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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. Danilo Poppenhagen

    In my medical intuitive practice, I have often been consulted by family and friends of those whose parents or loved ones have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The origin of this disease is unknown, however much attention is being placed upon the growth of Amyloid plaques in the brain.Amyloid plaques are waxy and translucent protein-polysaccharide complexes that are deposited in organs or tissues during certain diseases. These deposits cause the degeneration of the organ or tissue involved. Amyloid plaques are associated with a number of conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, Hodgkin’s disease and Osteomyelitis.:

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    February 10, 2013 at 1:50 am |
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      February 10, 2013 at 1:52 am |
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    April 2, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  4. MPV

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    April 2, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  5. Joanne

    I am a Catholic, and my friend needed to see the priest; although she wanted to wait to tell me why she had to go see him and then tell me later. She came into the room happier than I had seen her in years. I started to get excited for her, and begged her to tell me what happened. She told me the priest told her she could leave her husband who had Alzheimer's, and move into an apartment with another man. Ok, sure she is older, and so was the man she was going to live with. She put her husband in a state hospital, because she could not afford in-home care, or a convalescing hospital, and she moved in with her new boyfriend. Every time I saw her I wanted to slap her. She was happy, while her husband was stuck in a state hospital. I asked her if she ever saw her husband, and she said, ‘Why, the priest said it was ok to move on.” I love the Lord, and I will always love him, but to listen to the advice of mankind now-a-days is worthless. Now, this happened at the same time I was taking care of my 186lb bedridden mother who had Alzheimer's. Sure it was hard, but I have no gilt. Galatians 5:13, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” 1 Peter 3:8, “ [Suffering for Doing Good] Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.”
    What Pat said was not only wrong; it was scripturally wrong.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:54 am |
  6. Hypatia

    For once, Pat couldn't find a justification for his snake oil in that book he keeps burbling about. You know the one-it's been translated so many time and ways that it now says the opposite of everything it once said. Just like politics.

    October 1, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  7. John Winfield

    I do not believe in God, but I do believe in "'til death do we part", "In sickness and in health", and "For richer or for poorer"; these must hold meaning to have a loving, successful marriage. I am a gay agnostic man who believes in marriage, monogamy, and family. Pat Robertson is very wrong for this one!

    September 30, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  8. 1of7billion

    Pat Robertson is a national disgrace for broadcasting his deeply religious desire to see Venezuela's Leader assassinated.

    September 23, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • KM

      You didn't need a qualifier. You could have stopped at ".... is a national disgrace." It's sort of a known thing at this point.

      September 27, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  9. Kenrick Benjamin

    Flash I am asking Observer since he states that nothing has change and the Bible states that they would be an increase to date of these disasters what proof does he have to support his claim that nothing has change and as for question on 7 Billion the Bible did not gave a number it just states be fruitful, Multiply and replenish the Earth.

    September 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Observer

      Kenrick,

      Don't worry about it. You answered my question yesterday about whether you wanted to change subjects or talk about the fact that ALL of the problems I discussed have existed for thousands of years and it doesn't take a prophet to know they will continue.

      September 21, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Bill

      I was shocked by his comment we have this sickness in our family on both sides and to have the spouses
      Separate because of it is counter productive it can't possibly help the infixed what is Pat thinking?

      September 22, 2011 at 1:28 am |
    • tallulah13

      Pat is thinking as he always does: About himself. This is not a good person. This is a person who has built his empire on the backs of the naive.

      September 22, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  10. Bob

    The real question is: Should religious viewers switch channels to another TV Evangelist if Pat is deemed too "brain dead"?

    September 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Observer

      Based on his trashing of victims of 9/11 and the Haiti earthquake, no thinking person is likely to be listening to his rants anyway.

      September 21, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  11. eyesopened

    Its for just this reason, any and all comments that are completly worthless,yet when something happens to us directly that we demand justice or understanding and depends on the system and finds that its screwed up,or that it sucks well,your part of it along with the rest of us except the only problem is some realize it and turn from their self centered ways and try to become a part of the solution instead. If anyone has heard about the fall of man, and is still putting their trust in him,well thats just ignorance. and as far as this Pat Robertson or the President or the pope or myself, mankind is evil, One hard look at our family history will settle this topic, hows that all workin for ya, aint a bowl of cherries is it, And I dont care who you are or what race or religion you supposedly are into, you still have feelings and thats why this world is in the mess that we are because we cater to them rather then the truth, and thats why we are ALL SLAVES in a so called free nation. And our ONE TRUE enemy we dont even talk about, let alone pick him to pieces, why? we would see ourself and what we truly stand for while we have a spouse and chidren, or a mother and father, this enemy is called satan or the devil, and is responsible for sin and death, and he uses us you and I because he needs a vessel, like in the garden he used a snake, and when we lean onto our feelings and not the word of God for insight, he is the captain of our vessel.

    September 21, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • The First Tool of the Fladaboscan Church

      Mankind is not evil. Some people are, many leaders are but by and large people are peaceful, generous beings. The evil ones make louder noises. Of course nothing makes people more gleefully evil than religion. The arrogance of thinking you can know what god wants and what words have come from heavenly inspiration...

      September 22, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  12. cosmicc

    Whatever religion he practices, it just doesn't seem to be Christianity.

    September 21, 2011 at 9:51 am |
  13. Reality

    From p. 3:

    Just another nail in Christianity's coffin cover.

    To wit:

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    September 20, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • .........

      spam alert hit report abuse to all reality copy paste spam

      September 21, 2011 at 4:51 am |
    • Hey

      @Poster "......." rebut, or ignore and move along, you miserable weasel.

      September 21, 2011 at 4:56 am |
    • Older Sista

      You're wrong.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  14. Awkward Situations

    Still trying to figure out how to get past the fucking naughty word filter.

    September 20, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  15. Squeezebox

    Robertson needs to open his Bible again. I can't quote the scripture exactly, but it says to be kind to your parents even if their minds fail. This seems to be the prophets speaking directly to families of Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and other mental illnesses.

    September 20, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  16. BEHIND YOU !

    The guy's a nutter his views on Haiti and AIDS should have been a clue .

    September 20, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  17. KC

    Not only is there that clause "Til death do we part", there's that other clause "In sickness and in health". How hypocritical of him and his "calling". Guess he's just preaching, not practicing.

    September 20, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • The First Tool of the Fladaboscan Church

      Of course the problem is that he is a human, with human foibles and fallability. I hate him and what he stands for but to take one comment out of his 150 hrs a week of begging for money isn't reasonable. On the other hand he is a egomaniacal jerk.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  18. David Johnson

    My wife has a cold... I wonder it this qualifies...?

    Cheers!

    September 20, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  19. Observer

    Kenrick Benjamin,
    Your futile efforts to try to change the subject isn't fooling anyone but you.

    The "nothing changes" CLEARLY referred to prior statement "There will be earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and other disasters, famine, wars, phony religious leaders, and hard times in the future."

    Do you care to discuss the ACTUAL topic or do you want to continue useless efforts to ignor it?

    September 20, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Kenrick Benjamin

      Observer like I have stated do you have statistics to support your claim of such a broad statement that nothing has change over thousands of years. If you do for better or worse lets have them please.

      September 20, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Observer

      Kenrick Benjamin,

      When people are unwilling to admit facts, they often try to change the subject.

      Thank you.You have answered my question.

      September 20, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Flash

      Kenrick Benjamin:

      @Observer is talking about natural disasters... are you asking him for statistics to show that they have occurred for eons?... and continue to happen now?... and that it doesn't take a "prophet" to know it?

      September 20, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Flash

      p.s. Where is the "prophecy" in your Bible that says that there would be 7 billion people on Earth in the year 2011? The number 7 was pretty special to those primitive Middle Eastern folks... surely they would have "foretold" it!?

      September 20, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Flash, the number seven is Jesus' number, meaning spiritual completeness. Something all of us should aspire too.

      Amen.

      September 20, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  20. Kenrick Benjamin

    Observer
    If you feel that nothing has Change in Thousands of years, What can I tell you and yes that's my rebuttal.

    September 20, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
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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.