by Jack Minor –
Local pastors have expressed outrage over comments by evangelist, Pat Robertson, who said it would be acceptable to divorce a spouse that has Alzheimer’s because the person is, basically, dead already.
On a segment on yesterday’s 700 Club, a viewer asked Robertson how she should deal with a friend who was dating another woman while his wife had Alzheimer’s. Robertson said he could understand why a person would want to do this, and then went on to say that divorce would be acceptable in this case.
“I hate Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most awful things because, here is a loved one—this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years, and suddenly, that person is gone. They’re gone. They are gone. So, what he says, basically, is correct. But I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something he should divorce her and start all over again. But to make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.” Robertson said.
When asked by co-host Terry Meeuwsen if that would be a violation of marriage vows where couples promised to remain together “for better or for worse. For richer, for poorer.” Robertson responded that the divorce was acceptable because part of the vows state, “’til death do us part.” Robertson said, ”This is a kind of death.”
Robertson went on to say, “I can’t fault him for wanting some kind of companionship. And if he says, in a sense she is gone, he’s right. It’s like a walking death.”
Sara Spaulding, media spokesperson for the Colorado chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, said while those affected with the disease will have periods where they recognize their loved ones until the very end, that is not always the case.
“Every case is unique and everyone handles it differently. Relationships change over time with this disease. Because we cannot communicate with people at the end, we do not know how things like touch and talking with them affect them.” Spaulding continued, “It would not be fair for any person to make a decision about another individual’s relationship with their loved one. It is a very individual journey.”
Robertson’s comments have produced strong reactions from local evangelical pastors. Ken Curtis, associate pastor for Faith Bible Baptist Church, said, “That is absolutely ridiculous and has no basis in scripture. Regardless of the stage of the disease there are still moments when they recognize their loved ones.”
Steven Grant, pastor of Destiny Christian Center, said Robertson’s reasoning was an attempt to adapt biblical values to modern trends. “Marriage is not a contract that can be manipulated by society, current trends or lawyers. It originated with God Himself, and we must abide by His terms and conditions. No pastor, disease or trend can nullify that fact. ‘Til death parts us’ still means just that.”