Televangelist Pat Robertson says he won't guilt trip anyone for divorcing a spouse stricken with Alzheimer's. After all the disease is a kind of death, he says.
A caller to Robertson's 700 Club asks what advice a man should give to a friend who had begun dating another woman while his wife is sick with Alzheimer's.
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, Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which airs 700 Club, says.
Robertson adds that he wouldn't put a guilt trip on anyone for divorcing a spouse who suffers from the neurological disorder.
Get some ethicist besides me to give you the answer, Robertson says.
Robertson's co-host Terry Meeuwsen, asks the evangelist about the marriage vows - for better or for worse and in sickness and in health - and whether a divorce on the basis of Alzheimer's would violate the marriage vows. Robertson responded by saying that Alzheimer's is a kind of death.
Robertson's response offended many Christians who felt that for someone to divorce a spouse because of Alzheimer's would go against the vows of Til death do us part.
News blog Christianity Today reported on Robertson's message on his recent program, which attracted much criticism from readers.
I totally disagree with what Pat Robertson said and I'm shocked that he would give such advice, one commenter writes. I know Alzheimer's is a horrible disease, but there are other diseases that are horrible as well. Whatever happened to for better or for worse; in sickness and health? I believe God honors those who honor their marriage commitment for the life of their spouse in spite of very difficult circumstances. I believe he fumbled the ball on this one.
This breaks my heart to hear this horrible advice being given on this Christian program. I think Pat Robertson owes his viewers an apology, another reader says. There is nothing in the Bible to support his comments, and who knows how many people who were honoring their vows to an ill spouse will now believe they have permission to leave and betray their spouse and set a horrendous example for their children and other believers watching. It's time for Pat Robertson to get off the air.
Beth Kallmyer, director of constituent services for the Alzheimer's Association, provides resources to sufferers of Alzheimer's and their families. She said divorce is uncommon among couples where one partner suffers from the disease.
We don't hear a lot of people saying 'I'm going to get divorced,' she tells The Associated Press. Families typically respond the way they do to any other fatal disease.
Kallmyer adds that the stress can be significant in marriages because it results in the gradual loss of a person's mental health. She says that as a result it's important for couples to make decisions about care in the early stages of the illness.
The caregiving can be really stressful on a couple of levels, she says. There's the physical level. There's also the emotional level of feeling like you're losing that person you love.