Vatican Chastises Catholic Group


Vatican admonishes Couples for Christ over Gawad Kalinga
Posted at 04/16/2008 6:15 PM

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 its focus from the spiritual to the social. The group was instructed to make a public apology.
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. These issues have caused the high-profile split of the CFC in July last year.
In a March 11 letter to CFC president Jose Tale, Stanislaw Rylko of Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity said that CFC should “counterbalance the overemphasis on social work….” As for donations from agencies that promote artificial family control, the letter said; “Your decision to stop receiving this type of funding will help recover the good standing of your association Couples for Christ.”
The letter was a result of Tale’s March 3 visit to the Vatican, where he “admitted [that] some mistakes have been made and a certain scandal and confusion [was] caused among the faithful.”
“Since [the split] has caused public scandal, a certain public reparation is also needed. We urge that you prepare and spread in the newspapers in the Philippines and on your Web site a well thought and clear public declaration recognizing the erroneous steps taken,” Rylko added.
Build a nation
Four letters between two Vatican officials, Tale, and Bishop Gabriel Reyes on the issue were obtained by Although the letters did not explicitly identify GK, it is clear—GK being CFC’s social arm—that it was what the Vatican officials were referring to.
“It is extremely important that your Philippine problem does not extend to the other regions of the world,” Rylko said. He recognized that CFC is the “biggest ecclesial reality that was born in Asia and then expanded internationally.” was able to talk to Meloto on the phone. But he said he has not read Rylko’s letter. When told about the contents, Meloto maintained that GK’s mission is to “build a nation.”
“We are working with different universities, different religious groups, the Muslims, and the Opus Dei,” he said. “We are here to build a nation. The problem of poverty is best fought in the slums. We are here to save our children from malnutrition. We will just continue to work,” he said.
Vatican sides with breakaway group
The controversy over CFC’s focus on GK broke out in August last year after CFC founder and a few hundred supporters left the group and formed a new group that wrestled against the original group for the CFC name.
Rylko’s letter effectively puts the Vatican on the side of the CFC breakaway group of Frank Padilla–the founder of CFC–which has long been protesting against Meloto on how GK was being managed.
GK aims to benefit 700,000 Filipino families by building 7,000 communities in seven years, or by 2010. Founded in 2003, GK has become popular worldwide and likened to the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, an initiative that earned Muhammad Yunus his Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. GK head Antonio Meloto himself earned his Ramon Magsaysay Award for leadership in 2006.
But Padilla’s group frowned on precisely the two things that displeased the Vatican. Padilla wanted to focus on evangelization. Some GK leaders prefer to work even with people who don’t strictly adhere to Catholic teachings.
Family planning
Padilla’s group also accused GK of not pushing for naturally planning—as prescribed by the Catholic Church—supposedly because some of GK’s corporate partners favored population control and the use of contraceptives.
Another Vatican official, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo of the Pontifical Council for the Family, pointed out in a November 2007 letter to Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes that “accepting donations from those who promote abortion and contraception will compromise the Gospel of the Family and of Life, and will greatly harm our efforts to strengthen and defend the family and life; hence, it should not be done.”
Trujillo made the statement in response to a letter by Reyes, asking whether groups promoting family life may receive funds from pharmaceutical companies or abortifacient pills. Reyes is the chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on the Laity.
Reyes has sided with the breakaway group of Padilla. It was him, along with Archbishop Angel Lagdameo and Bishop Socrates Villegas, who tried to mend the differences between the two factions last year. But to no avail.
It is not yet clear if the unity of the two CFC groups is possible.


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