Pat Robertson advised a viewer of yesterday’s 700 Club to avoid putting a “guilt trip” on those who want to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer’s. During the show’s advice segment, a viewer asked Robertson how she should address a friend who was dating another woman “because his wife as he knows her is gone.” Robertson said he would not fault anyone for doing this. He then went further by saying it would be understandable to divorce a spouse with the disease.
The promises Christians make when they married are enshrined in the 1662 (and subsequent) Book of Common Prayer:
…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part…
Jesus’ foundation for Christian marriage went back to the Creation, not just to the law of Moses, which is why divorce at will went out, to say nothing of this. Alzheimer’s is surely a living death (and it’s odd that we can extend life the way we have and still not beat this thing) but it’s still living.
Although most Protestants wouldn’t make the analogy, this kind of pronouncement reminds me of the casuistry and the morale accomodante of the reverends pères Jesuites that Blaise Pascal so hilariously attacked in his Provincial Letters. The Jesuits were attempting to meet the mores of their time (such as allowing people to kill for their honour in a duel) and thus make the faith more “relevant” to their times. But it didn’t work than and it won’t work now.
Will it, Episcopalians?
As an aside, I read the Provincial Letters in the late 1980’s. That, and the whole business of how the Jesuits, the Crown and ultimately the Church colluded in the suppression of the Jansenists, put paid to any desire to return to Roman Catholicism.