I had an entry lined up to address Bishop Tobias' letter to the IC, but I think I'll just maybe share my thoughts with you all tonight.
There's a short back story to this so bear with me please. I had been working on a "gift" that I've been meaning to give the CFC Home Office/Center for quite sometime now, but it was only recently that I figured out how to put it together properly and cohesively. If you read the response by the MMC in this entry, you'll see that the home office has had some issues in communicating with its database of leaders and members because the person in charge joined the FFL. I encountered this verse during my search for a solution for that:
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. - Isaiah 2:4
Obviously, you can all read into this however you want, but it particularly struck me in how it relates to what we are doing now - and by we, I mean us the IDOTRCFC bloggers, and the Easter Group. It made me think about the over all effect (global effect, if you may) caused by the CFC split and the subsequent, very public, tit-for-tat exchange it has generated.
Those of you with marketing backgrounds like me will know what I'm saying here: Image is everything. Customers are won first by the image of the product, then you retain them through the quality of the service you provide. That's why companies spend millions of pesos/dollars on advertising that on the surface looks quite pointless at first, but subconsciously strengthens the brand image. That applies to things tangible and material like clothing and other goods, but also to intangible items like certain services, and in our case faith.
What am I getting at, you may ask. Well, if I was to look at this situation from a strictly marketing perspective, I would first give you numbers.
As of this minute:
I've written 160 entries, garnering
This blog has had 522,000 page views, this month alone has over 65,000.
Of that, if you scroll to the very bottom of this page, you'll see that close to 180,000 are unique visitors.
Now what do those numbers mean? To a marketing man tasked with protecting a brand, I would have quit my job already. Why?
Both the CFC and FFL have at their core a mutual goal of evangelization:
Taken from CFC's official site:
Couples for Christ is a work of Christ which raises up Christian couples and establishes Christian families committed to the work of evangelization, winning the world for Christ and Total Human Liberation through the power of the Holy Spirit.
From the FFL's official site:
The CFC Foundation for Family & Life is a gathering of concerned CFC brethren looking to the restoration, preservation and strengthening of the authentic Couples for Christ charism, focused on evangelization and family life renewal.
If you were told that 180,000 people have now seen your brand in a negative light, and you must regain their goodwill, where would you start? It is logical to assume that to be successful in either group's goal, each must possess a certain amount of credibility, not only to spread the work of Christ, but also to exemplify the strength of the family, through Christ. But with what has been published in this blog and the numbers it has reached, coupled with the FFL's own statements attacking the IC or GK, one can assume that the job of protecting either brand from negative connotations is going to be a tough task.
On one hand, Frank Padilla not only has set an example of exactly how to break up a family, but also shows how to apply vengeance and anger in keeping it broken up. How can CFC and the FFL evangelize properly if we cannot even show that we can work out our own problems, internal or otherwise? Then you have the "stealing" of venues, the statements issued by the FFL using every Vatican press release to make their case and attack CFC, and now the kicker, Bishops being forced to take sides and disagree with one another.
I can't claim to know what is going in Frank's mind or in anyone's in the upper leadership of the FFL, but are they truly thinking about the repercussions of what is going on here? I don't know if they're thinking their actions through or merely trying everything they can to prove their case, no matter who gets hurt in the end. Every attack they've made on the IC that was covered in this blog only strengthens the beliefs of tens of thousands of CFC members that they've made the right choice. But that's actually just one aspect of it. What about those potential members, who are just starting their CLP's? What if they go online and research what CFC or the FFL is all about? I've no doubt that they constitute a sizeable part of the 180,000 unique hits that this blog has received. Everytime they see one of Nonong Contreras' self-righteous emails, accusing the bishops of reading tea leaves, etc., now constitutes for a potential member ("customer") to undergo what in marketing we call a negative brand experience. It takes ten times the goodwill and resources to win back a customer with a negative experience than it takes to win one who has a neutral opinion. That's 180,000 negative experiences. What's sad is that it applies to CFC as well. I don't know how effective the FFL's blogs and mass email campaigns are, but even if it is just directed at their current members, one must assume a fair amount of outside distribution. And those emails remain unanswered, I can only assume that the majority of the FFL's members avoid this blog because they've been told to. I am sure, however, that the Easter Group weren't counting on this blog to reveal the real reasons for the split, and putting a monkey wrench in their plans to create a new organization and poach the members from CFC. They probably didn't have a plan in place to create goodwill.
I'm quite sure Frank and co. know that the FFL's only realistic chance of success on the scale of what CFC has accomplished (in their lifetime at least), is to either wrest control of the CFC name, along with the Vatican recognition, or share it. He could try for unification of course, but that would mean submitting to the IC, which Frank will most likely not agree to (He would also have to answer to his co-incorporators, who are probably looking to get a return on their investments.) It is a time consuming process to have to submit to each diocese for approval as a new organization, then slowly work on the numbers and reach to gain their own Vatican recognition. I don't doubt they could do it, but it seems they are impatient and want everything NOW. With the damage caused to their name (not only in this blog but by their own actions) it has truly become an uphill battle.
I'm not washing my hands of guilt. Each day I ask myself if what I'm doing is the right thing. I question if getting the truth out is worth the damage I feel I'm doing to the CFC name. Believe it or not, I wish the FFL well, I wish that they'd continue on their stated goals and succeed at it. It is not my wish to hinder that by painting their leaders in a bad light. Surely the majority of you feel the same way too.
So what to do? First I will state where I stand right now.
I believe (and I feel, proven) that the root of the split in CFC was not caused by mere "veering" from charisms or supposed partnerships with pharmas (since it is not unique to CFC or GK among catholic orgs). I believe it was caused by very human traits like jealousy and vengeance coupled with questionable motives.
I believe that having two CFC's will only cause confusion and hinder our efforts in achieving our goals. Especially if they continue to share the same CLP areas, the same event dates and venues, and they both bad mouth each other. All this is happening right now.
I believe that the continued "warfare" between CFC and FFL will erode and degrade the good name and goodwill that CFC has built up over the years. This can cause not only a decline in membership in both groups, but an over-all market resistance, making it harder to fulfill our stated goals.
Now we have to think of a way to put a stop to this, for good. The recent comments have advised going the legal route. Still others are saying to just continue our work and let FFL be (if they will let US be...). I would like your opinions. First state where you stand, then what you believe we should do to get past this - before it's too late.
Surely we cannot keep all this up in the coming years, firing salvo after salvo, ironically causing more damage to ourselves than we are to the other side. I wish the solution were as easy as saying, "If you stop, we'll stop.", but obviously the Easter Group have their own reasons for wanting to fight for the CFC name. Until they find an alternative name or get stopped in their tracks, we can expect that we here will remain in the trenches, always at the ready to defend CFC.