A WOUND IN THE CHURCH
July 5, 2012
On June 28, 2012, the International Council (“IC”) of Couples for Christ Global Mission Foundation Inc. (“CFC Global”) issued a public statement on the status of the legal case between CFC Global and our community. The statement unfortunately misinforms and distorts the facts, even as it prematurely proclaims CFC Global’s “victory” in said case. In defense of truth and fairness, we must correct the misinformation and distortion.
At the outset, it is not true that our community started the legal case. We did not sue CFC Global. All we did was simply to file an application with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to revive Couples for Christ Foundation, Inc. (“CFCFI”), the original CFC corporation registered in 1984. The SEC granted our application and reinstated the corporate license of CFCFI, which has since operated under the name Couples for Christ for Family and Life (“CFC-FFL”).
In 2008, CFC Global, led by its International Council (“IC”), filed a case with the Court of Appeals against the SEC and CFCFI, seeking to nullify the revival of CFCFI. From this, it is obvious that it was CFC Global that sued us and not the other way around. They could have just left us alone and rejoiced that one more community is helping in the enormous task of proclaiming the gospel to the world, just as we celebrate the emergence of any group committed to the work of evangelization.
It is true that the Court of Appeals issued recently a decision favoring CFC Global, setting aside the SEC’s revival of CFCFI and remanding the case back to the SEC for further proceedings. The Court, however, clarified that the decision did not touch on the issue of which of the two communities has the better right over the name “Couples for Christ.” We have appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which will have the final say on the matter.
We have earnestly tried to make peace with our brethren in CFC Global, even asking the Court of Appeals to mediate between us. The Court granted our request and scheduled a mediation meeting on May 9, 2012. Regrettably, CFC Global rejected the mediation and opted for the case to continue, contrary to what they had conveyed in their June 28 statement. Their preference for an all-out litigation is fueled by a belief that they own the name “Couples for Christ” to the exclusion of others. Their exclusivist stance ironically ignores the crucial fact that it was CFCFI that had given them permission to use the name “Couples for Christ.” In other words, CFC Global could not have registered its present name had CFCFI not given permission, because the name was already owned and used by CFCFI as early as 1984.
We seek to end the litigation for the sake of peace and the immense work God has entrusted to both communities. We are also prompted by the following considerations:
First, since the Philippine Church (as well as many dioceses throughout the world) has already approved CFC-FFL as a national private association of lay faithful, since both CFC-FFL and CFC Global are ecclesial communities operating within the framework and under the authority of the Catholic Church, the recognition conferred by the Church upon one community must bind the other, lest disobedience to the Church’s mandate arise. Should CFC Global look more to civil authorities than to the Church?
Second, it is contrary to the way of Jesus. When John complained about another exorcist saying, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” (Lk 9:49). Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. …. For whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mk 9:39-40). Might CFC Global end up preventing the work of Christ that CFC-FFL is doing by depriving it of its name? Would that not be disobedience to Jesus?
Third, it is against Paul’s instructions. If CFC Global has cause against CFC-FFL, since both are ecclesial associations, they should bring the matter to the Church and not to a civil court. “How can any one of you with a case against another dare to bring it to the unjust for judgment instead of to the holy ones?” (1 Cor 6:1). In fact, Paul is even more emphatic against such court cases. “Now indeed then it is, in any case, a failure on your part that you have lawsuits against one another. Why not rather put up with injustice? Why not rather let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you inflict injustice and cheat, and this to brothers.” (1 Cor 6:7-8).
Fourth, it is scandalous, a public spectacle of a Catholic group suing another Catholic group. In fact, when we proposed mediation that was immediately rejected by the IC, the court-appointed mediator was scandalized and remarked: “Sayang naman. This is scandalous. Yung unang kaso, na settle ko, Couples for Christ pa naman kayo, di ko kayo mapagkasundo.” (The first case I settled. Now with you Couples for Christ, I cannot get you to reconcile).
Fifth, it is against the Vatican’s instructions. The Holy See, through the Pontifical Council for the Laity, had directed both CFCs (through Joe Tale and Frank Padilla) way back in May 2008 to refrain from deepening the disunity and strife between them, to avoid further actions that would heighten the public scandal, and to look to reconciliation and unity. In compliance with this, we have generally remained quiet and busied ourselves with our evangelistic and missionary work. As to use of the name “Couples for Christ,” the Vatican has stated that it is up to each bishop to recognize the group led by Frank Padilla with the name that they think is convenient.
Sixth, the case weakens the witness of CFC in general, and adversely affects the work of the Church in and through both CFCs. Only the evil one wins.
Seventh, the filing of a civil case contradicts the most fundamental virtue for Christians: love. The Lord commands His followers to love their neighbors, even their enemies. If an enemy is to be loved, does not a co-worker in the Lord’s vineyard deserve as much?
We have heard it said that CFC Global claims the revival of CFCFI was anomalous because it was already a defunct or dead corporation. This is incorrect. In 1993 when CFC Global was established, we merely shelved CFCFI and left it inactive. We could have dissolved CFCFI at that time, but providentially we did not. God apparently had a plan for CFCFI that kept it from being dissolved. Only after the split in 2007 did we truly see and understand this plan, whose unfolding began in 2008 when the SEC readily granted our application to revive CFCFI after we had complied with the legal requirements. Since then our community has embarked on a new, exciting journey that saw us move closer to the heart of the Church, consecrate our community to Mother Mary, commit ourselves to the renewal of the family and the defense of life, and answer the Lord’s call for a new evangelization.
We have heard it said that CFC Global was merely looking for the truth when it filed the case. Granted, but their intention would have been better served if they had simply brought their complaint to Church authorities, which could have heard and decided it discreetly and swiftly in accordance with Canon Law. Lodging the case before a public court has only conjured an image of disunity and hostility among the people of God, inviting criticisms from detractors and harming the work of evangelization.
We have heard it said that CFC Global claims there is confusion in having two CFCs. Well, there are not only two CFCs, but at least four. There is also CFC-GK, which has been given canonical recognition in the archdiocese of Davao, and there is CFC Australia, which has declared itself independent and is recognized by Australian bishops. Furthermore, there are at least 5 corporations bearing the name “Couples for Christ” currently recognized by the SEC. Why has the IC not filed any court cases against them?
It cannot be denied that CFCFI (CFC-FFL’s legal entity) is the original CFC corporation established in 1984. (CFC Global was registered only in 1993.) In fact, CFC-FFL’s logo (the faceless Christ) is the original logo adopted by CFC in 1982. CFC Global’s logo emerged only in 1993.
Historical rights notwithstanding, CFC-FFL had long ago assured CFC Global that it will not make any move to prevent CFC Global from using the CFC name. This is consistent with CFC-FFL’s policy of embracing, welcoming and collaborating with all brethren who share in the great work of evangelization. There is just too much work to be done and no time to waste on senseless division and bickering. Only Satan delights in this.
The scandal and the deep wound inflicted by the case cry for healing. This can easily be achieved by CFC Global withdrawing the court case, and accepting the hand of friendship that Frank Padilla has consistently extended to them.
CFC Global can even go further. They can accept the long-standing proposal Frank has put on the table, to have one CFC with two branches (in the pattern of so many religious congregations like the Franciscans, Carmelites and others). This immediately removes animosity and conflict, as both sides affirm their being brethren who came from the same stock and are doing similar work for the Kingdom. However, due to unresolved differences, there will remain two separate and distinct branches, each doing their own work according to their own culture and leadership. But they can also start to collaborate on Church events.
Who knows, both CFCs might even find it in their hearts to truly become one body once again.