September 19th, 2011
12:05 PM ET

Squaring Pat Robertson's Alzheimer's remarks with the Bible

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN)– Televangelist Pat Robertson's comments last week advising a husband to divorce his Alzheimer's-stricken wife drew criticism from Robertson's usual theological allies.

"This is more than an embarrassment," wrote Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Many Christians in the Twitterverse and in other online spaces also expressed disapproval of Robertson's comments, which came in response to a viewer of his "700 Club" TV show asking about a friend who started dating another women after his wife developed Alzheimer's disease.

"He says that he should be allowed to see other people, because his wife as he knows her is gone," the viewer asked. "I’m not sure what to tell him. Please help."

Robertson acknowledged the situation is a "terribly hard thing" but said the viewer's friend is right. "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 (is) looking after her."

When his co-anchor pushed back against that advice, Robertson acknowledged the marriage vow of "Till death do us part" but said that Alzheimer's is "a kind of death."

Criticism from the medical community seems to be less harsh than that from Christians but has nonetheless been forthcoming.

Here's Eric J. Hall, founding president and chief executive officer of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America:

There is no doubt that this heartbreaking disease robs people of their memories and other intellectual functions, but to liken Alzheimer’s disease to, as Mr. Robertson said, ‘a kind of death’ fosters an insensitivity that feeds misperceptions about the disease. It fails to take into account that people with Alzheimer’s disease, although impaired, deserve optimal care and dignity. Love and compassion are the greatest gifts for every human being until their very last breath.

In a Facebook post Thursday, Robertson's show, "The 700 Club," acknowledged the criticism without taking anything back:

Thank you for sharing your concern about Pat Robertson's response to a BringIt On Question about a friend's wife in the late stages of Alzheimer's.

Having had many close friends struggle through Alzheimer's, Pat has seen the devastating impact that it has on not only the spouse with the disease, but especially the caregiver whose quality of life also becomes completely debilitated by it.

- CNN's Elizabeth Landau contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Bible • Ethics • Leaders

soundoff (225 Responses)
  1. Heriberto Nezat

    Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. It's the most common cause of dementia — a group of brain disorders that results in the loss of intellectual and social skills. These changes are severe enough to interfere with day-to-day life. '`:^

    Check out our personal web site as well

    June 7, 2013 at 7:51 am |
1 2 3 4 5
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.