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
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