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Reflections and Musings
by Arnel M. Santos, CFC West B3
May 28, 2008

Dear CD:

Peace!

In response to your invitation to share our Reflections and Musings, I most humbly express mine, as follows:

  1. I have been an MCG member since 2004.
  2. I have chosen to remain in CFC.
  3. I made my choice:
    1. after painstaking consideration of the issues;[1]
    2. after ascribing all presumptions of good faith that I could muster in favor of Tito Frank[2] and referring my thoughts to my immediate elders[3];
    3. after seriously dialoguing on the issues with fellow ground workers who were in the Easter Group;[4] and
    4. after searching my heart while attending and hearing out Tito Frank and the Easter Group leaders and members, at the 1st Restoration Assembly on July 10, 2007.[5]
  4. My decision was made, with much prayers, a day after the 2nd Restoration Assembly on July 30, 2007, (which I did not attend anymore), and made my decision known to our chapter via a letter.[6]
  5. My decision was heavily influenced by my own humble reading of CFC’s 2007 theme, "Hope in the Lord!"[7]
  6. To me, the breakaway was unjustified and is unjustifiable. It has false premises. It was only meant to duplicate what has already been existing. The emergence of FFL was merely to pose a choice to CFC members as to who they wanted their pastoral leaders to be[8] without due regard to CFC tradition, as enshrined in the CFC International Statutes, approved by the CBCP and the Vatican.
  7. To me, the real reasons for the breakaway were these—
    1. Some of the brethren decided to get out of their lamentations, on their own terms and on their own time. They had decided not to join the rest of the CFC community—in learning from, and holding on, to the CFC theme—i.e. Lam 3:24: "My portion is the Lord," says my soul, "therefore will I hope in Him!" They thus hazarded to create a new and different one: Lam 5:21: "Lead us to you again, O Lord, that we may be restored; renew our days as of old."
    2. More importantly, it was because of this—
      For while "[n]ever had kings believed nor the world thought possible that the enemy could break through the gates of Jerusalem" the Lord knew that "this happened because of the priests who sinned, because of the prophets who transgressed, shedding in their midst the blood of the just." (Lam. 4:12-13)[9]
  8. To give semblance to a justification, our FFL brethren found the Criteria for Ecclesiasity for Lay Groups (Church guidelines on recognition and approval of lay associations) set forth in Pope John Paul’s Christifidelis Laity, as the most convenient, effective and expedient bases for attacks against CFC.[10] The clear and definite criteria for discerning and recognizing such lay groups, are as follows:
    1. The primacy given to the call of every Christian to holiness;
    2. The responsibility of professing the Catholic faith;
    3. The witness to a strong and authentic communion in filial relationship to the Pope,...and with the local Bishop;
    4. Conformity to and participation in the Church's apostolic goals, that is, "the evangelization and sanctification of humanity..."
    5. A commitment to a presence in human society, which in light of the Church's social doctrine, places it at the service of the total dignity of the person.
  9. It is no accident that CFC has been charged with violation of each and every criterion of ecclesiality for lay groups. And this is how grave the charges are: not just for multiple violation of some criteria but total violation of each and all of the criteria. The steady thematic attacks are not innocent charges; they have become surgical strikes meant to lay the foundations to unduly discredit CFC and strip it of its "definite" Vatican and CBCP recognition.[11]
  10. All of these attacks have been made in the guise of "restoration". This is because the reality is that FFL leaders do not actually want to "separate" from CFC. FFL still operate from within by addressing itself to CFC leaders and members through "Restoration". Hence, while they mouth what they say are their own vision and mission and statutes, what betrays their real intention is the FFL slogan—"Restoring the authentic Couples for Christ charism."
  11. Hence, wherever CFC is, FFL will be, to "restore it," through the "preservation and strengthening of the authentic Couples for Christ charism with evangelization and family life renewal as its main focus."
  12. This explains why FFL has no choice but to carry as its name "Couples for Christ". Without it, FFL’s existence will be meaningless and purposeless. And for as long as FFL describes itself and banners "Restoring the authentic Couples for Christ charism," the attacks will continue. For as long as it carries the name "Couples for Christ", it will be at odds with it.
  13. Of course, the CFC brethren have not stood idle and complacent. While the IC sounded: "Be still!" the ground spoke and defended CFC. Your blog has eventually found its essential, integral and proper role.
  14. There were exchanges that were lamentable (the same things you have been lamenting about) but from there too arose debates and exchanges which have been of far-reaching and crucial importance.
  15. Some aspects of such debates were the Origins and History of Couples for Christ; Who its Real Founder Was; the Importance of the Statutes and CBCP and Vatican Recognition for a Lay Group; The Indispensability of Work with the Poor to the Church, etc.
  16. It was in this light that the ground, to which the bloggers and I belong have been drawn to participate.
  17. It was such a delight to hear from the CFC brethren, bringing with them various and interdisciplinary perspectives to the issues—from the psychiatrists to medical ethicists, linguists, historians to our youth and homemakers.
  18. More delightful is the fact that the lay faithful in CFC have been doing theology, even ecclesiology, referring to Church doctrines, Pontifical encyclicals, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Compendium of the Social Doctrines of the Church, aside of course from the Bible, and Tito Frank’s books (as to which I wonder why the Easter Group had not been quoting and using these books in their arguments).
  19. Indeed, the debates—which the blog has documented—have surfaced one reality apparently unnoticed for a very long time—what our Church describes as the "irreplaceable role of the laity" to the Church’s mission and to salvation history.
  20. Of humble and particular interest to me has been the resultant and evolving debate on Theology or Spirituality of Nation-building. This has been crystallizing some of my thoughts on The Lay Faithful as Nation-builders.[12]
  21. True, as a result of the breakaway and the raging debates, the CFC and FFL’s images are being tarnished. But to me, there have also been at least ten (10) positive impacts. And I take this opportunity to list them down from 10 to 1 (1 being to me, the most important):
    10. I was constrained to review all of Tito Frank’s books, and wonder to this date, "why then, break away?";
    9. I had the privilege to contribute to One Time Big Time/Big Heart Big Push, and in the process had given our little share in the wiping out of CFC’s debts incurred since 2001, amounting to more than 20 million;
    8. I was blessed to be able to attend all national and sectoral CFC activities, and witnessed the record attendance and Spirit-filled proceedings in all of them, and I have been treasuring every MCG, MCGT, and household meeting, having realized what my life would have been without them;
    7. The Pastoral Congress reached the ground level and the Vision and Mission and CFC has become one which we could truly understand and identify with;
    6. I have learned to seriously study and appreciate the Catechism of the Filipino Catholics, the Compendium of the Social Doctrines of the Church and the Papal Encyclicals;
    5. I have rediscovered "reflection through examen" and, writing;
    4. I have learned to love and enjoy being in and "from the ground" whether as a CFC leader, a GK volunteer or an ordinary parishioner;
    3. The Mass comes to life.
    2. "I have come to know the love of God and believed in it."
    1. I have been humbled and struggling to remain to be so.
  22. No. 11 above should be the emergence of IDOTRCFC blogspot.
  23. Moreover, how paradoxical it is that while the CFC image is being tarnished, it has been at the same time being polished. The FFL brethren attacking CFC have been unconsciously exposing who indeed has veered away.
  24. The standard to determine the "veering away" should be our CFC statues. The most concrete and practical illustration of FFL’s veering away are the following:
    1. Table 1.
    2. In addition, while the Statutes say that "The social dimension of the work for COUPLES FOR CHRIST finds its ultimate manifestation in our work of building communities among the poor. This work is called GAWAD KALINGA (GK for short)", FFL has put up its own work for the poor program called WWP, calling its sites Restoration Village (RV for short).
  25. Please do not as yet shut down the blog. In time, IDOTRCFC may yet emerge as a forum for the lay faithful in their struggle to further God’s work.
  26. What should we do in the meantime?
    1. When faced with any attempt to distort our beautiful memory of CFC and GK through propaganda and falsification, there must be someone to remind everyone that "memory", as defined by St. Thomas Aquinas, is "the capacity to remember one’s past experience with objectivity, without falsification."[13]
    2. But exposing a lie should be made out of love. This is not rhetoric. This is a settled Church teaching. In the face of lies being peddled across the global CFC community, we might as well be the ones to remind ourselves of an entry in the Catechism for Filipino Catholics, as follows:
      "1236. Such lying can seriously harm:
      • the integrity and reputation of the person lied about;
      • those hearing the lie who are thereby led into error;
      • the peace and harmony of the community; and finally,
      • the genuine good of the person who lied. For liars become victims of their own lies, losing their self-respect before others, and shackling their own freedom by the web of entanglements woven by their own deception."
    3. When faced with a pronouncement by a Bishop on pastoral, even theological issues that are "ordinary" (i.e. non-infallible), we may exercise "thinking with the Church."
      "'Thinking with the Church' does not mean 'thinking only what the Church tells you to think' but it has been frequently interpreted that way. Indeed, genuine 'fidelity' to the church may require the believer to refuse to be uncritically receptive to the received teaching of the Magisterium, and to test the teaching—with the intent of bringing it alive rather than undermining it—by subjecting it to the challenges and questions thrown up against it by Catholics and non-Catholics in each society in which the Church exists as a living tradition."[14]
    4. Hence, in the face of valid and legitimate issues, we cannot just shirk and allow ourselves to be gagged. For "the Church journeys along the roads of history together with all of humanity"[15] and "Periods of renewal in the Church are also intense moments of catechesis."[16] The Church in the Philippines, of which we are part, has such legitimate issues, many of them peculiar to us; hence, possible intense moments of catechesis.
  27. How about in relating with our FFL brethren, in general?
    1. Be humble. Holiness humbles. It should not lead to "an inner pride". Holiness without humility is not holiness. For "Ultimately, there is no escaping this humility; either we humble ourselves acknowledging the truth of our sinfulness, or be humbled by God’s true judgment." (Catechism for Filipino Catholics, 2183)
    2. "We must be persistent in our prayer. We must increase our expressions of love and mutual respect. We must strengthen our theological dialogue." These words were borrowed from An Agreed Statement of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation dated Oct. 25, 2003, St. Paul’s College, Washington DC.[17] Thus:
      "We know that the process of reconciliation is not always easy.... Yet with the guidance of our risen Lord, our differences are not beyond resolution. Moreover, we believe that we have a solemn obligation to our Lord to heal our painful divisions. For this reason, we must be persistent in our prayer. We must increase our expressions of love and mutual respect. We must strengthen our theological dialogue.
      Our reconciliation will not take place without fervent prayer for unity. Through our prayer, we open ourselves up to the healing presence of our Heavenly Father. By praying together for the unity of the Churches, we profess our willingness to participate in God’s reconciling activities both in our Churches and in our societies.
      Our reconciliation will not take place without countless acts of love, forgiveness and mutual respect. Through these actions, we unite ourselves consciously with our Lord, who manifested God’s mercy and love.... Our reconciliation will not take place without theological dialogue. Through our dialogues, we seek the guidance of the Spirit, who will lead us in all truth.... We can never accept a superficial unity, which neglects the difficult issues that separate us at the table of the Lord."
  28. Indeed, we can write endlessly on our respective postures on issues. Ultimately, however,
    "Being Christian is not a result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with the event, a person which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John's Gospel describes that event in these words: 'God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should...have eternal life' (3:16)."[18]

Thank you for the open invitation, CD, and the opportunity to reflect on my own reflections.

May God bless us all.

P.S. I have not attached my personal reflections as indicated in the footnotes. I am willing to share them though, if requested.

Table 1

CFC International Statutes, par. 7.221 provides:What FFL has been doing is—
Bear the name "Couples for Christ"FFL varied the name and started calling one "CFC-GK" and itself "CFC-FFL"
Adopt the same logoFFL has its own logo
Adopt the same statements of mission and philosophyFFL formulated its own mission and statement of philosophy
Adopt the same covenant of CFCFFL has its own Covenant
Initiation course is CLPFFL’s initiation course is CLS
Adopt the same formation program for the first year of membershipFFL has its own formation program
Place all members into households that meet weeklyFFL members left their CFC households and created their own
Adopt similar pastoral and leadership structuresFFL has its own pastoral and leadership structure
Foster the same charismatic spiritualityFFL is following the so-called "Founder’s Spirituality"/"Keeper of the Charism" paradigm

References

  1. See my May 4, 2007 reflections, "The View from the Ground - Personal Reflections on Frank Padilla’s CFC AND GK-3 – At the Crossroads on our Journey of Hope and Joy" dated April 8, 2007.
  2. See my June 19, 2007 reflections, "What is Right with Tito Frank—Another View from the Ground."
  3. See Ibid; added entry dated June 20, 2007.
  4. See my July 28, 2007 reflections, "To Brother Raymond".
  5. See my July 16, 2007 reflections, "My Encounters with Tony and Frank—-Yet another view from the ground".
  6. See my July 31, 2007 letter, "To our brothers and sisters in CFC WestB5A".
  7. See my August 22, 2007 reflections, "A Personal Testimony to Hope".
  8. See my November 8, 2007 reflections, "The Case for GK #1—A personal Reflections on Frank Padilla’s The Way Forward No. 5 dated"
  9. See my January 3, 2008 reflections, "The Case for GK #2—A Second Hard Look at the Lessons of Lamentations"
  10. See my January 7, 2008 reflections, "The Case for GK #3—The Need for a Devil’s Advocate".
  11. Ibid.
  12. See my reflections dated January 23, 2008, "The Case for Gawad Kalinga #4—The Lay Faithful as Nationbuilders".
  13. Cf. Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 49, a.1:Ed., Leon. 8,367, quoted in Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, fn 1147, p. 337.
  14. This is an argument, at least, put forward by Father Charles Curran, the American Catholic theologian and social ethicist who was dismissed from his faculty position at the Catholic University of America for contesting aspects of the ordinary (i.e. non-infallible) Magisterium’s moral teaching on human sexuality. See Appleby, Byrne and Portier, Creative Fidelity (2004), p. 27. (I purchased this from the bookstore of the Diocese of Cubao)
  15. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 18.
  16. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 8.
  17. I was just led to reading this after Bishop Ledesma’s talk at the MCGT on Inter-religious Dialogue (an obviously more difficult issue than the present CFC-FFL row).
  18. Deus Caritas Est 1.

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