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An Ungenerous Orthodoxy

I had never heard of Randal Rauser until a week or two ago. Turns out he's a Canadian theologian/philosopher and blogger. Also a Christian of sorts. He signals his place on the evangelical spectrum at the top of his home page by endorsing a "generous orthodoxy"--a reference to Brian McLaren.

I first learned of Rauser's existence through a link to a post criticizing him when he came out in support of Pat Robertson's appalling comments on the subject of ditching your Alzheimer's spouse. Rauser found it in his heart to do this despite being apparently well to the left of Robertson and therefore finding it difficult to say anything positive about him, but hey, when it comes to defending something really important, the time has come to set mere political disagreements aside. A man has to step up to the plate sometimes.

Except, apparently, when it comes to standing by your cognitively disabled spouse. In a follow-up post, Rauser defends his position and explains it further.

A couple of twenty year olds are honeymooning when one of them has a massive stroke and is left in a coma with all higher brain function permanently lost. The one that is in a coma will now live for perhaps the next sixty years in a hospital bed with no conscious life at all. Is the other spouse morally obliged to stay with the spouse that is in a coma? And if not obliged, should we tell the spouse that the higher, truly Christ-like path is to forgo remarriage, companionship, parenthood and all the rest in favor of emptying the bedpan of the comatose spouse?

I think not. To be sure, if anybody chose to remain married to an irreversibly comatose spouse I would count that a noble thing to do. But I wouldn’t count it any nobler than one who divorced the irreversibly comatose spouse in favor of a new life. After all, with all higher brain function lost that spouse is essentially dead, even if the bodily organism still grows toenails and hair.

There is so much that is shocking and offensive about these paragraphs that one scarcely knows where to begin, but one obvious place is with their narcissism. Marriage, evidently, is chiefly about satisfying one's own needs. This is what makes it so unreasonable, to Rauser's mind, to ask someone to stay married to a spouse who has a stroke on the honeymoon. That would mean forgoing a whole lifetime of all the things one was hoping to get out of the marriage! It makes one wonder: If your wife had a stroke after fifty years of marriage and you could be sure she would live for only a few years, then would it be wrong to leave her? After all, by that time you've already gotten what you want out of her--companionship, parenthood, and "all the rest" (c'mon Randal, go ahead and say it: S-E-X).

Related to the narcissism is the adolescent contempt for the weak and sick and their needs. What a terrible thought--you might be called upon by your commitment to your spouse to change a bedpan! How dare God or man ask such a thing? Note: B.B. Warfield's wife was struck by lightning on their honeymoon and paralyzed for life. One respondent to Rauser discussed Warfield's devotion to her in response to Rauser's original post. Rauser dismisses the point by noting that she was conscious, or "sentient," as he chooses to put it. But of course that didn't change the fact that Warfield had to forgo parenthood and remarriage to stay with her, and you never know--he may even have had to change a bedpan or do other unpleasant tasks that were part of her care.

Then, of course, there's the hateful reference, very much in Robertson's vein, to a severely cognitively disabled person as "essentially dead" (even though "the organism" continues to "grow hair and toenails"). Now, here's an interesting thing: Robertson is not a philosopher, but Rauser is. On the top of his home page Rauser has a list of self-characterizations that are evidently supposed to be endearing. One of them is "rigorously analytic." I feel obligated to point out that when "rigorously analytic" philosophers (or any philosophers, one would like to think) use the term "essential" or its cognates, they usually mean something by it. "Essential" is one of those philosophical words that's supposed to carry fairly heavy baggage with it. To say that someone is "essentially dead" is a strong statement.

However (see the thread), when one of Rauser's readers apparently seriously proposes that the organs of a person in the state Rauser describes should be taken rather than "wasted," Rauser is shocked and rejects the idea. From that reaction I think we can fairly conclude that by "essentially dead" he doesn't mean "really dead," which of course takes us directly to The Princess Bride.

Miracle Max: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do.

Inigo Montoya: What's that?

Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

It looks like by "essentially dead" Rauser means what Miracle Max means by "mostly dead," which is "slightly alive." And since it's only when we get to "all dead" that it's okay to go through the victim's clothes and look for loose change (or go through his body and look for loose organs), the "essentially dead" person is safe on that score, though not safe from being divorced and abandoned, given Rauser's ethics. Phew!

All of which leads me to comment that perhaps mostly rigorous is slightly fuzzy.

Rauser implies that if you oppose leaving a cognitively devastated spouse you are advocating a "new asceticism." His argument for this conclusion is, shall we say, rather brief, but here is the nub of it:

[Ascetics believe that]...the more unpleasant your life, the more [C]hristlike it is and thus the more morally praiseworthy.

Now, to be fair, in the immediate context, Rauser is discussing a blogger who actually did say that it might not be wrong to leave your disabled spouse but that it would be more praiseworthy not to do so. But it doesn't seem a stretch to guess that Rauser would also apply this characterization to those who take the stronger position that one must stay with the disabled spouse.

So if I contemplate a husband in the above scenario--whose wife has a stroke and becomes permanently comatose as a result--and say that he has an obligation to stay with his wife, does that mean that I think that the more unpleasant your life is, the more praiseworthy it is? No, that would be what we rigorously analytic types call a non sequitur. If those of us who disagree with Rauser thought that, then presumably we would think that the husband would be less praiseworthy if he sought and obtained a complete cure for his wife, because then his life would be less unpleasant. Yet neither I nor (I'll wager) anyone who advocates not ditching your spouse in these circumstances would endorse that conclusion.

Suppose I help Rauser out and (though I am a Protestant and not especially sympathetic to asceticism) give a less tendentious characterization of asceticism: Asceticism, we might fairly say, is the view that one can and sometimes should gain spiritual strength and spiritual concentration through physical self-denial, by deliberately seeking out and creating situations in which one's physical desires are not met, even though satisfying those physical desires would not be intrinsically wrong. On this understanding, it is not an ascetic position to say that you should not have sex outside of marriage, because having sex outside of marriage is intrinsically wrong anyway. It is ascetical, within marriage, deliberately to refrain from sexual relations between husband and wife for, say, a special period of prayer or in observance of a particular part of the Church Year. The view that you should not eat so much food that you make yourself vomit is not, particularly, an ascetic view. But it is ascetical deliberately to fast from normal meals. It is not ascetical to refrain from bashing your neighbor over the head and taking his money. It is ascetical to give away your highly valued personal possessions to the poor. And so on and so forth.

So is it asceticism to say that one should not leave one's severely cognitively disabled spouse? One can say that it is only if one believes that leaving the spouse is not intrinsically wrong. Now, obviously, that's what Rauser thinks. But a disagreement over that very point is at the heart of most people's negative reaction to Rauser's and Robertson's position.

There's a small matter here of keeping one's promises and not putting an asterisk after "in sickness and in health" followed, in small print, by "unless I conclude that you're mostly dead."

Not abandoning one's sick spouse, yes, even one's very, very sick spouse, is not asceticism. It's mere decency. And if you think (as I, for one, should be loath to think) that non-Christian man cannot rise to that level of decency, then we can go up a level: It's mere Christianity.

Comments (75)

Just posted this at FB. What an excellent article, Lydia -- thanks.

Epicureanism or something close to it is seems to be the default moral philosophy for social liberals. They have defined-down supererogation to point that minimally decent actions cease to be obligatory when we don't want to perform them. Hence, abortion is morally justified because we might not want to put up with a child, and it is just too much to ask of us to let the child live. Euthanasia is morally justified because we might not want to put up with an invalid, and it is just too much to ask of us to let them live. After all, we can have experiences, they can't. It is just straight-down-the-line Epicureanism.

It's BS from evangelicals like this who make up such incredibly anti-Christ theological arguments that is slowly driving me toward Catholicism.

It's BS from evangelicals like this who make up such incredibly anti-Christ theological arguments that is slowly driving me toward Catholicism.
Then balance that trending by offsetting it with the BS from Catholics ... some of which can even be seen on this blog.

@Mike T

Hoping you cross the Tiber Brother

@llion

BS from Catholics is from dissenters i.e. heretics, also at least Cathalocisim (in theory if not in practise) doctrianlly monolithic with a proper teaching authority, the people know what they need to believe (admitidly you have priests, religious and laity who dissent but there are heretics who defy authority in favour of a protestant version of church governance). In contrast The Church of 4 square evangelism split from the Church of 1 square evangelism because half the congrefation believed in infant baptism and cited scripture to prove their point and the other half called them heretics using scripture to prove thier point etc etc

Okay, okay, gentlemen, break up the Catholic-Protestant fight. I know I've been lax on some other threads, but I'm going to try to keep this on on-topic. :-)

Thank you, Beth.

Untenured, excellent point about Epicureanism. I had a similar thought years ago when I read an article about not aborting a child in some tragic circumstances--a life of the mother scenario, as I recall. The author definitely said that not aborting the child was supererogatory. I understood why, psychologically, he might feel inclined to say that, but I remember thinking that what we are talking about is refraining from an active homicidal attack on a baby. When one thinks of it like that, considering it "heroic" to refrain seems to be definitely defining down.

I don't know why you expect the ecumenical bickering to stop, Lydia. This sort of nonsense is what you get when you don't have the Magisterium. Decency is a social convention (albeit an important and highly necessary one, of course): that's a rather unfortunate tool to be made to resort to in the face of a frontal assault on the lifetime nature of the marital commitment.

When one thinks of it like that, considering it "heroic" to refrain seems to be definitely defining down.

By such logic, half of the commuters in LA and DC are damn heroes for not ramming slow drivers off the road during rush hour.

Thanks for your enjoyable critique Lydia. I do think it is off base however, and I'll note just a few points to that end.

First, I didn't come out "in support" of Robertson. In fact, I said I am sympathetic with the condemnation of Robertson's views. I added "It may be right. All I am saying is that I am sympathetic with Robertson’s reasoning as well."

In this context "sympathetic with x" means "I can see how a person can make a defensible moral case for x". And then I laid out some of the elements of that case.

Second, you never discussed the case of "Away from Her". I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on that. Let's say that spouse A contracts dementia and is placed in a care home because spouse B can no longer care for spouse A. Spouse A then forgets s/he was ever married to spouse B and develops a romantic relationship with another person at the care facility. Consequently, spouse B is forced to limit visits to small talk with spouse A and spouse A's new beau in the luch room as if spouse B were a casual acquaintance rather than the wedded partner of A. Are you seriously claiming that there is no case at all to be made for the moral permissibility of B divorcing A under these circumstances?

Third, on the PVS case you write “There is so much that is shocking and offensive about these paragraphs that one scarcely knows where to begin, but one obvious place is with their narcissism. Marriage, evidently, is chiefly about satisfying one's own needs.” Um, no. There are several issues but that isn't one of them. So what are the real issues? Here's one of them: when is a person no longer married (from a moral rather than legal perspective)? Let's say, for example, that a person is an Augustinian substance dualist and they believe that when higher brain function is irredeemably lost then the human organism remains but the person (that is, the soul) is no longer present. Moreover, let's say that they have reason to believe that a PVS case satifies those conditions, such that the soul or person is no longer present. The question would then become this: is a person still married if the body remains but the person is gone?

I'm not sure how to sort all these issues out. So I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the "Away from Her" case since there are many spouses who find themselves facing precisely that dilemma.

Thanks!

Hmm,

Rereading my comments, I find that I could have made my first point clearer than I did. So here's a redo:

Robertson says p.

You said I support Robertson's comments.

That makes it sound like I said Yes, p.

But I never said that. I said I don't know whether p. But I can see how a Christian could make a case for p.

Also, one of my favorite books is Henri Nouwen's Adam: God's Beloved and my favorite papal document ever is Evangelium Vitae.

Randal (if I may), I will take your points in order:

Point 1: I consider that expressing sympathy for Robertson's appalling position even in the way that your original post did is "supporting." That's how I use the term. So I stand by that. However, here you go farther and say you "never said p." Now, in your second post, quoted at some length above, you make it crystal clear that you do not think the spouse in the case you consider is obliged to refrain from divorce. So that's saying, "It's morally permissible to divorce in this case." That's directly and unequivocally supporting a parallel to Robertson's position vis a vis Alzheimer's in the case of the patient you describe.

Point 2:

Are you seriously claiming that there is no case at all to be made for the moral permissibility of B divorcing A under these circumstances?

Yes, I'm seriously claiming that. As a matter of fact, you can regard it as an act of charity on my part not to have addressed your movie case in my main post. In your post on that movie, you expressed great difficulty in being sure that there is a large asymmetry between the mentally competent spouse who does know who he is and who his wife is and the mentally incompetent wife who does not remember that she is married. That any philosopher should find it difficult to be sure that there is a big asymmetry between the responsibilities of these two people is something I find fairly wild. It, like your comments quoted above, speaks for itself.

Point 3:

Um, no. There are several issues but that isn't one of them.
You have a rhetorical tin ear. Your comments about forgoing x, y, and z, not to mention the almost incredibly offensive reference to the bedpan, definitely put the focus on the physically healthy spouse and all he will be giving up "for a lifetime."

It would not be necessary to go on in this fashion if we were talking about a spouse who is really dead. A woman whose husband has actually just died is also free to do trivial things that she could not do before--e.g., serve some sort of food that he disliked the smell of. But we don't bother emphasizing all the things that she can do now, etc., because that's beside the point. He's dead.

What you are doing, instead of simply arguing for a particular metaphysical status of the comatose spouse, is _weighing_ the things the healthy spouse would be giving up, the things he would like to have and the "new life" he would enjoy living, against the deprived life he would otherwise be living taking care of the comatose spouse (changing a bedpan!). Your claim that the comatose spouse is "essentially dead" (or something) serves this purpose well, but the litany of things the poor healthy spouse would miss out on is exceedingly telling.

Point 4:

Moreover, let's say that they have reason to believe that a PVS case satifies those conditions, such that the soul or person is no longer present.

I'm a Cartesian substance dualist, so it's rather amusing that I'm the one so often defending the personhood of the cognitively severely disabled patient against those whose position sounds like a sort of "I Hate Descartes" caricature of substance dualism.

Let me put it this way: Let's _not_ say that a person "has reason to think" anything of the sort. As far as I'm concerned, you might as well start a chain of reasoning by saying, "Suppose that someone takes the position that everyone under five feet tall is a poached egg. Now, suppose that he has reason to believe that Jane satisfies those conditions." You see, I don't think we ever have reason to think that "when higher brain function is irredeemably lost then the human organism remains but the person (that is, the soul) is no longer present." I think that's not only false but also absurd and quite clearly developed in a post hoc fashion to justify mistreating and abandoning the person in question, who is obviously (and inconveniently) a physically living human being.

Moreover, if such a position were correct, and if human vital organ transplant from dead donors is morally permissible, then there is no good reason against doing what your reader suggested and taking the organs of the patient.

Indeed, your reader is not the only one in the biomedical world who has made such a suggestion.

Let's say, for example, that a person is an Augustinian substance dualist and they believe that when higher brain function is irredeemably lost then the human organism remains but the person (that is, the soul) is no longer present.

Well, I don't know what kind of "augustinian" substance you have been dual smoking, but this is not Augustine's idea of the person or the soul. "Man is neither the body alone, nor the soul alone, but both together." For Augustine a human person is a body and a soul.

Let's say, instead, the truth: marriage is for life. That's what the vow says, 'cause that's what it means. If you don't want to bond yourself to her until either you or she is dead, DON'T GET MARRIED. It's simple.

when is a person no longer married

When the vows lapse: at death. That's simple. The vows express the reality of the marital state, because it is the vows themselves that carry the covenant to each other. They are not some strange "window dressing" on the underlying reality, that only incidentally bear on the inward reality. Exchanging the valid vows of marriage essentially forms the marital reality.

Moreover, let's say that they have reason to believe that a PVS case satifies those conditions, such that the soul or person is no longer present.

Let's stick to the truth: when it is no longer a person, it is no longer human, and that's when the human being is dead. Until that, it is a sick human being, which is the same thing as a sick human person. If you love Evangelium Vitae, you will assert and defend this with your dying breath (and all the ones before that).

But here is the single most offensive thing you managed to convey: when a person loses their mental faculties and needs bedpans, it is inherently better for strangers to take care of her than her husband, her husband ought not be required to touch her icky sick body.

The other point, which has yet to be made, is that to assume that the person in the PVS is no longer human, while a convenient rationalization, is also a sin against hope. Suppose God wishes to grant her a miracle of healing, but it requires faith on the husband's part, as in keeping the marriage vow. Who is to say that there is not a higher purpose in the illness than meets the eye? In any case, divorcing the wife is like committing suicide for the marriage and that is a sin against hope. As Tony rightly points out, the soul does not detach from the body simply because the brain isn't working properly. By this reasoning, an ancephalic baby would be born without a soul, since it does not have a functioning brain. If that were the case, the baby could not be baptized and yet, the Church recognizes the right of the baby to be baptized, so it, at least does not define a living person by the extent of mere brain functioning. Essentialy, this talk of divorcing the spouse is a form of despair, which, in turn, is a form of pride. It is an attempt to control the hand of God.

The Chicken

Even from a philosophical point of view, the question obviously arises: Suppose that a cure were to be discovered for the patient's condition. Would this constitute a resurrection on the view that the patient is dead? Would God send the soul back into the body? How many times would the person "go back and forth" if he suffered relapses? And so on.

It's very convenient to describe the patient's condition as "permanent," but that makes it sound as though this is intrinsic to the condition. In fact, this is not true. There is not some "essence" of the cognitive disability that makes it logically necessarily the case that it is permanent.

I note, too, that reductios are possible even if the advocate of the "dead" position is opposed to vital organ transplant in principle for everyone. In that case, what about burial? Why would it be wrong to bury the person?

Let's face it: The statement that the patient in a long-term comatose state is "essentially dead" is just another way of saying, that the patient isn't dead, but the patient is now sub-human. As with any other declaration of sub-humanity, we are at that point in uncharted waters, ethically. The faux ethicist who makes the declaration of non-personhood or sub-humanity or more-or-less-deadness or whatever other ersatz philosophical term we are going to make up will also now make up his ethics as he goes along, deciding what's "taking it too far" and so forth: "Well, you can regard the marriage as ended and divorce her, but you can't take her organs."

Suppose that a cure were to be discovered for the patient's condition. Would this constitute a resurrection on the view that the patient is dead? Would God send the soul back into the body? How many times would the person "go back and forth" if he suffered relapses? And so on.
As an old neighbor woman used to say: "That's what I know!"

... by the way, at the time it happened, I used the Velma Thomas case (and a similar one in France, in which the "donor" also "got away") to illustrate the moral danger inherent in the organ transplant regime in a place infested with "liberals" -- who, being "liberals", constantly proclaimed themselves to be more "compassionate" and more moral than me -- and they didn't give a damn about the obvious fact that people who are *not* dead are clearly being killed (i.e. murdered) by harvesting of their organs.

I absolutely agree with you! In sickness and in health must mean every sickness and every stage of it, every step of this super hard way!

Dear Lydia,

(Quint)essentially brilliant!

Warmly,
Adrian

Is this a first at WWWtW? We all agree on something?

The Chicken

Lydia,

Duane and Suzy have been happily married for a decade when Suzy discovers that Duane has had sexual relations with two of her friends. As an informed medical doctor Suzy recognizes that Duane's recent promiscuous behavior could be related to his recent Toxoplasma infection. Is Suzy morally obliged to stay married to Duane if that assessment is correct?

Duane's recent promiscuous behavior could be related to his recent Toxoplasma infection.

Well, first we have the question of whether there _is_ an adultery exception for divorce. If one grants that there is (which is of course a recognized position in some Christian denominations, though not one universally shared) we have the question of whether Duane is responsible and if so, to what extent.

In any event, Randal, you're trying to do some kind of "shift the goalposts" thing here. As a philosopher, it's not like I'm not familiar with the move, but in contexts like this I find it somewhat contemptible. There is a large difference between

--So-and-so did something that would normally be considered wrong, but a physical condition may have predisposed him or influenced him somewhat in that direction, which is to some degree mitigating

and

--So-and-so did something that would normally be considered wrong, but a physical condition *definitely made it the case* that she (the wife in the movie) had *no idea of her own identity as a wife* and that this made her action of developing a non-physical, romantic emotional attachment to a man she knows quite innocent for all that she could know.

Let's not play games. In the one case we have a complete absence of mental competence leading to a total confusion, meaning a total absence of relevant information. In the other hypothetical we have the possibility of a predisposing factor leading to behavior (promiscuity) which can be known to be wrong in any event.

If you bring me other total memory loss scenarios, then naturally I'm going to treat them all parallel: No, you don't divorce the person. Yes, of course, if at all possible, you try to restore his lost memory.

Trying to make things the same that are different is morally illicit, and it's a mug's game to be taken in by it. I'm not a mug.

Lydia,

I'm not shifting goalposts. I was dealing with the underlying question of whether it is ever morally permissible to divorce a spouse because of the effects of a disease suffered by the spouse. There are many cases we could discuss from the toxoplasma infection to schizophrenia to Alzheimer's to PTSD to fetal alcohol syndrome to .... What about Dena Schlosser who amputated her 9 month old infant's arms in the name of Jesus? She was found not guilty by reason of insanity so her husband should have stayed married, right?

Life is so simple in your ivory tower. And the view is so clear. You can see the black and white for miles around. But should you ever choose to descend the spiral staircase and enter the village of real life be prepared for another shade called "grey".

Thanks for the dialogue.

She was found not guilty by reason of insanity so her husband should have stayed married, right?

Lots of questions there. First of all, is divorce or is separation without remarriage appropriate in the case of a violent spouse? Second, was the jury _correct_ to find her not guilty by reason of insanity? Did she literally not know the meaning and nature of her actions, for example?

Then, of course, there is the *extreme oddity* of your trying to make what sounds like (I haven't seen the movie) a gentle flirtatious romantic friendship formed by an Alzheimer's wife who does not remember that she's a wife in a nursing home into some heavy sin and paralleling it to horrors like promiscuity (which is wrong even for unmarried people) and cutting off one's infant's arms. What's with that?

I'll tell you what's with that: What's with that is that you were "sympathetic" to Robertson's position from the beginning, and if you can't make out a way to say that an *obviously innocent* mentally disabled spouse is "dead" (after all, the wife in the movie is conscious and talking) you'll try to find some other screwball way to argue that "the marriage is over" in virtue of the disabled spouse's loss of memory.

This is not an edifying picture, but I'm afraid it's the type of picture too many contemporary ethicists present. That a Christian should be giving us an example of it makes it worse.

Funny how statements like, "The real world contains shades of grey" never mean "Take up your cross and follow" or even a more secular version: "Life often stinks, but men of integrity keep their integrity in the face of its unexpected vicissitudes." No, somehow those sorts of platitudes always mean, "There's a way for me to get to do what I feel like doing notwithstanding boring old ethical principles to the contrary."

I think that Robertson's comments were absolutely disgusting and I wholeheartedly agree with this position in the case of physically or mentally disabled spouses.

However I would like to ask about Lydia's (and others') position in the case of, say, a paranoid and delusional husband (probably schizophrenic, but no official diagnosis because he is not a danger to himself and others (and so cannot be treated against his will) and refuses to seek treatment voluntarily, because he doesn't believe he is ill). He is an emotional and financial abuser and occasionally a physical abuser. No children. Assuming that the wife intends not to re-marry and to seek reconciliation IFF he seeks treatment and demonstrates consistently changed behaviour, is there ever a point at which she is justified to separate from him?

This is not hypothetical. I am facing this dilemma in real life, right now. I will be talking to a priest and a devout Catholic psychiatrist, who know us both, and perhaps the views of people here would turn on the sort of details that I would not post in the internet....but I have to admit that I am very interested in the opinions of the regulars here.

Separation can be a very different thing from divorce, particularly when the person in question is dangerous to the spouse. (Or in a case where the person _needs_ to be cared for by others--e.g., medical experts with otherwise unavailable medical resources, those with greater physical strength, etc.) I can well imagine that in a case of physical danger, the spouse needs to separate.

I can well imagine that in a case of physical danger, the spouse needs to separate.

Indeed. Or even in the case of a danger to one's mental/emotional/spiritual health, for that matter.

I notice this from RR:


I was dealing with the underlying question of whether it is ever morally permissible to divorce a spouse because of the effects of a disease suffered by the spouse.

From Rules of Fancy Footwork for Modern Ethicists:

Rule #7: If an argument you made based on a thought experiment turns out to be embarrassingly poor, change the subject as quickly as possible. If at all possible, insinuate that your opponent has no philosophical right to point out the weakness of your initial argument unless he produces a complete theory, which you find convincing, on a much larger question.

"Or even in the case of a danger to one's mental/emotional/spiritual health, for that matter."

Emotionally and metnally, I feel depressingly resilient. Spiritually is another matter.

He is convinced that our local parish (which is actually wonderful, both liturgically and in the proportion of 'serious' non-cafeteria Catholics) is infested with Freemasons who seek to harm him _personally_, forbidden me to go to Mass in this parish or have any contact with our old friends there, has laid onerous conditions on my attending Mass and he is negative if I go anyway (my priest has dispensed me from the Sunday obligation under these circumstances, but obviously this is not a good situation) and is intermittently pressuring me to convert to another (non-Christian) religion.

"He is an emotional and financial abuser and occasionally a physical abuser."

If finances are an issue for you, you need to talk to an attorney about a legal separation and a restraining order. The kind of situation you describe can go south quicker than you might believe. He has already broken the law. Put yourself first and get out.

Funny how statements like, "The real world contains shades of grey" never mean ...... something like, "And if I am willing to look closer, and patient and honest in that looking, then I can resolve the grey into its more granular black-and-white components."

For, after all, grey is fuzzy black-and-white; focus more closely, and the grey disappears.

Rule #7: If an argument you made based on a thought experiment turns out to be embarrassingly poor, change the subject as quickly as possible. If at all possible, insinuate that your opponent has no philosophical right to point out the weakness of your initial argument unless he produces a complete theory, which you find convincing, on a much larger question.

Many of us probably have experience with this when discussing abortion. That is, after showing how utterly arbitrary it is that one can kill an innocent human based on location (a womb), usually next comes the "Where is your comprehensive legal formula for criminalizing abortion?"

Separation is permitted under canon 1153.1 of the Code of Canon Law:

Canon 1153.1 A spouse who occasions grave danger of soul or body to the other or to the children, or otherwise makes the common life unduly difficult, provides the other spouse with a reason to leave, either by a decree of the local Ordinary or, if there is danger in delay, even on his or her own authority.

It is presumed that charity will prevail on the injured party such that prayer and goodwill will continue towards the separated spouse.

It is hard to convince some people that Freemasons hardly have to infiltrate churches, these days. They could hardly do more damage than the ineptly celebrated liturgies and secularization in some churches have already done. For your part, you might get very good at apologetics, since it seems your spouse really doesn't know much about how to factually assess a spiritual situation. Now, poorly catechized parishioners do not equal Freemasons run amok. I can't comment on what and why your husband thinks as he does, but he has a moral responsibility not to rashly judge where he has no conclusive data, as is certainly the case, here. You might need training, yourself, both in apologetics and in dealing with delusional people, as this might help you feel more secure.

By the way, unless he threatens to beat you, you have no obligation to obey a spouse that orders you to commit a sin by missing mass, although you may have to do so to keep the peace. He has no right to impose an evil means to a (supposedly) good end. Sadly, the same thing happened in places like Geneva during the Baroque period, where the husband would become a Calvinist, but the wife remained a Catholic. Very dangerous.

If he can't recognize that a valid mass is a valid mass, regardless of the spiritual dispositions of the priest and congregation (the Sebellian Heresy), then he doesn't understand his faith and on that basis does not have an informed conscience.

In any case, that is quite a cross you have and you will be in my prayers. I have had friends leave the Church because of questionable reading on Internet sites. These and other books can feed into poorly formed knowledge.

One final question, which you need not answer, but I am curious, since I have some knowledge in this area: has this behavior occurred after some threshold religious event or experience, such as a Charismatic retreat or a Cursillio? Some religious activities in the Church can be emotionally destabilizing and the causes are only now beginning to be understood. I know a person who was baptized in the spirit and then had to be hospitalized and was in and out of mental institutions for two years. This is rare, but it does happen. If there is no threshold religious event, then his actions may be either the result of poor reading or a genuine organic illness. Find a good and experienced priest and stay in touch as best you can. Most of all, stay close to the sacrament of penance. Your spiritual health will help his.

My apologies for unsought and probably poor advice. Please, use your best judgment. God be with you.

The Chicken


Canon 1153.1 is only the one paragraph, not the paragraph starting, "It is presumed..." that starts my comments.

In sum, I don't have enough specific knowledge to offer an informed opinion. I can only say what Canon Law says and the teaching of the Church. How it applies in your situation is a matter for people more knowledgeable and on the scene to decide.

The Chicken

Thank you so much, everyone.

MC:

It is hard to convince some people that Freemasons hardly have to infiltrate churches, these days.

Exactly what our parish priest told him. :/

For your part, you might get very good at apologetics, since it seems your spouse really doesn't know much about how to factually assess a spiritual situation.

Some of the people he thinks are malicious Freemasons are some of the best-catechised and devout Catholics I know, and this parish has the EF Mass every Sunday. He's absolutely convinced he's my 'spiritual superior' and has insight into their characters that most people don't.

If he can't recognize that a valid mass is a valid mass, regardless of the spiritual dispositions of the priest and congregation

Oh, he recognises that; he's afraid of the supposedly malicious intent of actual people there. That's why the only places he lets me attend Mass are huge cathedral-size churches two hours away, where I don't know anyone and will be lost in the crowd.

has this behavior occurred after some threshold religious event or experience

Not really, no – it's a long story and I can't really go into detail here.

Well, dear sister, it looks like you are in the thick of things. There is nothing I can say that will make the next few months any easier. If you need help from some stout Simon's of Cyrene, I would say there are probably a few, here. You will be in my prayers.

The Chicken

Randal writes: "Moreover, let's say that they have reason to believe that a PVS case satifies those conditions, such that the soul or person is no longer present. The question would then become this: is a person still married if the body remains but the person is gone?"

One is no more married to another's "body" than one is married to another's ear lobe. A person is a whole being whose parts work in concert for the good of the whole. As long as that is the case, the soul is present, even if some of the parts are not functioning properly. The cessation of a fully integrated organism is evidence of the soul's absence. Permanent unconsciousness of a living organism means that there is an absence of bodily function by which the person's intellectual powers cannot be exercised. The person, however, is fully there.

When I see my wife, I see my wife. I don't see her body. For she is her body, a body informed by a soul.

What we find in both Pat Robertson and your sympathies is an unwillingness to take Jesus seriously. When he said, "Pick up your cross and follow me," he meant it.

Brock, as Al and MC and other said, separation is a valid option in some situations, and yours sounds like it could be one, though we outsiders cannot hope to render any kind of judgment.

In addition to a separation if that is appropriate and is effectuated, it MAY become possible down the road to undertake an annulment proceeding. This would study the underlying marriage itself, to see if the apparent marriage never really was a marriage to begin with. It is often the case that someone who is mentally ill simply doesn't have the capacity to give the kind of consent needed for a valid marriage to be contracted. Thus, the old woman in the nursing home who is convinced she is single and has a new romantic attachment to another resident: she CANNOT marry the new beau because her mental condition precludes the capacity to validly consent.

But that's definitely not one of the things to worry about now, your first concern is to stabilize your situation. I will ask my family to keep you in our prayers. I have a friend who had to do something as difficult as what you are facing, starting 6 years ago. She definitely had some rocky times, but she also had grace lifting her up and help unlooked for in some instances.

In addition to a separation if that is appropriate and is effectuated, it MAY become possible down the road to undertake an annulment proceeding.

But, Tony, as you know there is only one legitimate reason to undertake an annulment proceeding: the suspicion of a genuine impediment. If she's never had that suspicion before, and she doesn't have one now, why should she entertain the idea that she might have one later? The existence of a marital crisis is precisely the wrong reason to start thinking about an annulment.

To put it another way, it's important to cultivate an habitual assumption of validity, especially under trying circumstances - where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

If she's never had that suspicion before, and she doesn't have one now, why should she entertain the idea that she might have one later? The existence of a marital crisis is precisely the wrong reason to start thinking about an annulment.

Amen.

Anullments for mental illness are easy to get in the U. S., (don't get me started on why: vague Canon Law and poor psychological theories), but they are overturned 70% of the time when appealed to Rome.

The Chicken

Jeff,

Although it is generally true that the valid bond of marriage has our presumption of validity - we should ALL assume the marriage ceremony was valid - this presumption can be overturned by evidence. I do not think that a person going through a trying marital situation automatically needs to reflect on the possibility of annulment, but a person who sees objective evidence that would go a long way toward overturning the presumption in favor of the bond need not turn himself or herself into a psychological pretzel (by pretending the evidence isn't there) AS WELL AS undergoing the effort of (say) initiating separation proceedings while at the same time remaining in perfect charity toward the spouse.

That is to say, a person in this situation need not pretend evidence isn't there if it is, just because that evidence has not yet been put together into a final case for or against the bond, and maybe never will be made into a case. God does not expect a human being to be a robot: a person who finally, after a messy separation / legal divorce, and 5 years of counseling, decides to pursue the annulment cannot all of a sudden realize, hey presto, that there are also objective reasons to doubt the validity of the marital bond. Furthermore, EVEN WHILE a person has submitted the case to the tribunal, and has no final decree, and therefore is morally obligated to consider him or herself still married, he or she could not have decided to submit the case if the evidence were not at least partially convincing in its nature. Again, a person is not required to be a psychological pretzel: if the tribunal's process is to hear evidence on a submitted case, then someone has to make the prior decision to submit the case because the evidence looks reasonable. If it looks reasonable, then the spouse has objective reason to doubt the bond, even while he or she continues to assume it is valid for general purposes.

Finally, although normally the presumption is in favor of the bond, there are circumstances where the presumption simply need not be granted. If 2 non-Christians get married before the justice of the peace, the Christian can presume the marriage is valid (until proven otherwise). But if 2 Catholics go before a JoP to get married, no Catholic need grant any weight to the marriage at all - their presumption ought to be that there is NO bond, because Canon Law says no marriage takes place without canonical form, and that takes the priest or deacon (with certain extremely rare exceptions). And if they later go for an annulment, there is a special, fast-track process to grant it because the nature of the case is crystal clear and the evidence is straightforward documentable objective fact. It is an unfortunate reality that many sede-vacantist Catholics have *marriages* that are procedurally in nearly the same status, because the priest who performed the ceremony had no faculties for doing so from the bishop. As a result, they are procedurally in a similar position to Catholics who marry before a JoP. (I personally think that this may be the last hurdle Benedict XVI is sorting out to solve the trad SSPX problem.)

The last thing a person in such a trying situation needs is to be told to be a robot or to pretend evidence isn't evident. A whole person will, or at least can learn, to take care of first things first and deal with later things in their proper order, later, if and when conditions become ripe. (Becoming ripe is a process, not an instantaneous event.)

If she's never had that suspicion before, and she doesn't have one now
a paranoid and delusional husband (probably schizophrenic,

Mental illness can preclude capacity for consent, though it is not so automatically. That's what I was working off of, Jeff. Some women will not undertake the steps to achieve a necessary safety and stability through separation as long as they are convinced that if only they gave a little more effort to the marriage, it would work out. It can be the case that part of the process of discernment that separation might be the moral and suitable thing to do is a recognition of aspects of the marriage that they cannot fix on their own no matter what they do, because the problem condition does not rest on their own actions. Including aspects that might undermine the bond itself, although there may be plenty of aspects that have nothing to do with the validity of the bond that still indicate separation is appropriate.

Okay, tweet! (No, I'm not on Twitter and never intend to be. That was my ref. whistle.)

I'd overall prefer that this not turn into a discussion of annulment.

I want to be as sweet as the Masked Chicken when I grow up.

The Elephant

Ma, is that you? Seriously, elephant, I blush. We could star in a Disney film, together. Have your agent call my agent.

Lydia, sorry about the annulment thing. Since Catholics don't have divorce, it is something that is natural to consider seeking after a permanent separation.

Back to Alzheimer's disease.

I got an interesting reaction on my blog from a protestant who believes polygamy is permissible. He said that allowing polygamy would make many husbands more sympathetic, not less, to a wife who is sick since a man with two wives could presumably have a normal marriage with the healthy one while caring for the other. It struck me as another example of how a lot of Christians don't want to face the ugly truth that it is just expected of you to put your needs aside to care for a spouse who is incapacitated like this, not to mention utterly naive since the reaction most women would have would be to nag their husband to get rid of the "dead weight" of a second wife who is in such rough shape.

By the way, here's a great article on this by a comedian named Ken Davis. (Hat tip to his son-in-law---he runs a gospel quartet and I get their newsletter regularly.)

http://www.kendavis.com/commentary/what-would-pat-robertson-have-done-with-my-dad/

The Elephant

Lydia, sorry, my mistake. I bow to your wisdom.


Great link, M.E.

The thing that strikes me as so particularly cruel about positions like Robertson's (and RR's talk about "when does the marriage end") is the way that they leave the disabled without real, existing human relations. One of the things RR said was that a person in a "PVS" doesn't know whether he's cared for by a human or a machine. Similarly, his ideas are definitely going in the direction (though he doesn't quite come out and say it) of saying that if a person doesn't remember that he has human relationships (such as a marriage) then those relationships are really ended and others are free to go their way.

Neither Robertson nor Rauser wants to say that the disabled person should not be cared for. What they do apparently want to say is that in some real and objective sense the disabled person is no longer part of a web of human relationships that existed before the disability, so care given by those not related is just the same as care and love given by a husband or wife, and the husband or wife is "free."

That's a very cruel view. It's a bureaucratic view. Oh, no, we don't want to kill the person. We just want to warehouse him.

Similarly, his ideas are definitely going in the direction (though he doesn't quite come out and say it) of saying that if a person doesn't remember that he has human relationships (such as a marriage) then those relationships are really ended and others are free to go their way.

If they really don't remember, it is frightening and disorienting for a total stranger to be making intimate gestures and references to lost history. How would you like it if a complete stranger walks up to you and starts stroking your arm for no apparent reason? How would you like it if someone you've never met before starts talking about years of mutual stories which you don't recall? You are only taking the perspective of the caregiver not being willing to take up their cross (which is appropriate - spouses should make a serious attempt), but it is a cross for the patient as well, a cross they have no ability to understand and one that they cannot allow others to carry for them.

That's a very cruel view. It's a bureaucratic view. Oh, no, we don't want to kill the person. We just want to warehouse him.

If you've ever been in a real nursing home (i.e. not assisted living), that is already the case. Society already warehouses the terminally ill and incurably disabled until they die.

Step2 -
My grandmother dealt with that-- her favorite daughter was, sometimes, a total stranger to her. (Not surprising, since she was 'looking' for an adorable little girl, not a strong, mature lady older than she remembered herself being.) That didn't stop my aunt from taking care of her, talking to her, giving her the memories she couldn't access herself. That history, even though she didn't remember it, gave her something to hold on to; sometimes it even let her remember the lost memories, instead of looking around frantically because the world was some fifty years different from what she remembered.

Amazing how folks going for the emotional angle to justify abandoning the inconvenient tend to ignore that we can't know someone will never remember something again, or never wake up, until they are dead. Same way that those claiming that folks in a PVS "don't know" who is caring for them have to ignore the folks who recovered from a "PVS" and convey that they knew who was there, they just couldn't do anything about it.

Step2, I'm not advocating being insensitive to that in dealing with the person with dementia. Obviously, every day is different, every day is a challenge. You have to adapt when you see the person so as not to cause him unnecessary distress. But in your own mind you know that you *do still have a relationship* to that person and hence a responsibility for that person, to be whatever you can be and do whatever you can do. Which means, no, you can't divorce the person and remarry so as to have a "new life." The relationship remains even if you have to be sensitive and not be asserting it in a way that upsets a mentally disabled patient who has forgotten.

This is such an interesting discussion, even the digressions. I have nothing to add to the brilliant and incisive arguments so masterfully displayed, but if it's okay I only wanted to share a little personal experience. The bedpan comment was particularly painful to me as it is something I encounter in caring for my two younger sons who have a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. The odds are that I will have to change their diapers and bedpans for as long as they live. And really that is not even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my responsibilities in keeping them medically stable or in promoting their happiness and exploration of the world. Nevertheless, while my sacrifices for their sakes may limit me from engaging in many of the activities that I used to enjoy, I also have been so spiritually enriched and inwardly transformed by the challenges of parenting and nursing these little ones that I occasionally find myself in tears, saying, "Lord, I do not deserve this. They are too wonderful for me!" And I feel a little ashamed and selfish that I should be so blessed, while their lives must be punctuated by pain and peril. My consolation is that they have been given such brave and joyous hearts and a willingness to embrace the wonder of life that they would put many folks, who squander their health and longevity, to shame.

So this is why I am deeply perplexed and concerned that in cases of a sick spouse or child or any other human being, those who claim to be followers of Christ would be so hasty and worldly to think that God is unable to do something powerful and redemptive in those circumstances, to doubt that He may have something far better to give us than what we thought we always wanted.

Thank you, Marie, that's a humbling addition to the discussion.

Indeed, Christians should know better. "All things work together to those...who are the called according to His purpose."

Marie, that's a great point. As Christians, we are committed to hope in the Lord. That means we are committed to the notion that God has all things in hand, good and evil, and that even the evils that we (or our loved ones) suffer here will be part of the masterful symphony of good that He is making of us and for us. To reject the evil He permits to come our way is to reject the good He has in store, to reject God's omnipotent benevolence.

Okay, I was distracted by Lydia's comment on the other thread, time to get serious again.

But in your own mind you know that you *do still have a relationship* to that person and hence a responsibility for that person, to be whatever you can be and do whatever you can do.

If the relationship exists only in my own mind, as it eventually will in advanced cases of dementia and automatically does in cases of PVS, why isn't that better described as a projection instead of an actual relationship?

Let me get your reaction to this scenario. Over the years we've had quite a few people come and go at W4. If I said to you that even though you no longer communicate with Kevin, Maximos, or even a more recent exile like Mark, you still have a relationship with them, wouldn't that seem very strange if not blatantly false? Of course you do still carry the history of interacting with them (assuming they wrote something that stayed with you or changed your mind about something), but a "relationship" that is disconnected in some essential way is sort of a ghost, it doesn't have any present reality to support it, it only has memories that refuse to let go.

Furthermore, although I do sincerely appreciate the sentiments Marie espoused, it is worth noting that her blessing is in part based on promoting her sons' happiness and exploration of the world and she is consoled by their brave, joyous hearts and admires their willingness to embrace the wonder of life. All of which are good and worthy reasons for her significant sacrifices and none of which are likely from providing care to someone in a permanent vegetative state.

If the relationship exists only in my own mind, as it eventually will in advanced cases of dementia and automatically does in cases of PVS, why isn't that better described as a projection instead of an actual relationship?

For Christians generally, marriage isn't just a contract that exists in the mind of the parties. Marriage results in an ontological change that makes the spouses "one flesh" in a way that can only be severed by death (some would also include adultery). Forgetting you're married doesn't change what you are any more than forgetting you're a diabetic changes your condition.

Thank you, again, for all your comments, and especially for your prayers.

Not to open up discussion of annulments again, but just to clarify: we married civilly when I was lapsed, and I've been told I'd have no problem getting an annulment...but I don't want an annulment, I want a convalidation or a radical sanation. And those possibilities are kind of problematic at the moment, too.

If marriage ends when someone is "out of it" through illness, obviously marriage doesn't exist whenever the spouse is asleep.

So whenever the day shift husband's napping, you can go have sex with the night shift husband. Obviously.

Unless of course the marriage ends forever when one spouse falls asleep, in which case the wedding night will be the end of the marriage unless caffeine is deployed.

If the relationship exists only in my own mind, as it eventually will in advanced cases of dementia and automatically does in cases of PVS, why isn't that better described as a projection instead of an actual relationship?

No, Step2, the relationship does not exist only in your own mind. And nothing I said meant that. I said you _know_ in your own mind that you have the relationship. The thing that you know is a reality whether you acknowledge it or not. Being married to the person is an objective state. It doesn't just exist in your own mind.

Being married to the person is an objective state.

You'd think, wouldn't you? Unless all moral obligations exist only in our minds, in which case I plan on getting out of as many of them as I can.

Applies to parents, too, of course, in case this is more obvious to you, Step2: If a child has a catastrophic injury and no longer remembers his parents, that doesn't mean they cease to be his parents and cease to be responsible for him. Just basic stuff.

So whenever the day shift husband's napping, you can go have sex with the night shift husband. Obviously.

Obviously, if you can't tell the difference between a permanent vegetative state and sleeping there is no point in having a discussion. In the UK land of socialized medicine there is a waiting period of 12 months before the diagnosis can be made. In cases caused by non-traumatic injury there is only a 4% chance of regaining consciousness between three and twelve months, and only a 1% chance of having more than minimal functionality (monosyllable words, responsive to simple commands). Return of functionality after three months with no disability is nearly unheard of. Meanwhile, the chances of mortality are 24% at three months, 40% at six months, and 53% at a year.

For cases caused by traumatic injury, the mortality rates are about 40% lower over the same time frame and the "early" recovery rates are about three times higher and also include a modest chance for full recovery, although the recovery rates decline precipitously after six months.

If a child has a catastrophic injury and no longer remembers his parents, that doesn't mean they cease to be his parents and cease to be responsible for him.

Maybe I missed the part where Robertson stated the spouse has no responsibilities at all. They just don't have to put their life on permanent hold.

Maybe I missed the part where Robertson stated the spouse has no responsibilities at all. They just don't have to put their life on permanent hold.

Maybe in your world it's possible to be semi-married and moral to make up on the fly which responsibilities are entailed by semi-marriage and which ones (including the "forsaking all others" part you swore to abide by "in sickness and in health till death do us part") aren't. Not in mine.

Excellent article and combox discussion here. RR is a wolf in sheep's clothing, let's just get that out in the open at the outset. One truly wonders about the outworking of his ethics in this matter if it is rigorously and consistently applied and taken to it's logical conclusion with the unborn in view.

After all, they have no cognitive awareness of their surroundings. They're not part of the web of human relationships. They can't survive even outside the womb without near constant care and supervision. They represent a huge, taxing burden upon those who are required to feed, clean, and do basically everything for them even as they are largely unaware of their surroundings, including themselves.

Rauser's daughter can be thankful that he didn't apply his rigorously analytic ethical system to her, and we should pray that moral pragmatic subjectivists like Rauser and Robertson don't influence others with their wicked ideas.

In Christ,
CD

... we married civilly when I was lapsed, and I've been told I'd have no problem getting an annulment ...

What this means is that you are not married at all, with all that that implies. Your objective, true status is (and always has been) that of a single, unmarried person. Whatever else you decide to do, you should proceed based on that understanding of the facts.

Paperwork of a perfunctory sort - including a declaration of civil divorce - would be required in order to formally demonstrate this factual situation if you wanted to marry someone, at some point, in the Church. An annullment for an "external forum" defect-of-form case as described is literally a matter of filing paperwork, without the sort of inquiry by tribunal which takes place in "internal forum" cases.

But right now you are not married at all (not even in a dissoluable pagan sense), because as a baptized Catholic you have never entered into a marriage under either proper form or dispensation from proper form. If you had never been Catholic it would be a different situation; but lapsed Catholics who get civil "marriages" do not actually become married at all, any more than parties to a forced marriage at gunpoint or any number of other manifestly invalid "external forum" cases of attempted (but failed) marriage.

Great thread. However, I hope everyone has noticed how Lydia responded to Randal's question: What about Dena Schlosser who amputated her 9 month old infant's arms in the name of Jesus? She was found not guilty by reason of insanity so her husband should have stayed married, right?

Lydia's response was: First of all, is divorce or is separation without remarriage appropriate in the case of a violent spouse? Second, was the jury _correct_ to find her not guilty by reason of insanity?

Assuming that Ms. Schlosser (like her hospital roommate Andrea Yates) was truly not responsible for her actions due to a mental infirmity, wat difference does it make whether she harmed her child or carried on an "adulterous" affair? Please be consistent Lydia. Your reasoning makes Russell Yates just as blameworthy for divorcing his wife as the spouse who divorces a spouse who is afflicted with Alzheimers. Am I missing something?

Assuming that Ms. Schlosser (like her hospital roommate Andrea Yates) was truly not responsible for her actions due to a mental infirmity, wat difference does it make whether she harmed her child or carried on an "adulterous" affair?

First, it's *absolutely obvious* that divorcing a spouse who literally doesn't remember that she is married and has a *romantic friendship* (Rauser likes to use the word "adultery" of this, but actually, he has to admit it's entirely non-physical) with a man she knows in the nursing home is completely illicit. It is possible that divorce of a violent spouse is more justified, or at least it is more understandable that one would think so.

Second, and related, it's pretty difficult to believe that a woman who kills her child doesn't know she's killing her child, and of course that isn't what's being claimed here. The phrase "not responsible for her actions due to a mental infirmity" covers a multitude of unmade distinctions. It is not wrong in itself for an unmarried woman to have a benign, non-physical, romantic friendship with an unmarried man (or a widower or whatever). Due to a mental infirmity, the woman in the movie believed she was unmarried and did something perfectly understandable and not warped or bizarre given her state of knowledge. It is, however, intrinsically wrong to mutilate babies or to drown children. Both Yates and Schlosser, whatever else one says, evidently *knew they were killing or mutilating children*. They just had crazy reasons that they said justified them.

There just ain't no parallel.

Sometimes I really think philosophers do something to their brains that makes them incapable of common sense.

Or, to put it differently, *if* you believe that it's okay to divorce a spouse who has committed any heinous act (and that may not be true anyway), you have some traction in the case of women who, knowing that they are doing so, drown all their children or cut off their children's arms and legs, even if they are insane at the time so that they accept some warped justification for their heinous act which they know they are committing. But the childlike dementia patient *didn't do anything heinous*. At all. This argument is almost creepy. It's an attempt to demonize by a false parallel someone whose sad, confused innocence seems just...shining...in order to justify divorcing her. And presumably other people like her. What's next? "Well, abandonment is one justification some people see for divorce. So if a dementia patient doesn't remember you anymore, even if the dementia patient doesn't strike up any other romantic friendship, then isn't that like abandonment? Which means you're justified in divorcing the dementia patient."

I have no idea how many dementia patients might forget their own lives so completely that they are like the woman in the movie. My own experience is quite limited (maybe half a dozen or so whom I've known or have been told about by close friends) -- but such that it is, it tells me that it is at least not uncommon for a dementia patient to show definite signs of knowing loved ones even to the very end. And even when they seem to be so confused that they don't appear to know a spouse or child at some given time, they often at other times do show some sense of recognition, at least that this is a familiar person. This has always made sense to me because a life made together over many years sinks very deeply into one's whole being; it is not always a surface-level conscious knowledge.

At any rate, I would certainly always wish to err on the side of hope and grace -- hope that the person I love does know at some level that at least I am a familiar presence, and grace to continue offering my love even if it appears the person doesn't recognize it as mine. I can't be sure, after all, how much comfort I might be giving, even if the person is lashing out at me in frustration or in ways he or she never had in the past (this has happened to a friend of my mother's). The fact that people I love put up with me in my bad moods right now is a comfort and an act of grace; surely it would be so to any troubled person, especially if the behavior is born of fear?

"Love bears all things." This is the calling, this is the life one must now live. And I have been privileged to watch several people live out that life, that calling, in love and grace and without rancor or impatience that they can't do all the things they used to. They give, as they promised to do, and they find grace and even joy in the midst of the great sorrow of seeing a loved one decline in health. And they grow themselves in gentleness and patience and love -- all if, of course, they choose to do so.

Suffering is a grace. What a testimony to the love and grace of Christ I have been privileged to see, again and again, in those who suffer, both those who have been ill and those who have been caretakers of the ill whom they love. I only pray that if faced with any such thing -- as is all too likely in this world, after all -- I will have the courage and humility and faith to trust Him as well as they have, and let Him bear witness through me.

Thank you, Beth. Beautifully put.

Here's another example of filth from the apostate Rauser: http://randalrauser.com/2011/05/inerrancy-liars-evil-brutes-and-lazy-gluttons/

I have read through this post and thread several times, and have fought off the tears, to my shame I failed a bit. As a "Christian" I try with all my might to do two things remain anonymous, dont bug people, especially people in the faith, and autonomous, never need. I dont say this to brag actually I am rather ashamed as I was no very successful or efficient in helping these people, often I was just a person in the room, it was all I could do but I stayed. The work I do brings me into contact with severely developmentally disabled individuals from infants to adults. Some are born with minimal brain function, severe multiple disabilities, blind deaf no or very little cognitive function etc. In my experience I have also taken care of two family members for decades that eventually died from debilitating diseases, I was not married to them one was a sister and father. I wont go into what the faith tradition told me because they were not "Christians" I should not have been so involved.

The work I have been involved in has also brought me into long term contact with individuals with Alzheimer and other forms of dementia and other extremely debilitating diseases. It is something other then here and one other blog I have never brought up in a faith community for many years, it is to messy and faith communities, other then Catholics hate messes, that has been my experience. I have seen families ripped apart financially, loose houses, friends, their sanity, and usually fairly first their faith community support. I dont bring this up as a shot as I have heard stories and a few times seen great support but in my experience which is anecdotal at best it has not been my personal experience. Lacking the character others here have I have let this effect me. Even when I have wanted to I have never left the side of a family member or the people I work with when I was physically able to stay. Do to my own medical issues I am not able to keep up the relentless hours and emotional drain. I dont want sympathy just my reflection of the utter exhaustion and loneliness and mind numbing sorrow of it all. I understand it is my own failing as a human being, Christian, etc that causes this.

Offered for what little it is worth.

No, the emotional drain is not caused by a failure. Emotional drain and exhaustion for the caregivers is of the nature of the situation. They need, as you imply, support and respite care from the Christian community.

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