Posts Tagged ‘Rev. Pat Robertson’

In Arthur Miller’s 1949 play, Death of a Salesman, protagonist Willy Loman famously declares:

“You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away — a man is not a piece of fruit.”

Perhaps Christian Broadcasting Network’s Rev. Pat Robertson should carefully consider those words in light of his recent advice that a man whose wife has Alzheimer’s disease should divorce her and remarry, ensuring that he provide custodial care for the useless wife. Here’s Robertson in his own words, as reported by CBS News:

(AP) Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson told his “700 Club” viewers that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s is justifiable because the disease is “a kind of death.”
During the portion of the show where the one-time Republican presidential candidate takes questions from viewers, Robertson was asked what advice a man should give to a friend who began seeing another woman after his wife started suffering from the incurable neurological disorder.

“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 said.

The chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which airs the “700 Club,” said he wouldn’t “put a guilt trip” on anyone who divorces a spouse who suffers from the illness, but added, “Get some ethicist besides me to give you the answer.”

Most Christian denominations at least discourage divorce, citing Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Mark that equate divorce and remarriage with adultery.

Terry Meeuwsen, Robertson’s co-host, asked him about couples’ marriage vows to take care of each other “for better or for worse” and “in sickness and in health.”

“If you respect that vow, you say `til death do us part,”‘ Robertson said during the Tuesday broadcast. “This is a kind of death.”

A network spokesman said Wednesday that Robertson had no further statement.


But not all that surprising.

We have embraced narcissism, hedonism, and utilitarianism with an ever-tightening embrace here in the West. To be fair, I understand well the pain and suffering of people watching loved ones succumbing to this dread disease. It is a long and terrible ordeal. I simply cannot imagine going through it as a spouse after a lifetime together. That said, there is another dimension of fairness to this husband that needs to be addressed.

Having spent a lifetime together, he must have some reserves within him to honor his vows, when honoring those vows matters most. Willy Loman said it beautifully.

My dear friend and life’s mentor, Father Luke McCann, also sits in a nursing home with advanced Alzheimer’s. When I told him that I was going to propose to Regina, Luke reminded me of Loman’s quote. He cautioned against doing in mid-life what many men slide into:

“You’re getting Regina at age 23, in all of her youthful beauty and promise. You’re getting her best years of industry and energy, and she’ll bear and raise your children. When you get into your fifties, you don’t dump her for a younger model.”

Luke went on,

“Look, Gerry, nobody ever thinks on their wedding day they’re going to get divorced, and it doesn’t just happen. When it does, it’s the result of a thousand missed course corrections along the way.”

I remember that talk like it happened this morning. In a chapter that I wrote in an upcoming book, A Special Mother is Born, I discuss the toxic wasteland that became our marriage when Joseph was as yet undiagnosed with his autism and Regina and I were at one another’s throats over our differences about him. We came right to the brink of divorce, but Luke’s words screamed loud and clear in my mind, as did the vows I made on my wedding day.

Indeed, there were a thousand missed course corrections along the way, and the reconciliation for our mutual failures was a painful process.

What Robertson proposes is something orders of magnitude more ghastly than walking out on a fully functional spouse. He proposes throwing away the peel after having savored the succulence of the fruit. It’s worse than abandonment. I’m not sure there is even a word to describe it.

The vow is until death, and the meaning is clear. Death. Rigor Mortis. Burial.

Not a ‘kind’ of death.

In the Catholic Church, we have evolved a theology of suffering that many of our Protestant brethren have rejected, or don’t fully understand. Saint Paul, in Colossians 1:24 states:

“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering 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.”

Properly understood, we join our sufferings to those of Christ on the Cross to complete His suffering for the sake of the body of the Church. That extends to the body of Christ undergoing their period of purification in Purgatory, as well as for those here on earth.

Suffering perfects us as humans. It calls forth reserves of love, and helps cast our relationships in new models of understanding. It often fosters reconciliation between God and man, as well as between humans. It all depends on how we are pre-disposed to understanding and managing suffering.

When I visit Luke, there are days when he is more lucid than others. There are times when he doesn’t recognize me. I get it, regarding the pain.

None of that justifies a Minister condoning the warehousing of the old model and divorcing her to run off with the next pretty face to come along. The old man’s wife may be leading him to his perfection as a human being. To be certain it is a terrible cross to bear, but Rev. Robertson the supposed scriptural wizzard forgot this little gem from 1 Corinthians 10:13

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

We’re supposed to strengthen one another through prayer and fellowship, not confirm one another in our weakness and despair. In marriage, self-fulfillment takes a back seat to self-sacrifice. My only question for this poor fellow is this:

After a lifetime together, isn’t she worth sacrificing for?

To Reverend Robertson:

You have squandered your moral authority by making a sacred vow fungible. It’s time you left the stage. On your way out, contemplate Loman’s rebuke to you:

“You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away — a man is not a piece of fruit.”


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