Pat Robertson, always a lightning rod, stepped into a moral minefield last week when counseling a man on dealing with his spouse who has Alzheimer’s.
According to the New York Times:
“His wife as he knows her is gone,” the caller said, and the friend is “bitter at God for allowing his wife to be in that condition, and now he’s started seeing another woman.”
“This is a terribly hard thing,” Mr. Robertson said, clearly struggling to think his way through a wrenching situation. “I hate Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most awful things, because here’s the loved one — this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years, and suddenly that person is gone.”
“I know it sounds cruel,” he continued, “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, somebody looking after her.”
When Mr. Robertson’s co-anchor on the program wondered if that was consistent with marriage vows, Mr. Robertson noted the pledge of “till death do us part,” but added, “This is a kind of death.”
Much criticism has been leveled at Robertson, some of it by people who are inclined to disagree with anything that comes out of his mouth, no matter what it is. I think that there are some who would argue that the world is flat if Robertson said it was round, despite the fact that they know better.
It’s fine to disagree with Robertson on this topic. It’s clearly a tough and personal call. But before you criticize, please watch Jan’s Story. This link is the best teller of the tale. The story aired on CBS Sunday Morning January 24, 2011. It’s a revealing and touching tale of a couple in love and in the midst of the hell that is Alzheimer’s. A book followed and then this interview with Barry Petersen. The Sunday Morning piece is better, but hearing Petersen discuss the feelings of their friends is also useful.
Petersen’s frank discussion about his feelings is useful in this discussion. It’s a tough call. But spend a few minutes in Barry Petersen’s shoes before criticizing Pat Robertson…or Barry Petersen.