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Until Alzheimer's Do Us Part

Pat Robertson - former presidential candidate, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, and founder of the American Center for Law and Justice - explains how a man who is married to a woman with Alzheimer's should go about divorcing her:

"I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her."

And why ever not? Hasn't the Alzheimer's patient effectively left the marriage anyway? Besides, marriage is a contract and this is a contract society, and a person with Alzheimer's disease isn't capable of entering into or keeping the terms of any contract. And doesn't the Bible say that we are "called to peace"? Heaven knows that the spouses of Alzheimer's sufferers don't get much peace! Etc., ad nauseam.

I once worked with a devout Norwegian Lutheran gentleman. He was outwardly respectable in every way. When his wife became ill and permanently bedridden, he divorced her and remarried. He said that she told him she "understood". A man has his needs, you know. I don't want to beat up on Protestants - Newt Gingrich is Catholic and apparently unrepentant - but what do you expect from a religion which has no doctrine of asceticism? In the case of Lutheranism, its doctrine is radically anti-ascetical.

“Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.” - Martin Luther

So, let's admit this much: we live in the prophesied time, when "iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold". How is it possible that we have fallen so low? Not even the best among us (and I do consider Pat Robertson to be one of the best among us) have the stomach for the fight. Also coming to mind are the words of the poet W.B. Yeats: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

Some years ago I wrote a short essay titled "What Marriage Really Is", to which the talented editor of an obscure blog titled "Cella's Review" kindly linked. I find that it is still online, and that I can still happily affirm every word after all these years.

What Marriage Really Is

Jeff Culbreath

Here’s something you can tell your sons.

The girl you plan to marry is drop-dead gorgeous. She’s also a virtuous girl who is sweet, kind, and considerate of others. Her intelligence is apparent to all, and her many talents will be of great benefit to your household. While she is neither frivolous nor flighty, she enjoys life and has a wonderful sense of humor. Most importantly, she loves children, and she promises to be a loving and devoted mother. She obviously loves you very much, and I hope and pray that she fills your life with happiness.

But consider what marriage really is. You are promising to love and cherish one woman, not only for the present, but for the indefinite future until you are parted by death. You don’t know what the future holds. Your wife’s natural beauty may one day be ravaged by accident or fire, leaving you to adore a horribly scarred face for forty more years. Her ability to be sexually intimate with you could be ruined by illness or disease: thus, your marriage vows might well include a lifelong vow of celibacy. She may go blind or deaf at an early age. She may have her breasts removed to save her from cancer. Her personality may be devastated by drugs or alcoholism, and she may end up hating you. She may experience depression or mental illness. She may be unfaithful. She may walk out on you, and she may never come back. She may—heaven forbid—abuse or neglect your children.

And your job? Your job is to love, pray, and suffer for her. Your job is to forgive her seventy-times-seven. Your job is to avoid any thought of being free and finding another. Your job is to keep your vows unflinchingly. Your job is to be there for her when she needs you, when she hates you, when she ignores you, when she doesn’t know you are there, when she loves you again—at any cost except that of your own soul and those souls in your charge (*an important caveat). Your job is to love her as Christ loved the Church. Your job is to be a man. There are no exceptions.

October 29, 2003


Comments (123)

But, the marriage vow is a covenent; it is a two-way thing.

To tell your son that it is his job and duty to love -- and to run interference for -- his wife no matter what she does (note: I explicitly speak of what she does, not of what happens to her) is to deny the covenental nature of marriage and to seek to turn it into a form of slavery, with him as the slave.

Alcoholism, or drug dependency, as one example, is not something that *just happens* to a person; it is a choice. Likewise with unfaithfulness or neglect or abuse of the children.

That one's duty to one's wife, and to one's marriage-union, is not diminished should she become disfigured, or become physically unable to perticipate in sexual union, or fall victim to Alzheimer's, does not at all imply that one's duty to the marriage-union remains intact even after the other party has destroyed the union.


=======

I don't want to beat up on Protestants - Newt Gingrich is Catholic and apparently unrepentant - but what do you expect from a religion which has no doctrine of asceticism?
I don't what to beat up on Catholics, but (with regard to some errors of the OP) what do you expect from a religion that makes a doctrine of suffering -- and which vainly imagines and teaches that *our* suffering can take some of the load off Christ's shoulders?

Ilíon:

1) With regard to marriage: when you marry, you marry a sinner, and you swear before God to love that sinner until death. If your wife is unfaithful to you, you are unfaithful to your oath if you cannot forgive her. If she is abusive to your children, then your duty to your children is to take them from your wife, but you abuse your oath if you seek to replace their mother or if you leave her resourceless.

Marriage is an earthly image of the Holy Trinity. Though the proponents are imperfect, God unites them in His image.

We cannot judge a husband and a wife who break up their marriage; we cannot say we would have been better. But we cannot say that it is right or good to break up a valid marriage, whatever the reason.

2) With regard to Catholic doctrine: I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to say. Just to clear up: the Church does not teach that we should seek suffering, nor does it teach that we can alleviate Christ's. It teaches that when we encounter suffering, we should accept it and offer it to Our Lord. I do not have direct Catechism quotes with me, but I am fairly certain that there is absolutely no mention of being able to take any load off Christ.

Regards.

The thing that struck me most forcibly about Robertson's words was that he rationalized his position in the face of the obvious question about "in sickness and in health" by swiftly saying that Alzheimer's is "a kind of death." That's terrifying. Has he no idea what it means to imply that a person suffering from mental illness is dead?? No, he has no idea. He's just blabbering--and an equal opportunity blabbermouth, too. This particular remark isn't likely to garner him brownie points with the (largely Protestant) religious right, which can still be shocked by something like this.

Good post, but you are far too generous to Robertson. I can't think of anyone who has done more to publicly bring shame on Christians.

That one's duty to one's wife, and to one's marriage-union, is not diminished should she become disfigured, or become physically unable to perticipate in sexual union, or fall victim to Alzheimer's, does not at all imply that one's duty to the marriage-union remains intact even after the other party has destroyed the union.

Yes, it does. Once married, always married, however, this does NOT mean that one has to live with the person. Separation in a marriage, but not its dissolution, is recognized as a regrettable possibility in Catholic Theology. Even in adultery, one may leave the offender, but the marriage is not, thereby, dissolved as no earthly authority has the right to do so (contra Calvin). This is the Catholic position and it is a hard one, but then again, it is worthy of the Apostle's comment that, " if this is so, it is better not to be married.". Marriage is hard. Marriage is a sacrament and the first thing one should always be taught about a sacrament is that every sacrament involves a death, since every sacrament derives it's efficacy from the Cross. In Baptism, we die to the old sinful man; in Confession, we die to our sin; in Communion, we die for the love of Christ; in Confirmation, we die to our right to protest anything that is the will of the Holy Spirit; in Holy Orders, we die for the parishioners and their sacramental needs; in Marriage, we die for the sake of the spouse; in Extreme Unction, we die to this life.

As for the Catholic doctrine of redemptive suffering, any mother knows that when her child suffers, she suffers. Her love makes her share in the suffering. Now, as members of Christ's mystical body by a Baptism which unites us in his death, one must conclude that it also unites us in his suffering, which was a part of that death process. The thing that makes us want to share in the suffering of Christ, both on the Cross and in the world, today, in his body, the Church, is the same thing that makes a mother want to share in the suffering of her dying child - love. We are both brother to Christ and united in his suffering in a direct fashion and mother to Christ and so share in his suffering in an indirect fashion. We share Christ's suffering both from within and without, as flesh connected and flesh loved. We do not substitute for his suffering, we participate in it. Christ's death on the Cross was once, for all time and places. Bring united with Christ by Baptism must not be thought of as a local event, however, for when you are baptized into Christ, you were baptized into a redemptive death that must touch all of time and space. That suffering is meant to cover all of time and space, even this day winning back what Adam so horribly lost for us, but where do we see that suffering, this day? The answer can be found through love, because it was not merely Christ's physical body that suffered on the Cross - it was his mystical body, the entire Christ. We being part of that mystical body, in some way we do not know, participate and bring to completion that suffering, even today. Thus, St. Paul would say, "Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church." (Epistle to the Colossians 1:24). He said this in the context of defining his priestly duties, but by baptism, we are all annointed as priests, prophets, and kings, as Christ was, but what priest is there without a sacrifice? What priest is there without an altar? Your suffering is your sacrifice. Your love is your altar.

We do not take away Christ's suffering by our suffering; we do not add to Christ's suffering by our suffering, but by the love that unites a Savior and the sinners he came to save who, knowing the depth of that love and wishing to make a return, love each other so much that the suffering of the one becomes the suffering of the other; the offering of the one becomes the offering of the other and together, they ARE the suffering and the offering of Christ. The Catholic notion of redemptive suffeting is nothing more nor less than love returned for love. As Christ participates in my suffering, even today by the great love he has for me, is it not right that I should share in his suffering with the pitiful love I have for him?

It is no accident that the Crucifixion, if you look at it through the eyes of a Jew of the first-century, is really a marriage ceremony. Every marriage is, likewise, a cross and because Christ has died and united Heaven and Earth in a bond that cannot be broken, just so, marriage is a union of a man and a woman in a bond that cannot be broken. It is as hard to separate a man from his wife as it is to separate Heaven and Earth, since both unions have been purchased at the price of flesh and blood, for what else was it that you offered your wife on your wedding day, if not your very flesh and blood. As Christ could only die once for his bride, the Church, so as to form a permanent, unbreakable bond between Heaven and Earth, just so, we can only die once for our spouses and in that dying form a permanent, unbreakable bond between a man and a woman.

Pat Robertson has done a very evil thing because, by his logic, permission for euthanasia must, logically, follow, since the person with Alzheimer's disease is dead, already. I do not see Christ in his words. Unfortunately, this passes for theological consideration among too many Christians - no depth, no love, just commoditization of the individual. Sad.

The Chicken

P. S. I realize that there are Catholic and Protestant differences in theology that are sure to rear their ugly heads in the discussion to follow, but let there be charity among all parties and a little sympathy for suffering.

That could have been a lovely post. I think I might submit it to a textbook as a practice exercise in editing, sigh. Hopefully the sentiment, if not the sentences, make sense.

The Chicken

Pat Robertson has done a very evil thing because, by his logic, permission for euthanasia must, logically, follow, since the person with Alzheimer's disease is dead, already.

Yes, exactly. That was what I meant by asking whether he has any idea what it means to say that. It was a horrible, horrible comment of his.

I have a question for the Catholics in the discussion that is not intended to cause any loss of charity but that I am curious about:

If a Catholic compares the Catholic position to the following Protestant position, what is the Catholic's reaction? Divorce is allowable only in extremely limited circumstances--extremely, extremely limited--such as, say, only in the case of adultery. There should no annulment tribunals, because actual extreme cases of null marriages (such as literal marriage at gunpoint) are regarded as null in the civil law anyway. For other hard circumstances in which separation is necessary (physical abuse, substance addiction, etc.), formal separation is allowable but no remarriage.

Would that not from a Catholic perspective be a far preferable position, especially in its social consequences, than either expansive grounds for divorce or than easy annulments?

But, the marriage vow is a covenent; it is a two-way thing.

To tell your son that it is his job and duty to love -- and to run interference for -- his wife no matter what she does (note: I explicitly speak of what she does, not of what happens to her) is to deny the covenental nature of marriage and to seek to turn it into a form of slavery, with him as the slave.

That's right: It's a covenant, a covenant just like the one between Christ and His Church, between Yahweh and Israel. I seem to recall a recurring theme of the Old Testament is that Yahweh is faithful to His covenant, *despite* the unfaithfulness of Israel (or to use Ilion's words, "no matter what she does"). The prophet Hosea even made the analogy with marriage explicit. Maybe it's a form of slavery, but if so it's one that's pretty clearly mandated by scripture.

Funny I just read this post http://tinyurl.com/6fx2bcd from The Gospel Coalition about this very thing.

I loved the quote from the first article, Mr. Culbreath! But I don't think we Protestants really like to claim Pat Robertson anyway, so please don't blame us. :-)

That's right: It's a covenant, a covenant just like the one between Christ and His Church, between Yahweh and Israel. I seem to recall a recurring theme of the Old Testament is that Yahweh is faithful to His covenant, *despite* the unfaithfulness of Israel (or to use Ilion's words, "no matter what she does"). The prophet Hosea even made the analogy with marriage explicit. Maybe it's a form of slavery, but if so it's one that's pretty clearly mandated by scripture.

It's also important to remember that Yaweh also provided for a safety valve in the form of executing adulterers. If your wife or husband is put to death for cheating on you, the morality of remarriage becomes a moot point. The modern church has a serious problem that didn't exist back then:

1. It has no monopoly on marriage.
2. It has no power to punish adulterers.
3. It won't even support the state punishing them.

Yes, yes suffering for Christ and all that, but let's be realistic. The reason it worked in Ye Olden Times was that adultery was regarded as a crime approaching murder in severity, not a minor footnote in a divorce filing.

On this point and anti-asceticism:

Be a sinner and sin boldly,

At the risk of ruffling feathers, I will say that the main proponents of this view I've run into within my own lifetime have been Catholic, and Catholic in a very specific way. Those of you who have read Walker Percy will recognize the allusion: "We almost didn't." In both Percy and in Graham Greene I have run into a kind of almost ideological commitment to the idea that even the ability to sin contains in it a kind of vitality which is a good thing. There is an idea lurking there, and expressed by some Catholics explicitly, that the ability to revel in and at least enjoy the sins of the flesh, to "see life," is better than sour-faced Puritanism. I once heard this called "the cult of sin mysticism," and it definitely isn't a Protestant phenomenon.

More harmlessly, but still relevant to the point, I remember a good Catholic friend who laughingly but also seriously told me that it is a duty to get drunk at weddings. Not merely to _drink_ but actually to get drunk.

As I recall (not having the texts in front of me at the moment), in Matt. 19: 1ff., Jesus, (alluding to Deut. 24: 1-4) says that divorce is "permissible," and that the permission is granted because of "hardness of heart," a condition still universally prevalent among us. The OT text to which He alludes says that if the wife were not to find favor with the husband because of some unspecified indecency or uncleanness, and if the ex-husband were ever actually to re-marry the divorced wife, it would be an abominable thing (an abomination also alluded to in Jer. 3:1).

I further recall that God is divorced, and that He, so to speak, filed the divorce papers (Isaiah 50:1; Jer 3: 8). That divorce does not preclude Him from having the church as his bride. By the way, when it says in Mal. 2:16 that God hates "divorce," the word for "divorce" there is different from the word used in the OT passages already cited, and does not mean "divorce" (as the KJV wrongly translates it) but "putting away," which is getting rid of her without divorcing her -- that is, without giving here the bill of divorcement that sets her free -- without which she is prevented from getting married to someone else and is driven into either prostitution or adultery in order to get money. That is what Jesus seems to refers to in Matt 5:31, where He says that you must give her a certificate of divorce when you put her away or else you cause her to commit adultery.

If a Catholic compares the Catholic position to the following Protestant position, what is the Catholic's reaction?

Very simply, we have no authority to divorce anyone. It is not given by any divine permission. There is no such thing as an annulment, akin to civil law, in Catholic jurisprudence, although that term is loosely used. Waht the Church does is issue a declaration of nullity, which is not a grant to dissolve a marriage, but a simple statement that no marriage was every contracted due to very specific impediments, which are not entirely the same as in civil law. For instance, a validly ordained priest cannot get married unless first laicized. No such equivalent exists in civil law. The shotgun wedding is also null on the face of it since the will must be free. In neither case does the Church divorce or even annul, but merely states an objective fact: no marriage took place.

The Church, by the way, permits, in difficult circumstances, civil divorces, but cannot allow remarriage because there is no such thing as a divorce from the sacrament (the free gifts from God are irrevocable).

Some may argue, as Michael Bauman has, that there are some restricted cases of divorce permitted in the New Testament, but it is clear that this is not the case. The hardness of heart case is clearly Jesus saying that this Old Testament permission no longer holds in the new dispensation, since the hardness of heart is to be removed by the growing in charity between the couple by living out the baptismal vows.

The adultery case is excluded because the exact word used, porneia, refers to sexual immorality, in general. In nearby verses, the word, moichao, is used specifically to refer to adultery and would have been used, here, if porneia had been meant in that sense. The word encompasses a lot of non-married sexual practices including the use of sex by temple priestesses, if memory serves, but, here it means some form of sex outside of marriage, such as fornication or some sort of other sexual perversion, but what it does not mean is sexual sin inside of marriage which would be termed adultery and stated as such. Jesus would have had to give a comment on two separate cases: one within marriage and one outside of marriage if he had intended to refer to both ontological classes. He could not have used a single term to cover both classes. He used a single term, porneia, which clearly means someone in a sort of pseudo-marriage such as two people living together as the case of the woman at the well. There can be divorce in this case as a matter of civil justice, since no marriage actually exists and the divorce is not a divorce from a sacrament. The marriage is merely a civil marriage and this permits of a civil divorce. Catholic marriage is sacramental in substance and civil by accident.

The Chicken

Jesus, (alluding to Deut. 24: 1-4) says that divorce is "permissible," and that the permission is granted because of "hardness of heart," a condition still universally prevalent among us.

Nope. He said it was permitted (not permissible) under the Old Law because of hardness of heart. Under the New Law, however ("but I say unto you"), it isn't. (Yes, hardness of heart is still rampant, despite the promulgation of the New Law. That's why there are sacraments of the New Law, which can confer actual grace (i.e., the grace granted by God so that we can perform salutary acts, such as resisting temptation, as opposed to sanctifying grace, which wipes out original and actual sin and makes Heaven available to us).)

It's also important to remember that Yaweh also provided for a safety valve in the form of executing adulterers. If your wife or husband is put to death for cheating on you, the morality of remarriage becomes a moot point. The modern church has a serious problem that didn't exist back then:

1. It has no monopoly on marriage.
2. It has no power to punish adulterers.
3. It won't even support the state punishing them.

Yes, yes suffering for Christ and all that, but let's be realistic. The reason it worked in Ye Olden Times was that adultery was regarded as a crime approaching murder in severity, not a minor footnote in a divorce filing.

You seem to overlook the fact that the same Jesus who frowned on the execution of adulterers is the very one who announced that divorce and remarriage was not permissible.

Ilion,

"to seek to turn it into a form of slavery, with him as the slave..."

Yes, I think you hit the nail on the head. Christ elevated natural marriage to something that is in some ways like slavery (maybe it would be better to call it something like "willing servanthood."):

"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it..."

Christ "gave himself" for the church. Isaiah 53 poetically describes some of the ways He did that.

I do think that it is unfortunate that many Christians ignore or deny that Christian marriage is something different and greater than natural marriage.

Chicken, I do know about both the theory and the practice of annulment tribunals. Let's just say that even I, a Protestant, am not impressed, and Catholics should be horrified.

Robertson's comments, where they are acknowledged at all, will be taken as further proof that Christianity is backward and evil, proving Chesterton right once again.

Till Alzheimers, and then it's splitsville, baby.

Oddly, I came across a stupid law in looking up rules on Medicaid a few weeks ago: In some states, there is apparently some kind of provision for a purely pro-forma divorce, a divorce intended to be "in law only" as it were, where nobody actually thinks that the couple are separating because they cannot live together, or anything like that. It is simply a divorce so they can situate themselves for legal benefits or decrease in legal detriments. In Medicaid, the husband's assets would no longer count for the ex-wife's support, when she became gravely ill, so the ex-wife could get Medicaid sooner. The more I see of states intentionally gimmicking the "system" of marriage, the more I am convinced that the state should get the heck out of the marriage business and leave it to the Church. I know that, NOW that we no longer have a Christian society, that would cause all sorts of problems, but one can hardly say that the state's interference in marriage HASN'T caused all sorts of problems too. If both society AND law do not put penalties on divorce-and-remarriage, and on having children out of wedlock, then the point of having marriage be a legally important category is kind of topsy turvy.

Oddly, I came across a stupid law in looking up rules on Medicaid a few weeks ago: In some states, there is apparently some kind of provision for a purely pro-forma divorce, a divorce intended to be "in law only" as it were, where nobody actually thinks that the couple are separating because they cannot live together, or anything like that. It is simply a divorce so they can situate themselves for legal benefits or decrease in legal detriments. In Medicaid, the husband's assets would no longer count for the ex-wife's support, when she became gravely ill, so the ex-wife could get Medicaid sooner.

Aha! Did you go looking for that because I brought it up in your other thread? I knew I'd heard of something like that.

But the divorced spouse can legally remarry, so it isn't so pro forma as all that.


then the point of having marriage be a legally important category is kind of topsy turvy.

Be that as it may, it's important. If civil marriage were not recognized and Christian couples could not be civilly married, this would simply leave them more vulnerable to state intrusion. The wives would then be single mothers in the eyes of the state, and single mothers are at greater risk for, e.g., the intrusion of Child Protective Services. Husbands would not have automatic parental rights. Widows would not automatically inherit their husbands' property. It would be a mess.

Those of you who have read Walker Percy will recognize the allusion: "We almost didn't."

I'll give you a clue about Percy, so at least you'll have one.
http://hilobrow.com/2010/05/28/walker-percy/

Anyway, a song appropriate for the post topic.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cTJV3HK-Xs

Hey Lydia,

Divorce is allowable only in extremely limited circumstances--extremely, extremely limited--such as, say, only in the case of adultery....There should no annulment tribunals... Would that not from a Catholic perspective be a far preferable position, especially in its social consequences, than either expansive grounds for divorce or than easy annulments?

Except for use of the word 'divorce,' I'm not seeing much light between your position and the Catholic. Doesn't divorce mean that I want to break off from a woman to whom I'm actually married, whereas an annulment means there was no marriage to begin with? There is a serious difference between the two. If my wife is a serial adultress (as in fool me once shame on me, etc.), it's pretty clear she didn't enter the marriage with the same understanding as I. None, btw, have been more critical of the modern scandal of Catholic marriage tribunals than traditional Catholics themselves, but I think that even if they only rarely declared that there was no marriage, you'd still need them, or some authority, to say so.

There is an idea lurking there, and expressed by some Catholics explicitly, that the ability to revel in and at least enjoy the sins of the flesh, to "see life," is better than sour-faced Puritanism.

That's just Greene trying to excuse his own behavior. The argument would have some force if sour-faced Puritanism were the only alternative. It isn't.

I once heard this called "the cult of sin mysticism," and it definitely isn't a Protestant phenomenon.

No, it's a human phenomenon. I can assure you I've had many more Protestant male friends in my life than Catholic, and can bear witness that the impulse is very ecumenical in its origin.

...a good Catholic friend who laughingly but also seriously told me that it is a duty to get drunk at weddings.

And this is evidence of a widely held Catholic position, Miss Evidentialist? All right, he was wrong. But it is a duty to drink, especially if you were man enough to cry at the ceremony beforehand.

I'm not quite sure what your point is, Step2. I'm alluding to a particular scene in a novel in which it is implied (as I read the scene at the time some years ago) that part of the sadness of the sin involved is that the man is almost incapable of committing it. I do not claim to be a scholar of Percy and have not read a large number of his books. I did, however, think that he hinted at the idea I was discussing in that comment--the vitality of certain sins and the sadness of modernity in lacking that vitality. Which does seem related to Luther's advice to "sin boldly."

And this is evidence of a widely held Catholic position, Miss Evidentialist?

No, no, I didn't say "widely held," but I would say _distinctively_. And he urged that it was. Explicitly. It was the Puritan/Protestant instinct that kept one from throwing oneself into drunken revelry at weddings, on his view. The idea being that Protestants don't know how to enjoy themselves, and if enjoying oneself means getting drunk (which it should at a wedding), so be it. A time to laugh, a time to cry, etc., which allegedly Protestants don't "get."

He's a really good guy, and except for the drunkenness never advocated sins of the flesh on the basis of such an argument. Definitely not. But I knew of others who did, and who related it to Catholicism.

It also has ties to the "here comes everybody" self-image of certain Catholics: Protestants are uptight about sins of the flesh; that's why Protestants don't know how to enjoy themselves _and_ don't know how to accept sinners in their churches, etc.

Again, I'm not saying this is widely held, but I am saying that it has a particular "flavor," and it is a distinctively Catholic flavor. If I can put it this way, it's sort of a degenerated version of the sacramental view of life and the body. One gets a little taste of it in a book called _Christ the Tiger_, by Thomas Howard (a high Anglican when he wrote the book who went on to become a Catholic). He talks about breaking out of his fundamentalist Protestant upbringing. (Howard's sister is Elizabeth Elliot, which will ring a bell with Protestant readers.) He talks about meeting a man who helped him in this process (forget if that fellow was Anglican or Catholic) who loved a whole list of things, and Howard deliberately throws in the word "bodies" in the list of things the man loved, with no explanation. It's obvious that Howard is trying to shock any fundamentalists who might be reading his book and set them to wondering what exactly it means that this fellow "loved bodies." It is what one might call in contemporary jargon an "edgy" sentence (and was even more so when it was first published several decades ago), and it definitely fits with the oeuvre I'm trying to portray here.

My point in bringing all this up is that in the main post Jeff quoted Luther's dictum to sin boldly and understandably (Luther being Luther, after all!) related it to Protestantism, but there is a set of "literary Catholic" ideas that seem in our own time to fit the dictum pretty well.

You'll notice that in Matt 19 Jesus said nothing at all about this being a new dispensation and therefore Moses' law is no longer in effect. That's just something some folks today add to the text because His actual words don't suit their theology. As for the no-difference difference between "permission" and "permissible": Because it's permissible, they have permission.

If my wife is a serial adultress (as in fool me once shame on me, etc.), it's pretty clear she didn't enter the marriage with the same understanding as I.

Bill, that's quite plausible but needn't be the case. People do sometimes change radically, especially if decades have passed. This reminds me a bit of a theological debate that goes on in certain Protestant circles: What if someone who apparently in full sincerity "received Jesus as his personal savior" becomes an atheist later? On the "once saved always saved" view, one is obligated to say that, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, he must not _really_ have received Jesus as his Savior in the first place. The insistence that such a radical departure from a commitment must indicate some defect in the initial commitment, even if the initial commitment was made when the person was much younger and more innocent, seems to me psychologically and even perhaps metaphysically strained. It ain't necessarily so.

. . . in Graham Greene I have run into a kind of almost ideological commitment to the idea that even the ability to sin contains in it a kind of vitality which is a good thing.

I haven't studied Greene the man much, and his sinful life is admittedly confounding, but I've read about 12 of his novels and most of his short stories. I really, really, really don't see that characterization in what I've read. What I do read is a refusal to give up on man (or woman) in the most despairing of wretchedness, and the glimmer of love triumphant through the worst of sin. If there is any "vitality" in this, it is in the perseverance of hope in the most fallen of men.

And I really don't think he's excusing his behavior, Bill. If anything, I see a pattern of zero justification, except as a gift from Christ.

He's a favorite of mine. You cut me deep, Lydia. Very deep. (wink)

Good TV appearance by Russell Moore in response. Needless to say, Protestants are not claiming this guy at all. Shoving him away with a ten-foot pole is more like it:

http://www.dennyburk.com/russell-moore-interview-on-cnn-about-pat-robertson/

Ah! So, God is morally required to keep covenant with us, despite that we do not keep covenant with him? (*) It is not that God freely chooses to be merciful to us -- to treat us better than we deserve -- it is that he has no other option, nor ability to choose it did he have it.

Yet, on another day, and in another situation, I am confident that (most, if not all) you people making the above false claim will make the equally false claim that God has no moral obligations at all toward us.

(*) ... and, therefore, a man is morally required to keep covenant with his wife, despite that she will not with him. Though, apparently, a man has the choice that God has not, in that he can choose to treat his wife exactly as she deserves.

Concerning the ascetical and "the cult of sin mysticism" wings of Catholicism --

The first thing one must understand about Catholicism is that it is primarily a bureaucracy. It is, in fact, the oldest existing bureaucracy on the planet, originally modeled on late Roman Empire bureaucracies. AND, as with all bureaucracies, its Prime Directive is: GROW!

Thus, so long as the ascetical wing does not challenge the primacy of the bureaucracy, it will be at least tolerated, and sometimes even welcomed.

Likewise, so long "the cult of sin mysticism" wing does not challenge the primacy of the bureaucracy, it will be at least tolerated -- and, generally, welcomed, for at least two reasons:
1) all sinful men, and there are none who are not, like sinning and welcome the intellectual game of elevating sin to a thing to mystically contemplated;
2) individual sinful men, having initially fallen for the mystic cult, and despairing of the resulting ruin in their lives, are more amenable to bureaucratic control.

(*) ... and, therefore, a man is morally required to keep covenant with his wife, despite that she will not with him. Though, apparently, a man has the choice that God has not, in that he can choose to treat his wife exactly as she deserves.

This is where the fundamental difference in the Catholic and Protestant theologies of marriage rears its ugly head.

In Catholic theology, as Bishop Fulton Sheen was want to say, it takes three to get married: the man, the woman, and God. Marriage is a sacrament, a sacred bonding, held together by God. In Scripture, it says, "What GOD hath joined together, let no MAN put assunder." Now, man can fail; woman can fail, but God cannot fail and it is God who is the joining force in a valid marriage. A marriage is not simply like the vow that a monk makes when he joins a religious Order or a vow one friend makes to another. These sorts of vows admit of abrogation because they are only held together by a mutual consent of the parties. The vow of a marriage joins together a man and a woman into one flesh. There are no longer two things to separate. It is the power of God that creates this oneness of flesh, not sexual relations. It is God who does the joining and what is done in this fashion cannot be undone as long as soul is connected to body. Even if both man and woman simultaneously commit adultery, God has not changed - the God that is the connective force between them, so the union continues, even if it is with defective elements.

So, yes, man and woman can both fail, but once that joining by God had been accomplished, it transcends the ability of either man or woman to break it, as Christ said and God cannot fail, so the bond cannot fail, since God made the bond. In order for God to break the bond, HE would have to have failed to keep the bond together and he cannot do that. The husband and wife do not keep the bond together by their mutual consent (this is where a Protestant non-sacramental view of marriage parts from the Catholic view), it is God who keeps the bond together. It is up to the husband and wife to live within that bond and experience the graces of the sacrament. If they fail, the bond, neverthless, remains.

The Chicken

He's a favorite of mine. You cut me deep, Lydia. Very deep. (wink)

I reviewed The End of the Affair for The Christendom Review not long ago. I gave it a very positive review. Sin is not excused. But I would say that there is an idea somewhere in the air of coming to understand God better through the whole-hearted self-giving of the adulterous affair, which must then itself be painfully renounced. Literarily, it works very well indeed, and I'm not even saying that such an understanding could not be given a theological defense. But you would not have found a Protestant author of the same period writing that book, and not only because of the explicitly Catholic elements therein. You might now find a book by a Protestant trying to do something similar, but that's because (at least judging by the blogosphere) Protestant literary types are now more "into" the notion that sex is sacramental, at least as a sort of literary trope. And they wouldn't be able to pull it off, well, either.

Or take The Heart of the Matter, even more. I think there's a tension there between Greene's introduction on the evil of pity and the book itself. (Or I did think so when I read it many years ago. Haven't re-read it since then.) In the book itself I really felt that he portrayed the love that the main character has both for his wife and for his mistress as a mystically redemptive thing, and when he dies with the words "I love" on his lips, it seems to be incredibly fraught with meaning.

This is where the fundamental difference in the Catholic and Protestant theologies of marriage rears its ugly head.
I think that the ... ummm ... flexibility of the RCC with respect to the indissoluble sacred bond of marriage, especially when the movement of money from one hand to another is involved, has already been broached.

I think, also, that it has been pointed out that the NT makes provision for divorce.

Though, oddly, the NT provision for divorce, while it does include unfaithfulness, seems not to include the movement of money from one hand to another, nor whether the marriage was properly “consummated”.

I think that the ... ummm ... flexibility of the RCC with respect to the indissoluble sacred bond of marriage, especially when the movement of money from one hand to another is involved, has already been broached.

1. Are you referring to high-profile annulments, like Kennedy's? That was overturned in Rome. Money doesn't talk. In fact, annulments are not that expensive, usually, and exception for poverty can be made. Frm Catholic Answers:

How much does an annulment cost?

Typically they tend to be more expensive on the East Coast and in urban areas, and less expensive in the Midwest and South.

Most commonly, there are the basic petition fees payable to the tribunal. This is what most people refer to when they talk about the cost of an annulment. In the U.S., most tribunals charge anywhere from $200 to $1,000 for adjudicating a standard nullity case. A few charge somewhat over $1,000, and several charge nothing at all. The fee for "documentary cases"-that is, cases eligible for the expedited process under canon 1686 (where, for example, a Catholic party violated canonical form when attempting to marry)-is usually much less, around $25.

Although there is, strictly speaking, authority on the part of the tribunal to assess fees on both parties in a marriage case (canon 1649), this is not usually done. Rather, petitioners almost always pay all fees associated with a case.

What is important to take from this is that horror stories about $20,000 annulments are myth. Conceivably, if one had filed in the most expensive tribunal, had used extensive medical and psychological testimony, and had appealed the case through various levels of ecclesiastical courts, including Rome, one could incur a bill of some thousands of dollars. But such cases are rare.

2. As for the New Testament permitting divorces, see my linguistic comments, above.

Nevertheless, you comments have nothing to do with the theology.

The Chicken

Until death do we part, that is the commitment made in marriage. Leave it to you Christians to find a way to justify your means to do otherwise. The problem with Religion is that you people find millions of ways to misinterpret what are otherwise very sound and simple principles. You are part of the Collective Insanity as long as you refuse to use reason and think as an individual.

The modern church has a serious problem that didn't exist back then:

1. It has no monopoly on marriage.
2. It has no power to punish adulterers.
3. It won't even support the state punishing them.

And the Church - modern or otherwise - also has a solution to the problem: forgiveness and reconciliation. If that is not doable, then yes, the solution is to take up one's cross and follow One who knows a little something about love and betrayal.

Thus, so long as the ascetical wing does not challenge the primacy of the bureaucracy, it will be at least tolerated, and sometimes even welcomed.

Likewise, so long "the cult of sin mysticism" wing does not challenge the primacy of the bureaucracy, it will be at least tolerated -- and, generally, welcomed ...

These are not "wings" of the Church. Asceticism is rooted in doctrinal truth and is the formal teaching and praxis of the Church; "sin mysticism", if it attempts to justify sinful acts, is simply a false belief no matter how many "Catholics" happen to hold it or tolerate it.

But I do understand what Lydia is talking about it. She's right, the phenomenon of "sin mysticism" exists with a uniquely Catholic flavor. When Catholics go bad, they do it in a Catholic way.

That was overturned in Rome.
Dewd! That rather makes my point, now doesn't it? How did it come to be that there *was* something to allegedly (*) overturn?

(*) You claim that the divorce tricked out as an annulment was "overturned". Yet, he "married" again ... and I have never heard of *any* high-level Catholic bureaucrat denouncing him for it, much less refusing him communion.

Money doesn't talk.
Hmmm ...

1) Kennedy (or Kerry, or Gingrich, or so on and so on): lots of money and scads of political usefulness to the bureaucracy -- *crickets*;

2) Marie Bowers (the old Catholic woman who lived her last years with my family, to tell the truth, I don't know whether it was she or her husband who initiated their divorce): a “nobody” having no money and no political usefulness to the bureaucracy -- publicly shunned in the parishes … and reduced to hanging out with those terrible fundamentalists your bishops have been warning you about for the past century;

Nevertheless, you comments have nothing to do with the theology.
If memory serves, it was you and Mr Culbreath who chose to turn this into a sect-vs-sect bash. And then you want to whine because I'm pointing to the crappiness of your bureaucracy's “theology” on the matter of divorce?
2. As for the New Testament permitting divorces, see my linguistic comments, above.
I’m not about to waste my time searching for them. The “linguistic comments” I do recall (though not authored by you) sought to turn language, and logic, on their heads. Were your “linguistic comments” of a similar nature?
And then you want to whine because I'm pointing to the crappiness of your bureaucracy's “theology” on the matter of divorce?

Ilion, you can't possibly be as ignorant as you display yourself to be. The fact is that Christ and His Church do not permit Christian spouses to divorce - period. That's Catholic theology. Corruption in the Church's bureaucracy and the scandal and injustice of frivolous annulments doesn't change that one iota.

What's that I hear? Catholic hierarchs don't live up to their own standards or that of their Church? I wish I could say I was shocked, but it's obviously true. And yet, it proves nothing about the truth or lack thereof of Catholic teaching about marriage.

These are not "wings" of the Church.
I'm not sure you really paid attention to what I wrote, nor to the context in which I wrote it.
Asceticism is rooted in doctrinal truth and is the formal teaching and praxis of the Church;
And the praxis of "The Church" also include the practice of the bureaucracy suppressing asceticism.
... "sin mysticism", if it attempts to justify sinful acts, is simply a false belief no matter how many "Catholics" happen to hold it or tolerate it.

But I do understand what Lydia is talking about it. She's right, the phenomenon of "sin mysticism" exists with a uniquely Catholic flavor. When Catholics go bad, they do it in a Catholic way.

But, of course.

Yeah, and among the socially accepted ways for Catholics to "go bad" -- and still be considered "good" by the polity of "The Church" -- is to advocate leftism. But, that's understandable, considering that leftism is mostly just Catholicism without all the embarassing "God talk".

That is, leftism is a Christian heresy -- it never could have arisen from a Hindu world-view -- and specifically a Catholic-flavored heresy. Or, on the second claim, perhaps you're rather argue that it only seems that way, that the truth is simply that the Catholic bureaucrats-as-a-whole whole-heartedly embraced leftism (except for the abandonment of "God talk"), and earlier than the "mainline" Protestant "liberals".

I have a question for the Catholics in the discussion that is not intended to cause any loss of charity but that I am curious about:

If a Catholic compares the Catholic position to the following Protestant position, what is the Catholic's reaction? Divorce is allowable only in extremely limited circumstances--extremely, extremely limited--such as, say, only in the case of adultery. There should no annulment tribunals, because actual extreme cases of null marriages (such as literal marriage at gunpoint) are regarded as null in the civil law anyway. For other hard circumstances in which separation is necessary (physical abuse, substance addiction, etc.), formal separation is allowable but no remarriage.

Would that not from a Catholic perspective be a far preferable position, especially in its social consequences, than either expansive grounds for divorce or than easy annulments?

First, my reaction is that granting divorce in the case of adultery is a loophole that fatally undermines Christian marriage. The image of marriage as a reflection of divine love is destroyed: the crucial, non-negotiable characteristic of divine love is that it suffers, withstands and overcomes every betrayal on the part of man.

Second, from a purely consequentialist perspective, permitting divorce in the case of adultery removes an important protection for the innocent spouse and children. If one wants a divorce, all one needs to do is have an adulterous affair. There will then be enormous pressure, from the pain of the situation and also from social expectations, for the innocent spouse to end the marriage.

Third, you can't do away with marriage tribunals. If it's possible for a putative marriage not to be valid, and it is, then some formal means must exist by which this determination is made with authority.

Fourth, from a Catholic perspective you seem to be asking whether false doctrine but strict enforcement on the Protestant side is better for society than true doctrine but corrupt enforcement on the Catholic side. I can't say for certain, but I'm sure a plausible case could be made that the former is better than the latter in terms of social utility. But allowing divorce for adultery or any other "hard case" situation just isn't an option if Catholic doctrine is actually true.

The marriage tribunals of United States - the wealthiest nation on earth - grant 78% of the world's annulments, while the U.S. is home to only 6% of the world's Catholics. That is indeed a horrifying stat with devastating social consequences in this country. The only solution is for the Church to eliminate the corruption and stop granting frivilous annulments.

Yeah, and among the socially accepted ways for Catholics to "go bad" -- and still be considered "good" by the polity of "The Church" -- is to advocate leftism.

Sadly true, with respect to many in the hierarchy. I'm plenty aware of the political divisions in the Church. And your point is?

But, that's understandable, considering that leftism is mostly just Catholicism without all the embarassing "God talk".

Total BS. Either you don't know what leftism is, or you don't know what Catholicism is.

Or, on the second claim, perhaps you're rather argue that it only seems that way, that the truth is simply that the Catholic bureaucrats-as-a-whole whole-heartedly embraced leftism (except for the abandonment of "God talk"), and earlier than the "mainline" Protestant "liberals".

Ilion, I'm not going to do your homework for you. If you really gave a fig you could read the primary Catholic social encyclicals for yourself. There is nothing "leftist" whatsoever about Catholic social doctrine: the very terms "right" and "left" have their origin as political positions for and against the Church.

Wrt Catholic annulments in America, the problem is not simply easygoing tribunals larded up with HV dissenters. The problem is the immaturity of the people getting married. They/we are unable, as a spoiled-rotten, hedonistic generation, truly to give ourselves and to receive our intended spouses with full consent of the will. We do not need better tribunals, but better citizens.

Back to Alzheimer's. A woman with stage six Alzheimer's is a widow, so there's no easygoing hedonistic swinger around to recite "I divorce thee" three times while citing Jesus and the Reverend Pat as his scot-free card before rushing out in search of fresh nubile womanflesh. But she has three kids, at least two out of three of whom share a vague recollection of one of the Ten Suggestions about honoring the old folks.

Can we shove her out of sight in a nursing home, can we do a little therapeutic Kevorkianizing (hey, it's a form of death, right, so what's the harm in materializing the form?), or do we owe her something more?

Ilion, you can't possibly be as ignorant as you display yourself to be. The fact is that Christ and His Church do not permit Christian spouses to divorce - period. That's Catholic theology.
Yes, that may Catholic theology (including the bit about how His One True Bureaucracy decided what His Teachings are in the first place), but it's not *actually* what is written in the NT.
Second, from a purely consequentialist perspective, permitting divorce in the case of adultery removes an important protection for the innocent spouse and children. If one wants a divorce, all one needs to do is have an adulterous affair. There will then be enormous pressure, from the pain of the situation and also from social expectations, for the innocent spouse to end the marriage.

That certainly did happen. One has only to read novels set in England in the 1920's and 1930's to see exactly what it was like. And to make it more bizarre, the erring spouse would sometimes pressure the innocent spouse to divorce him on the basis of claimed adultery with someone with whom he never really committed adultery, because he wanted to keep his actual "true love" out of the divorce courts. Based on an autobiographical novel by Agatha Christie, it appears that her nervous breakdown, in which she ran away from home and appeared to forget her own identity for a time, was caused by the cruelty of her husband while he bullied her to grant him a divorce.

That is all true. However, the innocent spouse _could_ hold out, and sometimes did. The very notion of "fault" divorce in which the "cards" lay in the hands of the innocent spouse would make a huge societal difference.

And indeed it's my impression that Catholics agree with this as a matter of civil law and would see it as at least an improvement that no-fault divorce laws should be overturned.

First, my reaction is that granting divorce in the case of adultery is a loophole that fatally undermines Christian marriage. ...
Quite true, what you said in that post. Yet the fact remains, and contrary to the Teaching of the One True Bureaucracy, the loophole *is* explicitly there.

We all, individually and socially, would be better off were we all not so cavilier about entering into a marriage, nor most of us about subsequently destroying it. Yet, the long-standing Catholic "solution" to the problem of how sinfulness manifests itself with respect to marriage -- winking at adultery -- was/is hardly a better solution, individually or socially, than the present culture of "starter marriages".

The problem in our society isn't that we wink at divorce; the problem is that we wink at fornication before marriage -- most of us set ourselves up for failed marriages years before we legally enter into one. Most of us have spent years fornicating, in general, and fornicating with the specific person we do marry; which is to say, most of us have spent years explicitly demonstrating to the specific person we do marry that we do not respect her or him as being the Image of God.

And your point is?
But, of course, my point was explicitly spelled out. You know, that bit that you do not wish to contemplate, and imagine you have adequately dealt with by calling it "total -"

[Profanity deleted. I suppose I invited it by skating too close to the edge myself. But you know the rules. - JC]

While the Teaching of The One True Bureacracy may well be "conservative" (or "right-wing extremism", as the "liberals" might have it) with respect to interpersonal moral issues, with respect to economic issues -- when it comes down to the question of *who* may decide the disposition of *my* labor -- The One True Bureacracy stands in proud solidarity with all the other leftists who have ever lived or ridden herd on Mankind.

... and another thing:

There is nothing "leftist" whatsoever about Catholic social doctrine: the very terms "right" and "left" have their origin as political positions for and against the Church.
How right you are, surely! For, just as brothers-in-the-flesh never would nor could murder one another, so too, brothers-in-attitude never could nor would.

Why, the mere fact that the national socialists and the international socialists joyfully murdered one another in their battle for market-share (for, that is what it was all about) is proof positive that, at most, only one of the two groups were truly leftists.

Oh, wait!

... here is nothing "leftist" whatsoever about Catholic social doctrine: the very terms "right" and "left" have their origin as political positions for and against the Church.
While the secularist left certainly originated as murderous opposition to The One True Bureaucracy, it was (nor is) no more opposed to the stance of The One True Bureaucracy with respect to wealth in the hands and under the control of private persons then than it is now. The hatred between the secularist left and the parochial left (and the murders of the latter by the former whenever they get the chance) has nothing to do with core principles: it is merely a part of a battle for market-share, same as that between the Nazis and the Soviets was.

Ilion: I don't mind a robust Catholic-Protestant argument now and then, but lose the mocking tone when it comes to the Catholic Church or get off my thread. Thank you.

You hypocrite!

... you started it -- to no sensible purpose -- and you're pissed that I'm willing to finish it.

Sorry, Ilion, but you're way off here. Liberalism, of either the Leftist or the Rightist variety, is the fruit of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was an anti-Christian, and primarily anti-Catholic movement. Thus to call Catholic social teaching, at least that which was promulgated in the various social encyclicals, "leftist" is simply ludicrous, as it tends to be critical of both Right and Left liberalism. This does not mean that there are no leftist Catholics, or that liberation theology is not problematic, etc. But mainstream Protestantism embraced "progressivism" long before the Catholics ever did.

Oh, and by the way -- I'm not Catholic, so I've got no personal stake in this argument.

Both Luther's "sin boldly" and the quasi-Catholic sentiment of there being a positive good underlying sins of gusto are rooted in something real, without either idea being correct. Christ used the metaphor of God spewing forth the spiritually lukewarm, in a fairly clear criticism that lands on the lukewarm much more harshly than those who "sin boldly". And yet, Christ certainly was not excusing sin of any form, including the bold, forthright sins of gusto. IMO, Christ was referring to the well-known human characteristic that makes it readily possible for the person who loves to switch to hate, and the hater to switch to loving: they are fully engaged with the object of their action. Being fully engaged, it is more readily possible for God to move them, in grace, to love properly where formerly they hated the person. The unengaged person, however, being wholly wrapped up in themselves, is NOT readily moved to love. It is not that hating is a better moral condition, it is that it is more capable of being transformed.

Annulments should be rare. In a good society, they WOULD be rare. If a non-Catholic were to grant for a moment that a person who thought he was getting married could fail to do so because of an internal impediment (such as a drug addiction making him not free in the requisite sense), then it would stand to reason that it would also be sensible for society to have some way of declaring a putative marriage invalid. Once this is granted, it is UNAVOIDABLE that this decision process would involve some body, with rules, tasked with the dirty job: a bureaucracy, if you will.

The question is not about whether to allow for annulments with or without a bureaucracy, that's no question. The only question is whether such bodies will (and do) operate according to the Gospel. I know that there have been abusive annulment processes - such as an annulment given because of direct, out and out lying by one of the parties (he told me so). I also know that there are cases where annulments have been refused, also due to direct lying by one of the parties. I don't know anyone who thinks that they can tell either how many of the annulments granted were improperly granted, or which ones, though the statistics suggest a good many. But here's the rub: once you admit the idea of annulment, you cannot refuse to grant a given, specific annulment based on statistics. That's most *definitely* not a way to follow the Gospel.

The more I see of modern American sexual immorality and foolishness with marriage, the less confident I am that the typical, standard secular marriage is truly a marriage, and likewise the less confident am I that any marriage of Christians where they have been living together beforehand is likely to contain all of the requisite intentions for a marriage to take place. Possibly, after 50 solid years of damaging the very notion of marriage and human sexuality, _most_ people are unable to marry until they change what they understand it to be. It is even possible, eventually, that the Catholic Church could do away with the presumption of validity of non-Christian secular marriages in procedural framework.

Question of practice: Lydia, are there any standard Protestant sects that don't even have a Christian marriage ritual? That is, they just send you off to the justice of the peace or whatever to get your marriage? (I don't mean a fruits-nuts-&-flakes sect that is laughed at by everyone else. There must be some of those.) Secondly, is there any Protestant sect that has a formal process of annulment, or do they all do a sort of ad-hoc dance around state-granted divorces?

Sorry, Ilion, but you're way off here.
Or, perhaps you're just not paying attention (whether to what I said, or to the real world in which we live).
But mainstream Protestantism embraced "progressivism" long before the Catholics ever did.
Hmmm ... on the one hand, "Protestantism", and on the other, "Catholics".

So, all that “Social Darwinism” that the mainstream (mainstream? I said “mainline”) Protestant denominations, up until the late 1930s or even to the end of WWII, were baptizing as being Christianity, was just a cover for their leftist fixation on defining away the individual’s inherent ownership of the fruit of his labor and effort in time (*)?

Now, and of course, “Social Darwinism” *was* an important star in the “progressive” constellation at the time. But, the attitude of the “Social Darwinists” toward personal ownership of wealth was in stark contrast to the socialistic attitude of the Catholic bureaucracy, then and now.

(*) When you propose to take from me my wealth, whether you are a straightforward thief who intends to do the deed himself and for himself, or whether you are a “socially conscious” Doer Of Good Deeds, who proposes to have the State do the dirty deed in his stead, and ostensibly for “the poor” (minus handling fees for other Doers of Good Deeds, of course), you are not proposing simply to take money from me; you are proposing to take my time – a part of my life – from me. And, if you are a Doer Of Good Deeds, in contrast to the honest thief, you are claiming ownership of me; the thief at least has the moral decency to admit that he’s a thief.

Liberalism, of either the Leftist or the Rightist variety, is the fruit of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was an anti-Christian, and primarily anti-Catholic movement.
You *must* be right! For, after all, who in his right mind would ever imagine that groups of persons operating from a shared perspective might seek to harm or destroy the other group(s)? Why, the very suggestion is ludicrous! Why, the very fact that the groups oppose one another is the proof-positive that they have nothing in common!

It simply cannot be the case that “the Enlightenment” was/is a Christian heresy (despite that its premises, and conclusions, make little to no sense outside a worldview that basically reflects a Christian understanding of reality). And, it simply cannot be the case that “the Enlightened” were/are imagining and asserting that our western societies can continue to enjoy the fruits of the cultural capital built up over the centuries that “Christendom” was a going concern, while jettisoning the “Christen-“ part. It simply cannot be the case that the “Enlightened” philosophes, being from a Catholic milieu, where advocating a specifically Catholic version of secularist heresy.

And, it’s surely merest coincidence that “Catholic” leftists seem always, initially at any rate, to justify their leftism in terms of Catholic “social teaching” – and that no one ever shows where they have misconstrued said “social teaching”. I declare, it’s almost like with “radical” Moslems – everyone is always asserting that they are “hijackers and/or misunderstanders of the Utterly Peaceful Religion of Peace”, but no one ever seems to get around to showing what they have misunderstood or hijacked.

... Once this is granted, it is UNAVOIDABLE that this decision process would involve some body, with rules, tasked with the dirty job: a bureaucracy, if you will.
Bureaucracy is an inescapable fact of any complex human social organization.

But, to imagine that *any* bureaucracy is a Holy Thing? What great foolishness is that!

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I have always understood Luther's "sin boldly" statement to be sound Christian sentiment -- If you choose to sin, then don't be a weasel/hypocrite about it; rather, be a man/woman and honestly admit that you chose to sin.

For instance, it never "just happens" that you diddled your (current) girlfriend; you intended it, and schemed to effect the intension.

Or, from the female perspective, it never "just happens" that you "got pregnant" -- you thought to use sex as a tool to effect some (at the time) desirable end, and you took the risk of pregnancy in attempting to secure that end.

Lydia, are there any standard Protestant sects that don't even have a Christian marriage ritual? That is, they just send you off to the justice of the peace or whatever to get your marriage?

Not that I know of.


Secondly, is there any Protestant sect that has a formal process of annulment, or do they all do a sort of ad-hoc dance around state-granted divorces?

I don't know about ad hoc. There are pretty strong disagreements among Protestants about when and whether divorce is allowable. Some say never, or at least never with remarriage while the other spouse lives. Some say only for adultery. Some have some larger number of exceptions.

The whole concept of an annulment is foreign to the Protestant mind, and I suspect this is because most Protestants would consider that such a concept would make sense only in such extreme cases that they would not be recognized as marriages in secular law at all--for example, a literally forced wedding, a wedding of young children, a wedding that was never consummated, or a literally pretend wedding. The latter being something like a case where a man tells a girl, "I have a friend who is a Justice of the Peace," takes her to a friend who isn't a JP, and goes through a form of marriage in order to get her to go to bed with him. In cases like this, I'm sure most Protestants (like most secular Americans) would be quite willing to say there "was no marriage," but no special religious tribunal is needed for it. There is such a thing as a civil annulment for such cases. Trying to force a person by threats to say the words of a marriage ceremony would fall under laws like kidnapping, false imprisonment, assault, etc. Truth to tell, I imagine most Protestants have never even thought about such cases, because they are so rare.

An annulment for cases such as, "He didn't really understand marriage in the right way," or "He was immature," or "He didn't really intend to be faithful to me" would probably not cross the minds of most Protestants as a ground for saying the marriage never existed, though it would probably ultimately result in grounds for divorce--e.g., actual unfaithfulness.

My one grandmother was married four times, and twice divorced; in all cases, her next marriage did not take place until the previous husband had died (what can I say? some women are lucky at becoming 'widows' when then need to be). While luckily for Grandma, it's not up to me to judge whether she was a Real Christian (tm), the reason she didn't marry again, until the previous husband had died, is alluded to in Mrs McGrew's post: in Protestant America in those days, one simply did not get divorced, and one certainly did not remarry while one's spouse was alive.

Now, in the case of Grandma's first divorce, she divorced the man because it turned out that, technically speaking, he was married to another woman. So, I suppose, in Catholic terms, her (supposed) marriage was annuled, as he hadn't been free to marry her in the first place. Either way, my uncle was, to use a technical term, a bastard.

Isn't sin such a great thing? It always seeks to pass the cost onto the innocent.

Lydia, are there any standard Protestant sects that don't even have a Christian marriage ritual? That is, they just send you off to the justice of the peace or whatever to get your marriage?

When my future wife and I were attending marriage counseling at a Church of Christ, the preacher was fairly strict about who he would and would not marry. Basically, you couldn't be living in sin, girl couldn't be pregnant, you had to finish counseling, weren't divorced, and you had to match up on a personality test. If you did not fulfill any of those requirements, he told you that the church wouldn't marry you but you could go down to the justice of the peace and get married. He believed that being married in the church had to mean something and it couldn't just be for anyone walking through the door. That's the closest that would come to your question that I know of.

On the "Sin Boldly" front, my understanding was that Luther meant that one should confess one's sins boldly. Half heartedly confessing one's sins is as bad as not confessing them.

And, if you are a Doer Of Good Deeds, in contrast to the honest thief, you are claiming ownership of me; the thief at least has the moral decency to admit that he’s a thief.

Go find a deserted island to live on. Then you can enjoy the fruits of your labor all by your greedy little self and won't have to deal with those thieving do-gooders, especially those who feel commanded by the words of Jesus to help the needy.

Where did Jesus command anyone to loot his fellow citizens so as to "help" "the needy" by distribution of the loot?

Where did Jesus command anyone to use the power of The State to turn all his fellow citizens into slaves of The State?

At what point will you oh-so-concerned "liberals" finally say that you have taken enough? At what point will you theives and murderers allow me to own my life?

We *all* know that the only truthful answer is "Only after we have claimed and confiscated all of it."

... your greedy little self
Oh! Boo-hoo! A "liberal" and a hypocrite -- but I repeat myself -- has called me "greedy" and "mean"! *gasp* Whatever shall I do?

Oh, silly me! I'll just mock his dishonesty.

The accusation that ‘So-and-So is greedy!’ is almost always -- and when the accusation has political ramifications, always -- intended as an attempt to provide moral cover for, and sanctification of, the accuser’s own covetousness. That is, and to use his own terms, the accuser hopes to disguise his own greed as a righteous thing, and indeed as a just thing -- the accuser means "I want what you have", but he phrases it as "It is 'unfair' that you have what you have, but that someone else doesn't".

And the Church - modern or otherwise - also has a solution to the problem: forgiveness and reconciliation. If that is not doable, then yes, the solution is to take up one's cross and follow One who knows a little something about love and betrayal.

Jeff, you know I'm speaking from a practical perspective here on how to create a more effective environment for marriage. Forgiveness and reconciliation used to coexist with justice for the injured parties.

~~the accuser hopes to disguise his own greed as a righteous thing, and indeed as a just thing -- the accuser means "I want what you have", but he phrases it as "It is 'unfair' that you have what you have, but that someone else doesn't".~~

Try taking the word "greed" out of that statement and replacing it with "lust" and see if it makes any sense. That would mean that the believer who condemns Hugh Hefner's lifestyle for its sexual excesses is in fact secretly desirous of it. Who knew?

Of course, no sane Christian would make such an argument for the goodness of lust. Yet when it comes to greed we manage to swallow it hook, line and sinker. It seems that we've somehow managed reduce the number of deadly sins to six.


Funny too that the liberals often make that same infantile argument against conservatives who bemoan sexual libertinism: "You're just jealous!"

Modern liberals find it irrational that someone might actually not want all the sex he could get, while his ideological sibling the libertarian seemingly finds it irrational that someone might not actually want all the money he could get.

The topic was divorce by reason of Alzheimer's, not adultery. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that illness is a valid reason for divorce. It is bad anthropology to consider a woman/man as mere body and not body and soul. Death is when the soul is separated from the body. Robertson is wrong in thinking Alzheimer's to be a kind of death. It is akin to a prolong separation by an act of God. One knows the other person is alive, but cannot communicate with them. However painful and pitiable that situation may be, there is no moral grounds for divorce. By the way, did Robertson think it okay for Shaivo to divorce Terri?

The Chicken

Try taking the word "greed" out of that statement and replacing it with "lust" and see if it makes any sense.

In light of the many ways in which Ilion actually has a point, it does not make sense. Anyone who has run into working class entitlement knows he has an excellent point. Heck, even in my generation there are many people that complain bitterly about their job prospects but won't appreciate a job they do have which provides them with steady income while they try to make something of themselves. I could bore you with countless examples where Ilion is correct, but my sadistic side is on a union break until I have more coffee.

Funny too that the liberals often make that same infantile argument against conservatives who bemoan sexual libertinism: "You're just jealous!"

There are those who genuinely want to create a fairer society and those who lust after more loot for themselves. Likewise, there are conservatives who denounce sexual libertinism because it is immoral and dangerous, and those who do so out of resentment. A good basis for figuring out which is which is to watch how they interact with the opposite sex. Any man who is easily dominated by women is probably speaking from principle about sexual virtue as much as the average UAW who complains about C-level executive compensation is doing so out of genuine concern for the overall health of the company.

Yes, Ilion does have a point, but the point is not universally applicable, as he and many other libertarian types seem to think it is.

Yes, Ilion does have a point, but the point is not universally applicable, as he and many other libertarian types seem to think it is.

It's close enough that it should be the default assumption until shown otherwise.

... but the point is not universally applicable, as he and many other libertarian types seem to think it is.
Gack! I am *not* a libertarian; those people are nearly as insane, and generally as inconsistent or even incoherent, as the "liberals" are.
Yes, Ilion does have a point, but the point is not universally applicable, ...
But, of course, my point is universally applicable.

EVERY TIME some person, or organized group, proposes to use compulsion, to say nothing of compulsion-unto-violent-death, to "cure" others of their "greed", we can all be absolutely certain that those persons are using the alleged greed of the others as a red herring to distract attention away from their own covetousness.

Would you then apply the logic to sex as well, as liberals do with such things as porn and prostitution?

Thing is, on a certain level I agree that greed is ubiquitous and is a default attitude for fallen humans. What I don't agree with is that should be rebranded as "self-interest" and turned into a virtue.

The man who complains about the fact that some entertainer makes $100 million a year is automatically envious, while the man who wants to make $100M a year is somehow not greedy? Talk about bass-ackwards...

Who said anything about compulsion, Ilion? I'm talking about prudence and self-control.

The man who complains about the fact that some entertainer makes $100 million a year is automatically envious, while the man who wants to make $100M a year is somehow not greedy? Talk about bass-ackwards...

Well, yes the first man is automatically envious. It's one thing to complain that the entertainer got the $100 million through illicit means (as one might complain about Immelt sending thousands of jobs to China while pocketing big bucks). It's quite another to begrudge the entertainer $100 million if that is just the fruit of their business endeavors. Complaining that a man has "too much wealth" when that man has done nothing immoral or even questionable to gain it is by definition the sin of envy.

As to the second man, he may be greedy. He may not. Simply wanting to become filthy rich and working toward it is not greedy. A few years ago, I read the story about a businessman who become worth about $8B. Once he retired, he gave away literally his entire fortune except $1M-$2M to keep himself comfortable until he died and explicitly set up his charity to burn through his cash like it was going out of style to help the poor while he was alive.

Was he a greedy man? I doubt it.

The topic was divorce by reason of Alzheimer's, not adultery. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that illness is a valid reason for divorce. It is bad anthropology to consider a woman/man as mere body and not body and soul. Death is when the soul is separated from the body. Robertson is wrong in thinking Alzheimer's to be a kind of death. It is akin to a prolong separation by an act of God. One knows the other person is alive, but cannot communicate with them. However painful and pitiable that situation may be, there is no moral grounds for divorce. By the way, did Robertson think it okay for Shaivo to divorce Terri?

Chicken is quite right, and I think that Roberton's appalling remarks provide an opportunity for _agreement_ between conservative Catholics and Protestants. *Whatever* one's position on some small number of exceptions for divorce, this obviously ain't one of them. Worst of all is the insta-rationalization by which Robertson came up with the horrific "death" analogy. It just goes to show that the heart is deceitful above all things, as Jeremiah told us long ago.

Here is another example of similar disgusting rationalization:

http://randalrauser.com/2011/09/is-it-moral-to-divorce-a-spouse-with-alzheimers-disease/

Notice the reference to some movie in which a woman with Alzheimer's develops a somehow "romantic" emotional attachment to a man in the nursing home where she has had to be placed who is not her husband, having ceased to recognize her husband. The author of the article seems to think this is some deep challenge to the "don't divorce your spouse with Alzheimer's" position. He asks if there can be a radical asymmetry between the poor woman with Alzheimer's who doesn't understand what she is doing and her husband who is suffering from no such mental disability. Gosh, ya think?? Maybe???

Sorry, but I completely disagree with you on both counts, as would virtually the entire Christian tradition up to the Enlightenment.

Sorry, but I completely disagree with you on both counts, as would virtually the entire Christian tradition up to the Enlightenment.

Well if that's not a convincing argument, then I don't know what is. I cede the argument to your superior logic.

Lydia,

I suspect that Robertson would be more outraged by a man who started a casual affair with another woman while he cared for his wife once her Alzheimer's got too advanced for her to even know who he is than if he just cleanly divorced her.

There appears to be two foundational issues dividing the commenters: 1) is marriage a contract or is it a sacrament, 2) what exactly is a husband or wife and when do they cease to be such. I suspect we will not resolve these issues to everyone's satisfaction. This is sad because it means that there can be no united Christian front in the war. This will leave the matter squarely in civil hand or lowest-common-denominator morality, which is nearly synonymous to the Culture of Death.

The Chicken

"Well if that's not a convincing argument, then I don't know what is. I cede the argument to your superior logic."

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/05/the-emancipation-of-avarice


"At what point will you theives (sic) and murderers allow me to own my life?"

Unless you are a victim of the war on [some people who use some] drugs and are therefore incarcerated, are on a watch list and unable to get a passport and therefore unable to travel outside the borders of the U.S., or are a member of the military enmeshed in needless wars, you are free to do what any principled person who feels as you do, would do - find a nation with a level of government that suits your philosophy and relocate. I would suggest this state in which the government, like a baby, has already been drowned in the Norquist bath tub.

http://the-american-catholic.com/2011/04/07/libertarian-promotional-video/

This will also give you the freedom of choosing your dream career path,

http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/225451/wheres-all-the-waterfalls

As a society we, in the past, have decided on certain forms of social insurance. We are currently rethinking many of these. All of us are free to state our opinions but all of us should be aware that some of us are insulated from the realities of life (trust fund babies, those whose incomes and benefits are protected by tenure or age and those in thrall to delusional ideologies).

As for the topic at hand, how Jeff C, believes that a man who sees the vivtims of terrorism and natural disasters as sinners in the hands of an angry God is among the best of us is beyond me. Any Christian who isn't profoundly embarrassed and disgusted by PR needs a moral compass check.

At what point will you oh-so-concerned "liberals" finally say that you have taken enough?

I've already taken enough from you, I was trying to be witty by demanding a separation from this misbegotten and abusive relationship. Not that I expect you to understand humor. A person who thinks they are living under slavery in America now is either deranged or unforgivably ignorant.

Everyone knows that the Jews were looking for a Messiah to lead a revolt against the Roman State. Yet even with that fierce anti-government sentiment, I can't think of a single verse where Jesus says the State could not have any part in helping the needy. Maybe he wasn't quite the freedom-loving glibertarian some people have imagined.

Lydia,

I suspect that Robertson would be more outraged by a man who started a casual affair with another woman while he cared for his wife once her Alzheimer's got too advanced for her to even know who he is than if he just cleanly divorced her.

No doubt that's how he sees it. I see nothing "clean" in trying to ditch your wife under those circumstances. _Of course_ that doesn't mean the casual affair is okay, either. But we can't somehow make it better by portraying the divorce as a "clean break." That's just word magic.

Jeff C.: "And the Church - modern or otherwise - also has a solution to the problem: forgiveness and reconciliation. If that is not doable, then yes, the solution is to take up one's cross and follow One who knows a little something about love and betrayal."

Mike T: "Jeff, you know I'm speaking from a practical perspective here on how to create a more effective environment for marriage. Forgiveness and reconciliation used to coexist with justice for the injured parties."

How can there even *be* reconciliation if there is not some justice; at the very minimum the recognition that there is an injured party? How can there be *real* forgiveness if the injuring party does not repent of his injustices and seek the forgiveness?

The Christ prayed: "Father, forgive them ..." But, the even Father cannot forgive them if they do not desire his forgiveness.

Nice Marmot: Who said anything about compulsion, Ilion? I'm talking about prudence and self-control.
I did ... when first I articulated the universally-applicable principle you are vainly trying to dispute. That you are attempting a subtle shift (whether or not intentional) from what I said is not my problem.

"Liberals" (and their leftists puppet-masters) are never talking about "prudence and self-control" -- they are never trying merely to convince an individual, nor a class of individuals, that he/they have earned/accumulated "too much" (*), and that they would be better of to divest themselves of some of it; rather, they are always talking about using Ceasar’s sword to confiscate the wealth owned by others.

Nice Marmot: The man who complains about the fact that some entertainer makes $100 million a year is automatically envious, while the man who
wants to make $100M a year is somehow not greedy? Talk about bass-ackwardsWho died and made you God?

In the slums of São Paulo live María and João. María lives in a cardboard and tar-paper shack; but João owns only the meager clothing on his back and lives/sleeps in the “streets” of the slum. Now, João never complains that María owns a cardboard shack, but he sure-as-hell wants one for himself.

Oh, that “greedy” and “envious” João! How wicked it is to see the wealth that others possess and to desire to be likewise wealthy.

Oh, that “greedy” and “selfish” María! How wicked it is to possess wealth that others do not and yet to refrain from advocating the confiscation of someone else’s wealth to give to him.

However, the truth is this:
1) María has worked to acquire/accumulate the materials (some of which she ‘inherited’ when her father died) from which she built her meager shelter, and then she worked to build the shelter; she is not greedy.
2) João sees the wealth that María possesses and he desires to possess similar wealth: João is *not* envious.

3) On the other hand, Isabella (whom, with Pédro, we just now introduce), who actually possesses more wealth that María (for her hovel is roofed with sheets of corrugated iron, and not merely with tar-paper), and who has never worked a day in her life, *is* envious: she sees that Pédro has solid walls for his dwelling, but she does not simply desire to also possess solid walls and give thought to how she might earn/build her own: No, no, no! rather, she lusts to dispossess Pédro of his house and possess it herself.

And so, Isabella begins whispering in João’s ear about what a “greedy” bastard that rich Pédro is.

=======
(*) Sir, you have earned/accumulated "too much" wealth! -- how, exactly, would one go about rationally and morally:
1) determining that Person X "has too much";
2) convincing him of it if he does not already agree?
What are the criteria for determining this "too much"? There must be some criterion, right? It “too much” the total weight of the wealth? Is “too much” a specific dollar amount on the value of the wealth? You clearly (and vainly … and ass-backwardly) imagine this last to be the case, as witness: “The man who complains about the fact that some entertainer makes $100 million a year is automatically envious, while the man who wants to make $100M a year is somehow not greedy? Talk about bass-ackwards

But, in truth, there is *exactly* one criterion for determining that any specific individual has “too much” wealth -- when one's wealth, no matter how much or how little one has, is an impediment to a fuller/deeper relationship with God, then, and only then, can it honestly be said that one has too much wealth -- and "liberals" don't give a damn about that. And, if they did, their “solution” would be just as tyrannical as all their other “solutions”.

As for Nice Marmot's attempted reductio ad absurdum (see the post of Sept 19 at 9:03 AM) of my “universal principle” regarding accusations of “Greed!” –

As with his fallacious conflating (see the post of Sept 19 at 1:02 PM) of a desire to possess wealth like someone else does with a covetous envy to dispossess that other of his wealth and possess it oneself, his reductio fails: for Nice Marmot did not correctly substitute the term ‘lust’ for ‘greed’.

The problem with Hugh Hefner’s “lifestyle” is not that he lusts for and (allegedly) has acquired “too many” orgasms; the problem is that his “lifestyle” makes women into objects. And, for that matter, also makes men into objects.

Had Nice Marmot correctly substituted the terms, his scenario would have been something like the following (and his scenario would have shown the validity of my “universal principle”) –

Hegh Hufner has a very active libido, despite that he is 85 years of age. Hegh is also fortunate that his wife (on whom he has never cheated), aged 75, is in remarkably good health and has always likewise enjoyed marital union with her husband; and, she’s also “quite a looker”. Why, it’s common gossip in their “retirement village” that the two of them “get frisky” nearly every day! Sometimes, even twice a day!

Meanwhile, Sad Sack is a widower (not that he was ever particularly faithful when he did have a wife) and he just “ain’t getting’ none”; for there are no “unattached” women in this particular “retirement village” upon whose loneliness he can importune. There are, however (and quite uncharacteristically for “retirement villages in general”), a significant number of other “unattached” men, such as himself.

So, Sad Sack – being envious of Hegh Hufner’s (rumored) wealth of “getting’ it” – concocts a scheme to convince the “unattached’ men to agitate for a change in the bylaws of the “retirement village”, such that no one is allowed to “get it” more than anyone else does. The practical consequence of this new law is either:
1) no one at all may “get it” (and, of course, that will lead to a sort of “black market” for “getting’ it”); or,
2) Hegh Hufner is compelled to “share” his wife with Sad Sack. Which was Sack’s goal in the first place.

How can there even *be* reconciliation if there is not some justice; at the very minimum the recognition that there is an injured party? How can there be *real* forgiveness if the injuring party does not repent of his injustices and seek the forgiveness?

I posted a link that responded to the sort of argument Seamus used against my position regarding the application of swift criminal justice against adulterers, but it got eaten by W4's spam filter. The gist of it is that most Christians don't understand that the debating style Jesus used was a rabbinical method that exposed the wickedness of the intentions of the one asking the question rather than directly answering the question. Being the living Word of God, Jesus couldn't possibly had anything inherently against executing the adulterous woman because it was He who gave the Israelites the 10 Commandments in the first place!

Seamus, Jeff and others are ignoring a serious problem here in that there is no effective countermeasure in place to control the behavior of adulterers and make the option appear less viable. Adultery is simply not taken seriously in most jurisdictions, even when it can be proved beyond any reasonable double. Even when it can be, it usually causes no punitive redistribution of marital assets in the divorce or reevaluation of fitness for custody of the children. I know men who have been serially cheated on and left by their wives and yet they are paying a large amount of money to their ex-wives to support them.

It is also well and good to say that Christian marriage is for those to whom it was given, but it must be acknowledged that the yoke being debated here is even heavier than what is expected of men in the New Testament because it is the full yoke of that form of marriage combined with a complete elimination of all means that men and God had instituted to provide some security to spouses. Jeff, Seamus and others would do well to consider that the idea that a cheated spouse would have no legal redress at all--and have to abide by the church's teachings on marriage too--would be considered spiritual and emotional tyranny in the ancient Christian tradition. Even pagan societies provided robust redress for cheated spouses, however imperfect in some cases.

No doubt that's how he sees it. I see nothing "clean" in trying to ditch your wife under those circumstances. _Of course_ that doesn't mean the casual affair is okay, either. But we can't somehow make it better by portraying the divorce as a "clean break." That's just word magic.

I wouldn't say either is appropriate. My point was that I've seen enough of Robertson's antics to get the impression that he'd be more upset that a man was screwing around on the side once his wife's mind was too gone for her to even know that she was married--yet he still took care of her--than if the man just left her and "remarried." Since the "remarriage" would be an adulterous union, it would not just contain the adultery but the added element of abandoning his spouse at her most vulnerable which shows an even greater lack of love and charity than simply cheating on her.

If that sounds a little liberal, so be it. I've just noticed that many a faux conservative is more concerned with the sexual side of adultery than the fundamental issue of abandonment of the marriage itself.

My, my, Ilion! You talk almost as if the sin of greed didn't exist! Oh, wait...

' "Liberals" (and their leftists puppet-masters) are never talking about "prudence and self-control" -- they are never trying merely to convince an individual, nor a class of individuals, that he/they have earned/accumulated "too much" (*), and that they would be better of to divest themselves of some of it; rather, they are always talking about using Ceasar’s sword to confiscate the wealth owned by others.'

Correct, and this exemplifies the difference between legalism and asceticism, between socialism and Catholic social teaching.

As usual, today's fiscally libertarian "conservative" creates a false binary where one doesn't exist.

Mike T: Seamus, Jeff and others are ignoring a serious problem here in that there is no effective countermeasure in place to control the behavior of adulterers and make the option appear less viable. ...
I think the problem is both deeper and broader -- I think that most modern America Christians (whether P or C) do not understand (and frequently refuse to understand) that there can be no mercy if there is not first justice: judgment-and-condemnation. The 'mercy' that everyone is after is not actual mercy, it is winking-at-sin.

Once again, Nice Marmot, who died an made you God? Who gave you the authority -- and the discernment -- to know that So-and-So, whom you don't even know, has "too much" wealth and is therefore "greedy"? Who gave you the authority, after having made your decision, to "cure" So-and-So of his "greed" by taking his wealth from him?

Meanwhile, João owns only the clothes on his back, and hasn't even a hovel to live in, while you live in a fine house and have clothes you just never get around to wearing. You "greedy" SOB/hypocrite!

I think that most modern America Christians (whether P or C) do not understand (and frequently refuse to understand) that there can be no mercy if there is not first justice: judgment-and-condemnation.

What exact sin did the Alzheimer wife commit that she needs mercy? The husband should stay with her out of justice, which is mercy, in this case. The two concepts are not always serially connected.

The Chicken

Ilion, I suggest you read the article I posted the link to above. Your understanding of the moral aspect of wealth-getting according to classical Christianity is somewhat lacking.

Greediness is not a question of having too much wealth but an attitude that is never satisfied and keeps wanting more and more.

A billionaire that is still working to get more and more may be presumed to be greedy.

The Gospel of the Holy Profit Ilion:
1) The only reason anyone could advocate for increasing taxes, including Mr. Buffet, is because they desire to steal from others. Even if they will be affected by tax increases and don't expect to receive a penny of benefit.
2) Taxation for the purpose of providing a social safety net is by definition thievery. He hasn't yet gone full metal libertarian and said all taxes are theft, but give him time.
3) Leftists (or their puppets) think there is some numeric "wealthy" threshold that determines greediness, above which we apparently want to confiscate all income. Which flies in the face of every known fact about progressive tax policies, but facts are mere impediments to magical thinking.
4) Anyone who limits Ilion in respect to his Precious money is presuming to act as God.
5) Anyone who limits Hugh Hefner in respect to his Precious bunnies is trying to acquire a sexual conquest.
6) Anyone who admonishes people who love their money, claimed in some obscure book to be the root of many kinds of evil, is clearly controlled by leftist puppet masters (Nazis, Communist, etc.).

What exact sin did the Alzheimer wife commit that she needs mercy? The husband should stay with her out of justice, which is mercy, in this case. The two concepts are not always serially connected.

You have the argument we're making backward. The husband has an obligation in justice to stay with her; he is not a legitimate object of "mercy" in the sense of Robertson's argument that it would be merciful to allow him to divorce and remarry. That's not only not merciful, it's downright sanctioning of a serious sin.

The husband in this case is an example of how too many treat marriage and divorce. It is considered cruel and judgmental to "deny him the mercy" of finding happiness with another woman instead of making him care for his wife as he promised. Generally, insisting that marriage vows trump personal happiness is a considered a particularly cruel form of tyranny.

A billionaire that is still working to get more and more may be presumed to be greedy.

This is an example of where the parable of the talents comes in. A billionaire who works all his life to keep acquiring more and more wealth so he can leave a large legacy to charity is analogous to the man who did the best job investing his talents. Despite his flaws, one could say that about Bill Gates. He's gone on record saying that his kids will only inherit $10M apiece. That may seem extravagant to you, but it's a pittance of his net worth which is dedicated primarily to charity.

1) The only reason anyone could advocate for increasing taxes, including Mr. Buffet, is because they desire to steal from others. Even if they will be affected by tax increases and don't expect to receive a penny of benefit.

It doesn't help your case that most of the men of means who advocate higher taxes don't pay them through loopholes or outright tax evasion. Such in-your-face hypocrisy is not unlike the hypocrisy liberals denounced when many a republican who never even joined the National Guard became enthusiastic chickenhawks during the Bush years.

"A billionaire who works all his life to keep acquiring more and more wealth so he can leave a large legacy to charity is analogous to the man who did the best job investing his talents."

The Christian fathers and Scholastics, and even many classical pagan thinkers would disagree with you, as Skidelsky points out in the article I linked to.

I do not wish to draw a line and say "this is enough," let alone attempt to enforce such a line by law. What I do wish to do is to get folks to return to the classical and Christian idea that there is such a thing as "enough."

Why is it, do you think, that I've been a Christian for 35+ years, attending churches of various denominations, and have never once heard a sermon on James 5:1-7? Is there not a reason why Jesus said that it's hard for the rich to enter the kingdom? (a passage, by the way, that Mises had considerable difficulty with). When we try to explain away such passages, or finesse them to our advantage, we put ourselves in the position of a certain personage famous for asking "Did God really say...?"

The husband has an obligation in justice to stay with her; he is not a legitimate object of "mercy" in the sense of Robertson's argument that it would be merciful to allow him to divorce and remarry.

I meant it would be a mercy to her. You misunderstood me. It is a matter of justice that he is obliged to stay, but it is also an act of mercy to her.

Hope that clarifies things.

The Chicken

Hope that clarifies things.

Your point was quite clear. What Ilion and I were talking about was a response to Jeff who said "And the Church - modern or otherwise - also has a solution to the problem: forgiveness and reconciliation. If that is not doable, then yes, the solution is to take up one's cross and follow One who knows a little something about love and betrayal." That remark was a rather flippant response to my point of concern, namely that the church has no means by which to secure justice for the injured spouse--in this case, the woman with Alzheimer's. The church has absolutely no power to protect her interests other than dissociating itself with him via excommunication. For many people, that's no punishment at all and does little to actually redress the real grievance he has caused her.

The reason I said that you have the argument backward is that there was no disagreement. Justice demanded the husband sacrifice his happiness for his wife's needs there. Robertson was trying to make an appeal for grace and mercy to allow the husband to leave when justice demands that he show mercy to his wife, not receive it to himself by relieving himself of her.

I had an argument a few months ago with a Pentacostal about this sort of thing. She asked me if I believe that the blood of Christ can cover the past sins that lead to a divorce and thus allow a divorcee to remarry. I said it could not on the grounds that the blood of Christ is not capable of transforming something which is intrinsically contrary to the Law of God into something permissible (that is, grace cannot transform adultery into marriage). I've found that the excessive focus on grace has lead many to not understand that justice is very much alive and something we are obligated to do rather than squawk on and on about mercy when the just action is hard.

can cover the past sins that lead to a divorce and thus allow a divorcee to remarry

I realize that's poorly worded. What I mean by that is that while the sins may be forgiven, the requirements of marriage, divorce and remarriage may not be lifted by repentance. Just because you aren't going to Hell doesn't mean you can just go out and find a date now that you're forgiven.

"A billionaire who works all his life to keep acquiring more and more wealth so he can leave a large legacy to charity is analogous to the man who did the best job investing his talents."


It depends upon (1) the Charities themselves-- is he going to fund Maoist rebels in 3rd world? Or abortion clinics?

(2) His practices in money-getting. Is he charitable towards people he is dealing with?. The commandment to love is not abrogated in the commercial sphere.

That remark was a rather flippant response to my point of concern, namely that the church has no means by which to secure justice for the injured spouse--in this case, the woman with Alzheimer's. The church has absolutely no power to protect her interests other than dissociating itself with him via excommunication. For many people, that's no punishment at all and does little to actually redress the real grievance he has caused her.

Mike T.: Yes, my response was somewhat flippant, meant to counter what seemed to be a flippant statement on your part, which left the impression that you preferred capital punishment to reconciliation. While capital punishment is strict justice for adultery and a multitude of other sins, it also makes widows and orphans of those who might prefer, instead, a solution more in line with the New Testament: "For judgment without mercy to him that hath not done mercy. And mercy exalteth itself above judgment." - James 2:13

Or as other translations have it, "mercy triumphs over justice".

Having said that, I do agree that there should be civil penalties for adultery, which is not only an offense against God and one's spouse, but also against society. However, I think such penalties should be applied only at the discretion of the wronged spouse (and should fall somewhat short of the death penalty, flaming liberal that I am).

The Chicken: "What exact sin did the Alzheimer wife commit that she needs mercy? The husband should stay with her out of justice, which is mercy, in this case. The two concepts are not always serially connected."

Just as I "prophesied", you are declining to understand the subject matter.

To decline to commit injustice is not mercy, it is simply (passive) justice … and duty.

That the mugger who robs and beats you decides at the last moment not to beat you to death is not committing an act mercy, regardless of whether you begged her (*) “Mercy!” In not murdering you, she didn’t commit mercy, she simply didn’t commit as great injustice as she had been about to do.

Only had she the moral right and authority to cause your death – in which case it would not be murder – and had refrained, would sparing your life have been mercy.


(*) I am, of course, mocking “gender inclusive language” and its aficionados.

Only had she the moral right and authority to cause your death – in which case it would not be murder – and had refrained, would sparing your life have been mercy.
And even then, sparing your life *might* itself be a grave injustice, and thus counter to both justice and mercy.

The Gospel of the Greedy SOB, Step2:
1) I want what you have!
2) I'm going to use the compulsive and violent power of The State to take it from you;
3) I'm going to demonize you as "Greedy!" if you dare to object.

'Injustice' and 'mercy' have something important in common -- in both cases, the recipient does not receive the justice he deserves. Thus, there is always a certain tension between justice and mercy.

Having said that, I do agree that there should be civil penalties for adultery, which is not only an offense against God and one's spouse, but also against society. However, I think such penalties should be applied only at the discretion of the wronged spouse (and should fall somewhat short of the death penalty, flaming liberal that I am).

My personal preference is not the death penalty either. You simply jumped to that conclusion because I made the observation to Seamus that his discussion of mercy in the Old Testament times and even in Christian states until modern times is inherently broken unless he factors in the fact that even Christian states routinely employed punishments which were far more severe than anything modern bleeding heart Christians would condone. To me, erasing that variable is no different than when an ideologue erases inconvenient facts about human nature to support their political position (well if we can remake man like so, policy X will work!)

I think the simplest way to handle adultery at the time of divorce would be to declare the cheating spouse to be an unfit parent, lose all claims to the marital assets and be declared unfit to receive public assistance if rendered destitute by this declaration. If both spouses cheated, no loss of assets shall occur, but the children shall be adopted out to other family members and foster homes.

Money and loss of children are excellent ways to resolve it.

If the cheating spouse gives the injured spouse an incurable STD, then I'd be down with the death penalty. I'm also completely apathetic to the idea of prosecuting family members who decide to protect their loved one from a no-good cheating spouse. If a man gets shot by his wife's father for knocking up his secretary, I can think of many greater uses of public funds than prosecuting the father like paying a bureaucrat to inspect drying paint.

The reason I am sympathetic to those old punishments, even if I wouldn't put them back into effect today is that I've been exposed to quite a few very damaging cases of adultery. The ugliness of the actions and how much damage real adultery (not the ZOMG MY HUSBAND HAZ TEH PL@YBOYZ!!1!! variety of emotional adultery) is often just incredible. The devastation that it can leave (I've known spouses left with incurable STDs as a direct result of their cheating spouse's behavior) is certainly severe enough that we should regard it as worthy of being labeled a felony.

Ilion,

I am not confusing justice and mercy. If I understand you correctly, you make the equality: mercy = not fulfilling the demands of strict justice, but this is not the classical understanding. As St. Thomas Aquina writes [Summa Theologica, II.II Q 30]:

I answer that, As Augustine says (De Civ. Dei ix, 5), mercy is heartfelt sympathy for another's distress, impelling us to succor him if we can. For mercy takes its name "misericordia" from denoting a man's compassionate heart [miserum cor] for another's unhappiness. Now unhappiness is opposed to happiness: and it is essential to beatitude or happiness that one should obtain what one wishes; for, according to Augustine (De Trin. xiii, 5), "happy is he who has whatever he desires, and desires nothing amiss." Hence, on the other hand, it belongs to unhappiness that a man should suffer what he wishes not.

Now a man wishes a thing in three ways: first, by his natural appetite; thus all men naturally wish to be and to live: secondly, a man wishes a thing from deliberate choice: thirdly, a man wishes a thing, not in itself, but in its cause, thus, if a man wishes to eat what is bad for him, we say that, in a way, he wishes to be ill.

Accordingly the motive of "mercy," being something pertaining to "misery," is, in the first way, anything contrary to the will's natural appetite, namely corruptive or distressing evils, the contrary of which man desires naturally, wherefore the Philosopher says (Rhet. ii, 8) that "pity is sorrow for a visible evil, whether corruptive or distressing." Secondly, such like evils are yet more provocative of pity if they are contrary to deliberate choice, wherefore the Philosopher says (Rhet. ii, 8) that evil excites our pity "when it is the result of an accident, as when something turns out ill, whereas we hoped well of it." Thirdly, they cause yet greater pity, if they are entirely contrary to the will, as when evil befalls a man who has always striven to do well: wherefore the Philosopher says (Rhet. ii, 8) that "we pity most the distress of one who suffers undeservedly."

Hence, since mercy is, "heartfelt sympathy for another's distress, impelling us to succor him if we can," then staying with the Alzheimer wife is justice due to the marriage vow, but staying is also mercy, since it is (or should be) heartfelt sympathy for another's distress.

The Chicken

Hence, since mercy is, "heartfelt sympathy for another's distress, impelling us to succor him if we can," then staying with the Alzheimer wife is justice due to the marriage vow, but staying is also mercy, since it is (or should be) heartfelt sympathy for another's distress.

Mercy has two meanings here in your argument, both of which apply in certain cases:

1. Ilion is correct that mercy often means a negation of the just outcome (not killing a criminal who deserves death).
2. You are correct as well that mercy can also coexist with justice as it would in this case.

That said, Ilion's point is based on the fact that most Christians don't understand today that justice precedes mercy, even in this case. The requirement of justice is the husband to stay with her even if he loathes her with every fiber of his being. There is nothing about his case that merits the first class of mercy, which would be setting aside the just requirements of his marriage vows, to become happy with another woman. Christians who use "grace and mercy" to describe what is owed to him with regard to his needs are speaking from an inherently false, unChristian understanding of God's grace.

Quite true. It is an act of grace, overcoming nature, to be able to stay with a wife who does not know who you are. Another scenario Robertson never considers, but is similar to Alzheimer's disease in its effects on a marriage, would be the case of a brain-damaged spouse who could not remember who you are from moment to moment (it happens in traumatic brain injuries, sometimes). What about the case of a spouse who has problems in the area of sexual physiology that develop after a few years in the marriage? Should the other spouse be able to divorce them? Both rhetorical questions, as the answer should be, no, in both cases.

The Chicken

Both rhetorical questions, as the answer should be, no, in both cases.

If one were to say yes, then it would be necessary to start examining to what extent society should acknowledge such relationships, especially compulsory acknowledgement. Even from a liberal point of view, a relationship that can be so easily thrown off is not obviously one that is so important to society that employers and governments should have to give it any special favors. My first thought there is why should an employer be forced to commit to the health of a mate if the employee has even less commitment? Why should the employer have to pay for a treatment when the employee is free to abandon the injured mate? That is logically nonsensical; it's like holding aunts and uncles to higher standards in caring for children related to them than the kids' very own parents.

MC: "I am not confusing justice and mercy. ... "

1) I'm quite sure I didn't say anyone was confusing justice and mercy; rather, I'm confident that I said that most moderns, including apparently you, decline to correctly understand what they are and are not and to understand the relationship between them.

MC: " ... Hence, since mercy is, "heartfelt sympathy for another's distress, impelling us to succor him if we can," then ..."

Ah! So you're confusing mercy with an emotion; specifically, a combination of empathy/compassion and pity. This, of course, is not what mercy is, and has nothing to do with what mercy is. Nor does providing succor.

What next? Will you begin to talk about "soul mates" and call that a statement about love?

... My first thought there is why should an employer be forced to commit to the health of a mate if the employee has even less commitment? Why should the employer have to pay for a treatment when the employee is free to abandon the injured mate? That is logically nonsensical ...
Because: just as it's easier to spend someone else's money (*), so to is it easier to invent moral obligations for someone else to fulfill.

(*) Someone else's money represents that someone else's time, and thus a part of his life; so, spending his money “for him” is the same as spending his life “for him”: it is a form of slavery.

I admit to being the driver who, when he passes an auto accident, turns immediately into a rubbernecker. It's exceedingly difficult for me just to move along and to keep my eyes on the road.

Maybe that's why I come back to W4. I can't resist looking at the bloody train wreck that passes for Christian thought in some circles. I'm fascinated by the death-mongering folks who can say without embarrassment that we ought still to be burning heretics at the stake; or who say that we ought to criminalize adultery -- the only real question being whether or not the adulterers ought to be executed; and thinking, even in jest, that executing them might well be left to private persons with familial interest in the case. I'm talking about folks who deride the barbarism of the surrounding culture of death while advocating barbarities that make even the barbarians blush.

That is not how you learned Christ, or, if it is, you had better go back and learn again. None of this death-dealing pseudo-piety sounds like the One who so effectively addressed the adulterous woman at the well in Samaria, or who dealt so wisely and redemptively with the woman caught in adultery. Nor does it take into account Jesus' own inner-life centered definition of adultery, a sin of which virtually everyone who posts here is personally guilty.

I'm not exactly surprised at the suggestions made here, or by the policy preferences articulated and defended above. I expect no better public policy proposals from folks who know neither themselves nor their Lord's teaching and actions any better than that.

*yawn*

I think the simplest way to handle adultery at the time of divorce would be to declare the cheating spouse to be an unfit parent, lose all claims to the marital assets ...

That sounds good to me, assuming divorce is tolerated. But it would be far better if civil divorce were simply not permitted for Christians.

... and be declared unfit to receive public assistance if rendered destitute by this declaration.

Ah, I was wondering how you were going to work public assistance into this. ;-)

If the cheating spouse gives the injured spouse an incurable STD, then I'd be down with the death penalty.

Seriously? I think you'll find very few injured spouses willing to see this happen.

The reason I am sympathetic to those old punishments, even if I wouldn't put them back into effect today is that I've been exposed to quite a few very damaging cases of adultery.

I certainly respect that, but can there be anyone in America over the age of 40 who hasn't been similarly exposed? I could tell you stories that would make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Policy-wise, there are really two issues with respect to adultery: 1) minimizing its occurance; 2) minimizing the damage once it occurs. As is the case with many other things, what is effective for #1 can be counterproductive for #2, and vice versa. A balance must be struck. Christendom struck that balance for a millenium by forbidding divorce (so that adultery was not a ticket to remarriage) and making reconciliation the most pleasant alternative.

"For with the same measure that you shall mete withal, it shall be measured to you again." - Luke 6:38

Seriously? I think you'll find very few injured spouses willing to see this happen.

It would depend on the context, and I would leave it to the spouse. The context would be either sterility that is caused by the STD or if it is a death sentence (AIDS, for example).

I know this makes me into a barbarian who does things which make barbarians blush, but there is actually precedence in the modern legal system, even at the federal level for this. It's called felony murder. It's a specific charge that means you are guilty of capital murder by virtue of having either intended to cause harm during the commission of a felony or showed callous disregard for human life and the ultimate result was the victim's death.

A balance must be struck. Christendom struck that balance for a millenium by forbidding divorce (so that adultery was not a ticket to remarriage) and making reconciliation the most pleasant alternative.

I agree in principle. The struggle now is figuring out how to make policy that is both based in truth and reflective of the fact that we are a social minority.

Michael Bauman,

That is not how you learned Christ, or, if it is, you had better go back and learn again. None of this death-dealing pseudo-piety sounds like the One who so effectively addressed the adulterous woman at the well in Samaria, or who dealt so wisely and redemptively with the woman caught in adultery. Nor does it take into account Jesus' own inner-life centered definition of adultery, a sin of which virtually everyone who posts here is personally guilty.

Since our Lord gave us the Law (which included the criminalization of adultery) and affirmed it even as he showed mercy, your position is better fitting of Marcion than orthodoxy.

I'm talking about folks who deride the barbarism of the surrounding culture of death while advocating barbarities that make even the barbarians blush.

And precisely what would those be? I'm well acquainted with the horrors of human nature, which is part of the reason I struggle with grace and mercy.

What's that? Cat o' nine tails got your tongue?

1) I'm quite sure I didn't say anyone was confusing justice and mercy; rather, I'm confident that I said that most moderns, including apparently you, decline to correctly understand what they are and are not and to understand the relationship between them.

No, it is you who, perhaps, declines to accept the standard theological, not merely legal definition of mercy. Justice and mercy are separate, but relatable virtues. Mercy is not a simple negation or extension or weakening of justice. Justice and mercy can exist more or less independently, although they are usually found connected together by the complex relationships we have with our neighbors. Mercy contains, typically an affective component, but it must ultimately be governed by reason, as St. Thomas makes clear in his further discussion of mercy in S.T. II.II Q 30.3,4:

On the contrary, Augustine says (De Civ. Dei ix, 5): "Cicero in praising Caesar expresses himself much better and in a fashion at once more humane and more in accordance with religious feeling, when he says: 'Of all thy virtues none is more marvelous or more graceful than thy mercy.'" Therefore mercy is a virtue.

I answer that, Mercy signifies grief for another's distress. Now this grief may denote, in one way, a movement of the sensitive appetite, in which case mercy is not a virtue but a passion; whereas, in another way, it may denote a movement of the intellective appetite, in as much as one person's evil is displeasing to another. This movement may be ruled in accordance with reason, and in accordance with this movement regulated by reason, the movement of the lower appetite may be regulated. Hence Augustine says (De Civ. Dei ix, 5) that "this movement of the mind" (viz. mercy) "obeys the reason, when mercy is vouchsafed in such a way that justice is safeguarded, whether we give to the needy or forgive the repentant." And since it is essential to human virtue that the movements of the soul should be regulated by reason, as was shown above (I-II, 59, A4,5), it follows that mercy is a virtue.

and

On the contrary, The Apostle after saying (Colossians 3:12): "Put ye on . . . as the elect of God . . . the bowels of mercy," etc., adds (Colossians 3:14): "Above all things have charity." Therefore mercy is not the greatest of virtues.

I answer that, A virtue may take precedence of others in two ways: first, in itself; secondly, in comparison with its subject. On itself, mercy takes precedence of other virtues, for it belongs to mercy to be bountiful to others, and, what is more, to succor others in their wants, which pertains chiefly to one who stands above. Hence mercy is accounted as being proper to God: and therein His omnipotence is declared to be chiefly manifested [Collect, Tenth Sunday after Pentecost].

On the other hand, with regard to its subject, mercy is not the greatest virtue, unless that subject be greater than all others, surpassed by none and excelling all: since for him that has anyone above him it is better to be united to that which is above than to supply the defect of that which is beneath. ["The quality of mercy is not strained./'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes/The throned monarch better than his crown." Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene i.]. Hence, as regards man, who has God above him, charity which unites him to God, is greater than mercy, whereby he supplies the defects of his neighbor. But of all the virtues which relate to our neighbor, mercy is the greatest, even as its act surpasses all others, since it belongs to one who is higher and better to supply the defect of another, in so far as the latter is deficient.

Justice means rendering to someone his due, but mercy goes beyond justice to render aid which surpasses justice. If you do not agree to Aquinas's definition of mercy, which is the standard theological definition, then we may be talking about two different things when we use the term, "mercy.". Mercy is not mere pity, but it does contain an element of compassion. It is not purely an emotional response, although it does contain an affective component. It is a form of a reasoned response to the suffering of another, whether it be because of sin, defect, weakness, external acts, etc.

It is simple justice to keep a vow made for life to stay with a wife who has Alzheimer's disease, but it is also mercy to be with her in her suffering, whether she knows it or not. It is reasonable to stay with the woman you vowed to be with until death and it is reasonable to help her in her suffering. Justice and mercy are both in play and while they reinforce each other, they are, fundamentally separate virtues, which just happen to overlap in their execution in this case, as I tried to explain, above.

The Chicken

I'm fascinated by the death-mongering folks who can say without embarrassment that we ought still to be burning heretics at the stake

Who said that? Tell me. If he won't fess up, I'll waterboard it out of him.

...while advocating barbarities that make even the barbarians blush.

You mean like wiping out 100,000 Japanese civilians in a nuclear flash?

I want it clearly stated that Pat Roberson does not in any way represent God with his perverted view of marriage.
This type of thing has its origin in the devil and should never be associated with Christianity in any way.

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