CFC and which has become hugely successful in building homes for the poor—was an admonition.
“It is more of a guidance, a correction. It is merely correcting the overemphasis on social work. It is correcting receiving funds from pharmaceutical companies [who support or manufacture contraceptives]. It is saying, stop acting like that,” he said.
The bishop was asked to comment on a report on the ABS-CBN website that said the CFC had been chastised by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity in a March 11 letter to the CFC president, Jose Tale.
In that letter, the Vatican noted Gawad Kalinga’s purported shift of focus from the spiritual to the social, as well as its willingness to receive donations from companies that promoted artificial family planning.
Giving ‘too little’
According to Reyes, the letter carried a quote from Pope Benedict XVI that said: “Whoever does not give God, gives too little.”
“That’s before the part where it says CFC should counterbalance the overemphasis on social work,” the bishop said, adding:
“Overemphasis on social work is not good when you are already neglecting your relationship with Christ.”
Reyes further said the CFC had always been against artificial family planning but that Gawad Kalinga had been receiving funds from companies manufacturing contraceptives.
“If you do that, you are forgetting Christian values,” Reyes said.
“You can always work with everyone—Muslims, Buddhists—but still not forget Christian values. We can remain Christians. We should not forget our Christian values,” he said.
He added that when he discussed the letter with some CFC leaders, they assured him that they would abide by the Vatican guidance.
Asked if the Gawad Kalinga had placed the CFC in a bad light, Reyes answered in the negative.
He said the letter was probably intended to prevent a similar conflict from occurring in other CFC organizations in other countries.
That conflict had actually resulted in a split between Antonio Meloto and his group and the breakaway group led by CFC founder Frank Padilla.
The letter from the Vatican appears to be taking the side of Padilla’s group, which had protested Meloto’s style of managing Gawad Kalinga.
Together with Padilla, Meloto, received the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Leadership. He said his organization would continue to serve the poor and the country.
“Our work is nation-building,” he said, adding that Gawad Kalinga had the support of more than 350 partner-corporations.
“We do not judge politicians as corrupt. We engage them in our work. We are a divided country already in terms of politics, religion. We want to unite everyone through our work,” he said.
Meloto stressed that he was a devout Catholic and remained an active member of the CFC. “But I am more focused on nation-building, in our work at Gawad Kalinga,” he said.
Asked to comment on the letter from the Vatican, CFC president Jose Tale cut short a phone interview with the Inquirer, saying: “We (CFC officers and members) are preparing a statement … We will be discussing that … We already came out with a paid ad on April 7.”
That advertisement merely reiterated the mission of the organization and its four core values—pro-God, pro-family, pro-life, and pro-poor.
It stated: “We will continue to pursue the work for the poor through Gawad Kalinga and our social ministries. Gawad Kalinga is an integral part of our life and mission resulting from our spiritual growth and our commitment to God to love the poor.
“We will continue to defend, protect and promote life in accordance with the guidelines set by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. We sincerely apologize for any scandal that the Couples for Christ leadership, past or present, may have caused among the faithful with our previous partnerships.”
“We will do our mission in full communion with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and in observance of the statutes of Couples for Christ as a private international association of the faithful as approved by Pontifical Council for the laity.”
Limit on donations
“We will continue to welcome back our brethren who have left the community and help promote the spirit of our brotherhood and reconciliation.”
Asked whether the CFC would move to impose limitations on the donations to be received by Gawad Kalinga, Tale merely said the matter was part of the discussion among CFC officials.
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Suffice to say, that's it in a nutshell. Thank you Bishop Gabby, for debunking the other article. That's exactly what we needed and expected from the spiritual adviser of CFC. In basketball terms, we call it, "GREAT D!"
Have a great weekend my friends, it has been exciting. A safe and blessed trip to those going out of town, you know who you are. Subic will be a holy and happy place this weekend.
My greetings to all in HOLD, have a great event and God Bless you all.