In my previous post I found myself in the surprising situation of defending Pat Robertson’s widely panned commentary on the morality of divorce in the case of advanced Alzheimer’s. I was not necessarily agreeing with Pat’s view, but I was certainly sympathetic to it.
Not everyone was in agreement. A couple people offered reasonable dissent from my sympathetic view. Adam Omelianchuk stated:
“I don’t know. A promise is a promise. The movie doesn’t really illustrate how a lucid husband could divorce his wife just because she contracts a certain marriage-destroying disease. If it can, then don’t make the promise “in sickness and health” or till death do us part. That’s the only way I can see the husbandly duties being removed.”
Paul Whiteley went further, apparently believing that Robertson’s view was undermining or weakening the gospel:
“please do not continue in “watering-down” the Gospel. We are to love our spouses and our neighbors (including our enemies) through all obstacles. “Until death do we part” means death; not what you or we see fit for our own personal being. Basing love on our own benefit is the love that the world provides (Satan). This does not demonstrate the love shown through Christ powered by God that we, as Christians, are to model for the world.”
However, other readers were in sympathy with Pat’s position. The most notable of these was a reader who commented on a mirror posting of this article at The Christian Post:
“My husband has Alzheimer’s disease. I have posted on several sites and have been attacked as badly as Pat. The unconscionable lack of compassion for the care giving spouse is just appalling to me. The self righteous arrogant responses are despicable. Thank you for your article. Most of these people have spewed their venom without thinking before they speak. I am not divorcing my husband, but I can’t continue to live a life of nothing either. There are two victims in this kind of situation.”
She added in a subsequent post:
“I have noticed that my husband, who no longer recognizes me, has taken a liking to a certain lady at the nursing home. At first, it actually bothered me, but now I totally understand. She is pretty much in the same world as he is in. If he has love feelings for her, I will accept that.”
I dunno. Is it watering down the gospel to give the spouses of Alzheimer’s the possibility of divorcing a spouse who no longer knows they exist and who has taken up romantically with a new consort? And what do we say to Paul Whitely who says “‘Until death do we part’ means death…?”
Here is another case. A young newlywed couple, each barely twenty years old, has just gone on their honeymoon when the wife suffers a massive stroke. While she survives and her lower brain function is spared, all her higher brain function has been lost. She is now a PVS patient completely unresponsive to all external stimuli, doomed to live in a hospital bed being turned every few hours for bed sores whilst being hydrated and fed through tubes, perhaps for the next fifty or sixty years.
Would it be moral for the Mister to divorce his wife and move on? Or is he obliged to remain the faithful partner of his spouse for the coming decades?