Same-Sex Marriage and the Law

Nowadays, there has been so much clamor for the so-called ‘marriage equality’ by LGBT or homosexual activists. They claim that because normal heterosexual people have the right under the law to marry whom ever they want, then homosexuals should likewise have the legal right to ‘marry’ their same-sex partners. To this end, they lobby for the amendment of the Family Code of the Philippines which defines marriage as “a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life” (Article 1). LGBT activists claim that such a definition is a violation of their basic human right to equality in the eyes of the law because there should be no distinction between heterosexuals and homosexuals when it comes to the right to marry. As with all other proponents of sinful immorality, they use euphemisms such as ‘marriage equality,’ ‘freedom of choice,’ and the like in order to deceive the general populace that their advocacy is good and just. To correct and clarify what “equality under the law” truly means, let us look at the Right to Equal Protection as enshrined in the Bill of Rights under 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Article III, Section 1 provides that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” This Constitutional provision deals with two fundamental rights. The first part of this provision deals with the right to due process while the second part deals with the right to the equal protection of the laws. The Supreme Court held in the case of Ichong v. Hernandez (G.R. No. L-7995; May 31, 1957), “equal protection simply requires that all persons or things similarly situated should be treated alike, both as to rights conferred and responsibilities imposed.”

However, according to respected Constitutional Law professor Isagani A. Cruz, it is not enough that the members of a group have the characteristics that distinguish them from others. The classification must, as an indispensable requisite, not be arbitrary. Citing the case of People v. Cayat (68 Phil. 12), this classification must conform to the following requirements:

  1. It must be based upon substantial distinctions;

  2. It must be germane to the purposes of the law;

  3. It must not be limited to existing conditions only; and

  4. It must apply equally to all members of the same class.

First, the distinction, to be valid, must be substantial. Certain physical differences can in some instances be the basis of a valid classification. Thus, women, being generally weaker, may be treated more tenderly by the law than men in specifying work conditions; height and weight are allowable criteria for purposes of certain public employments, as in the police force; health may be considered in the curtailment of some rights, as where lepers are segregated from the rest of the community; age may be a factor in the imposition of public duties such as military service or the granting of certain privileges under the senior citizen law. Surely, physical differences between men and women were taken into account in the case of Philippine Association of Service Exporters v. Drilon (163 SCRA 386) when the Supreme Court held that Filipino female domestics working abroad were in a class by themselves, because of the special risks to which their class was exposed. In addition, the accepted difference in physical stamina between men and women will justify the prohibition of the latter from employment as miners or stevedores or in any other heavy or strenuous work. On the basis of this same classification, however, the law cannot provide for a lower passing average for women in the bar examinations because physical strength is not the test for admission to the legal profession. With regard to marriage, men and women were designed to complement each other. This is obvious through a simple analysis of their sexual organs in that the male penis, protruding as it is, is designed to be inserted into the female vagina and such marital sexual intercourse results in pleasure due to the presence of sensitive nerve endings in the glans penis and clitoris. Moreover, the same may also result in procreation as when the male spermatozoa fertilizes the female ovum. Another distinction lies in the chromosomes of the males and females. Males have an XY chromosome while females possess an XX chromosome. However, all these are substantial distinctions are absent in homosexual relationships thus defeating the very God-given purposes of the institution of marriage, which is the second requirement of a valid classification, i.e. that it must be germane to the purpose of the law, which is “the establishment of conjugal and family life.”

The third requirement for a valid classification is that it must not be limited to existing conditions only. In People v. Cayat (68 Phil. 12), the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the law prohibiting members of non-Christian tribes from drinking liquor, on the ground that their low degree of culture and unfamiliarity with the drink rendered them more susceptible to its effects. As for marriage, the above-discussed distinctions between men and women are ingrained in their very being since the time of Adam and Eve and until the end of the ages.

The fourth and last requirement is that it must apply equally to all members of the same class. Thus, a sterile woman would still be entitled to the benefits of a law protecting the reproductive functions of her sex, such as one prohibiting women from work requiring them to be continuously on her feet. Her inability to bear children does not make her any less of a woman. Although both men and women belong to the human race, they belong to different classes of humans, namely, male and female.

As the differences between men and women are manifestly substantial and valid, the prohibition of same-sex marriage is surely constitutional and not a violation of basic human rights. The apostle Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthians posits that “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (4:4). The gospel of Jesus Christ and the acceptance of the truths thereof requires repentance, which simply means the ‘changing of one’s mind’ with regard to the person and work of Christ and those things that please God. It is one thing to fall into sin or even a sinful lifestyle but another thing to promote the same. The former deserves love, acceptance, help and prayer, while the latter deserves condemnation. As I conclude, I leave you with the words of St. Paul to his young disciple Timothy: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).

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The Process of Pastoral Counseling

Pastoral Counseling is not a lecture but a process. As students, this has been pounded to us over and over again. The tendency to monologue during counseling sessions for those in the teaching and preaching ministry are very high. However, as discussed in my previous articles, it is also by those in the said ministry that pastoral or nouthetic counseling are best conducted because it is to them that God has entrusted the spiritual, psychological, and sometimes, even physiological care of His flock. So what exactly is this process?

Obviously, the very first stage of counseling is making the contact. These contacts are not only limited to the formal arrangements made by the parishioner or client with the counselor but also during informal settings, including what Dr. Harold Sala in his Counseling Friends in Need, refers to as “peer counseling.” These informal meetings often occur during social gatherings such as parties, family reunions, funerals, weddings, parent-teacher associations, and the like. That is why, according to Dr. Wayne Oates in his An Introduction to Pastoral Counseling, “The pastor and other religious workers, therefore, can never become so professional in their pictures of themselves that they underestimate the importance of informal relationships both as powerful ministries in and of themselves and as points of vital contact for beginning more formal counseling relationships.”

Aside from informal settings, the initial contact may also be in the form of formal pastoral visitation and counseling. In smaller congregations such as community or house churches, pastoral house visitation of parishioners are quite common. However, as far as megachurches are concerned, this practice seems highly impractical if not altogether humanly impossible unless the pastoral complement of the church is large enough to cover each and every household in their membership. To alleviate this, house visitations are usually delegated to the deacons or discipleship group leaders who have a more personal and intimate relationship with their respective group members. Nevertheless, pastoral visits, whether done by the pastor himself or other church leaders gives the ministers a opportunity to know their flock better. This enables them to effectively assess their members’ current situation in life such as their economic status, vocational issues, and interfamily tensions, which in turn helps them in counseling their people when the need arises.

On the side of the parishioners, pastoral visits give them a sense of value and belonging to the local church they are members of. Such feeling aids them in their ability to perceive their minister as someone who truly cares for them thus making it easier for them to open up their problems for counseling. Finally, pastoral visiting helps establish that relationship of rapport, of confidence and affection, between counselor and client without which the entire procedure is impossible.

Ethics in Pastoral Counseling

As with most, if not all professions, pastoral counseling as a profession also has its own ethical standards. Ethical standards are essential to all kinds of professions, especially to those which particularly deal directly with confidential information such as counseling. This is why as with lawyers and physicians who are involved in legal and medical counseling respectively, information gathered through the practice of their professions are considered privileged and hence cannot be legally forced out of the professional except for specific valid reasons as determined by law and the courts of justice.

The confidential treatment of all personal information is first and foremost the backbone of any of the counseling professions and this is no less true for the ministry of pastoral counseling. People come to professional counselors because they trust that the counselor, being a licensed professional or ordained minister, would handle their personal information in strict confidentiality. Otherwise, potential clients will become afraid to share their deepest and darkest secrets, which are usually the cause of their problems, to the counselor. According to Dr. Narramore in his authoritative book, The Psychology of Counseling, the counselee wants understanding, sympathy and respect for the seriousness of his or her situation. Although there are several other areas of ethical concern in counseling, the manner of handling confidential information, both verbal and written, is of utmost importance. To stress the gravity of this, let me give an example from my own job as a project attorney at Integreon, a knowledge process outsourcing company. In our office, we have what they call service delivery centers where we actually perform our work, which is to review, sort, and tag thousands of documents for use as evidence in litigation. In order to protect the confidentiality of the sensitive documents that come our way, we are not allowed to bring inside the delivery center any mobile phone, data storage device or even pieces of paper unless we shred it on our way out.

Another important area of ethical concern for pastoral counselors and ordained ministers is propriety in dealing with counselees of the opposite sex, especially if one or both of them are married. This involves conducting the counseling session in an appropriate place, limiting physical contact to the shaking of hands, and avoiding emotional attachment and dependency brought about by probing for unnecessary intimate details. To be sure, it is well to keep in mind that when your own personal desires are unsatisfied, it is easy to be unconsciously seductive toward another person.

Lastly, a counselor should recognize his limitations and learn to refer to other professionals, such as physicians or lawyers who may be more competent to handle his client’s medical or legal problems.

The Methods of Pastoral Counseling

As with all new lawyers, after I took my oath and signed the Roll of Attorneys, thereby becoming a full-fledged licensed counselor and attorney-at-law, I was so excited to begin my practice. However, little did I know that law school did not prepare me to do so! Yes, I knew the law, both substantive and procedural, but I knew nothing about the professional or “business” aspect of building my own law office. I realized that I did not know how to properly set up and conduct an interview with a prospective client and worse, I had no idea how much to charge for my services! I was so dumbfounded that I just tried calling up older and more experienced lawyers to ask them for some advice. The only thing was, there were almost as many different methods and styles as there are law practitioners. During that time, and even now after six years of law practice, I really wished that all law schools would include in their curriculum a subject on “How to Set Up and Manage a Law Office.”

Likewise, the same thing is true with regard to the practice or ministry of pastoral counseling. Fortunately for me, I am now learning in seminary the things that I should have learned in law school, particularly, how to arrange and conduct an effective client interview. According to Dr. Clyde Narramore, a renowned clinical psychologist and counselor, effective counselors are conscious of details and thus give careful thought to such arrangements as: (a) setting the appointment; (b) preparing the interview; (c) beginning the interview; (d) determining the length of the interview; (e) closing the interview; (f) recording the interview; and (g) handling persistent cases. In his seminal book, The Psychology of Counseling, he provides basic guidelines therefor. He further stressed that counseling is different from a lecture or seminar where one person merely passes on information to other people because in counseling, both the counselor and the counselee undergo a process which doesn’t necessarily end after one session.

Dr, Narramore also discussed the need for counselors to give their best attention to their clients taking into account not only the latter’s words but also their demeanor in order for the former to adequately assess and analyze the latter’s problems and hence, provide effective solutions. That is why in setting an appointment, possible distractions must be minimized if not totally eliminated so that not even the minutest detail can escape the attention of the counselor. Lastly, Dr. Narramore stressed the value of discussion. He said that contrary to popular belief that “talk is cheap,” talking actually helps a person think clearly by putting into words the concepts he has in mind. In doing so, good ideas are sifted from bad ones. It helps us define just what we really do think. It shows up the true issue and points out possible danger or good.

Due to their similarities, the lessons I am currently learning about pastoral counseling can also readily be applied to legal counseling. Observing these basic steps will certainly make one a good counselor, whether pastoral or legal.

The Role of the Holy Spirit in Counseling

Before Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, He promised His disciples that He would not leave them orphans but would send them another Paraclete Whom He identified as the Spirit of truth (John 14:16-17). In English translations of the Bible, the Greek word ‘Paraclete’ in the above-cited passage is rendered either as ‘Advocate’ or ‘Helper.’ In addition to those however, the most appropriate translation of that word in the context of our topic is that of ‘Counselor.’ Although Jesus was and is definitely the Great Counselor while He walked the earth, the Counselor who remained on earth to guide Jesus’ disciples is the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will remind His disciples everything that He taught them—and that includes us modern-day Christians.

In referring to the third Person of the triune God, the word ‘holy’ is most commonly used. According to Jay Adams, the Holy Spirit is called holy not only because He is to be distinguished from all other spirits, and in particular from unclean spirits, but also because He is the Source of all holiness. He further states that “the holiness of God’s people that results from their sanctification by the Holy Spirit must be attributed entirely to Him as He works through His Word.

As pastors and nouthetic counselors entrusted by Jesus to take care and watch over His flock (Acts 20:28), we are to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding. We should acknowledge Him in all our ways and He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). Instead of relying on human wisdom as set forth in the various philosophical systems of the world, it is only through the help of the Holy Spirit and by our reliance on the truth of God’s Word in Sacred Scripture that we can truly be effective in guiding His people out of the problems they are facing. By being faithful to God’s calling and direction, we bring glory to His name.

The Role of the Church in Pastoral Counseling

Pastoral counseling, as its name implies, happens in the context of the church. As the pastor is the person primarily responsible for the job, his role as the leader of the flock Christ has entrusted to him is indispensable to his duty as counselor. The pastor’s knowledge of of the conduct in the church of the people under his care provides clues to a deeper understanding of their psychological and spiritual condition.

According to Samuel Southard, “One of the characteristics of the Christian church is its ability to demonstrate God’s love through human relationships. In the Christian fellowship a believer may find tangible expression of the supernatural grace that endows his life.” He further stated that the standard for the Christian’s life among men is the relationship which exists between Christ and his disciples in such a way that to walk worthy of God’s calling is to forebear one another in love and walk honorably among men. Most importantly, the church is not to be defined just in terms of relationships among men but in terms of the quality of the relationship that exists among men because they have become sons of God. The church provides a purpose for living and the fellowship through which love may be made real.

The setting and atmosphere of the church is the best condition to facilitate the effectiveness of the counseling ministry. This includes the relationship between the pastor and his flock and the flock among themselves. In fact, whenever I tell my wife that we should go and seek counseling, she would always tell me that she wants someone whom we can trust. The adage, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is absolutely true when it comes to counseling. Most people, especially Filipinos, will not listen to some stranger telling them how to run their lives. Instead of looking at the educational and professional attainments of the counselor—no matter how important that is—they will need someone who they trust. Someone whom they will entrust with their deepest secrets and innermost turmoils. And what better place to look for aside from one’s biological family than one’s spiritual family?

The Counselor

One of the most important elements of counseling is the counselor himself and according to Adams in his The Christian Counselor’s Manual, “While every Christian must become a counselor to his fellow Christians, the work of counseling as a special calling is assigned particularly to the pastor.”

Corollary to this is his apparent antagonism towards the “science” of psychiatry, positing that biblically, there is no warrant for acknowledging its existence as a separate and distinct discipline because there are only three specified sources of personal problems in living, namely: demonic activity, personal sin, and organic illness, and that all options are covered under these three heads, leaving no room for a fourth—non-organic mental illness. So, there is therefore no place in a biblical scheme for the psychiatrist as a separate practitioner. The same is true with respect to his view on non-directive counseling saying that those words represent a contradiction of terms.

As ordained Christian ministers are the ones specifically tasked to do the work of counseling, the qualifications of a counselor are the same as those of a minister. To be an effective nouthetic counselor, one must possess the following: (a) adequate scriptural knowledge of the will of God; (b) divine wisdom in one’s relationships to others; and (c) good will and concern for other members of the body of Christ. In short, he must be convinced that the Bible is true and be ready and able to direct others to its promises with assurance and conviction. The counselor, as an ordained man of God, exercises the full authority for counseling that Christ gave to the organized church. As such, he must also exhibit faithful obedience to God’s Word in his daily life.

Aside from the qualifications discussed above, the emotional health and attitudes of the counselor are likewise vitally important. A person who is undergoing emotional turmoil due to his own personal problems may not be in the best condition to counsel others. He will be out of focus, distracted by his own issues that he would not be able to listen attentively and effectively process the information his counselee is sharing. Moreover, the emotionally disturbed counselor’s judgment might become clouded and colored by his own biases and desired solutions to his own problems.

As the person primarily responsible in helping other people deal with their life problems and issues, the minister must see to it that before he enters the counseling room or office and meets with his counselees, his emotional and mental disposition is well-balanced and free from any distractions that may affect his performance and functions as such. To help achieve this, the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit is indispensable, which can be gained through prayer and meditation on God’s Word.

The Counselee

In reading chapter four of The Christian Counselor’s Manual by Adams, I found some important things that a Christian counselor needs to know and realize before he proceeds with the counseling proper.

The first is that as Christians who regularly read and meditate on God’s Word, we already know a lot about human nature. Even in the study of theology in seminary where the Bible is our primary and only infallible source of truth, the topic of anthropology is included. As the Bible contains the truths of God relative to His creation, coupled with intense observation of verbal and non-verbal messages put across by our counselee, we are able to effectively diagnose the main problems that commonly beset man. According to Adams, there are three sources of information available to the Christian or pastoral counselor with the first one being primary and foundational and the other two secondary and derivative, to wit: (1) the Scriptures, as mentioned above; (2) the counselor’s and others’ experiences; and (3) the dynamics of his own sinful heart. While the first source is inerrant and infallible being the Word of God, the interpretations of the second and third sources are subject to the first.

The second thing that pastoral counselors need to remember is that the Bible contains every solution to every human problem. Of course, this does not mean that it contains the solutions to every mathematical or scientific problem but that which relates to the nature of man in relation to his God. In other words, those relating to faith and morals. In fact, these are the only kinds of issues that truly have eternal significance. Jesus, being both fully God and fully human, knows and understands all the problems, difficulties, and temptations that all men face. As a man, he himself faced the same temptations and yet did not sin.

Third, in view of the foregoing, we also need to know how to properly apply the truths of Scripture to the issues of our counselees. We can do this by going through our counselee’s history so as to correctly understand his or her situation well. Otherwise, our diagnosis of the real problem may be faulty or at best, incomplete. We have to learn how to listen carefully with patient endurance guided by the Holy Spirit and the truths of Scripture in interpreting the signs.

Fourth and last, we have to take confidence that our counselees can indeed change. This is a very crucial plank in the Christian counselor’s platform. Even though modern psychologists and psychiatrists seem to have given up on a seemingly “mental” patient, we, as Christian counselors should not give up easily but instead see the root cause of the problem as it relates to our sinful nature which is not beyond the redemptive powers of the Blood of Christ. The idea itself of being “born again” signifies a radical change in our being. It not only illustrates a cleansing or repairs of a certain person but a total change of that person’s nature. Everywhere the Scriptures either demand change or assume its possibility. Knowing such truth gives the Christian counselor hope that his labor shall bear fruit because he knows that God is in the business of changing lives.