Dementia & Divorce: Justifiable Or Dishonorable?


Television evangelist Pat Robertson has found himself in the midst of controversy after remarks he made on his television program, “The 700 Club” this fall regarding marriage and Alzheimer’s disease.

A man called into the show and asked what he should say to a friend whose wife was suffering from dementia and no longer recognized him. Robertson responded:

“This is a terribly hard thing. 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, 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.”

This response does not sit well in a country where 5.4 million Americans live with the devastating disease, who are cared for by nearly 15 million friends and family members, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

When the show’s co-anchor mentions questions if Robertson’s views are consistent with marriage vows, he responds that Alzheimer’s is “a kind of death.”

In response to Robertson’s comments, Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, reinforced that marriage is a lifelong commitment. Quoting Corinthians, Anderson said:

“The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. You can’t quit your own body with Alzheimer’s, so you shouldn’t quit your husband’s or wife’s body either.”

To this Christian, “I do” is just as powerful as “in sickness and in health.”

CatholicMatchers, what do you think?



  1. Maria-453115 February 22, 2013 Reply

    Personally, I am stunned and disappointed in Pat Robertson’s remarks. As a Catholic who grew even stronger with the Charismatic movement I think we should go by what the Bible goes by. Yes we sin..yes and God forgives but to say this is just okay by God? Many more will die in the future of this illness and to think well…if I get it my husband may put me away to rot and get married.
    Doesn’t anyone realize what this remark says to our children.
    It also allows our children to have less repect for their adults and when they don’t feel like caring for family…just enter my parent in a nursing home and then I can be free to live.
    All of this poors out more selfishness that is growing.
    Besides my opnion we need to be good Christians and pray continually.
    After working at nursing homes..already it was horrible to see family leaving adults and never visiting except on holidays…we are only telling our children what they should do with us.

  2. Tammie-741065 November 22, 2011 Reply

    I find it ironic that this blog is posted next to an ad asking if you need an anullment. I heartily agree that marriage vows are lifelong, however, before we start slamming our protestant brothers perhaps we should remove the beam from our own eye.

  3. Jason-745589 November 20, 2011 Reply

    For Catholics, this matter is settled, so all us CatholicMatchers are on the same page. We defend human dignity from conception to natural death, and we remain married until “death do us apart.” What good is it to make vows if you’re only in it for the good and healthy times? That’s a mere illusion of happiness that loves one’s self more than the other.

    Of course, in the culture this topic is open for debate. Euthanasia is bound to become a more controversial issue, and Catholics need to be in the culture making a difference for the sake of souls.

  4. Tara-703107 November 19, 2011 Reply

    Wow, moral relativism, what a surprise. The protestants go with the flow of popular thought, it seems, more so even as they age. I am a convert and have often observed this through the years. It’s easy to be morally righteous unless it could potentially affect you or someone you love. Then selfishness takes over.

    Thank God for the plumbline of the Catholic church and its teachings. I’ve spent close to 10 years in healthcare with the elderly, and have seen such touching, compassionate care of loving husbands and wives toward their spouses with dementia. Love–that speaks through actions, not the rhetoric of the “pseudo-religious”.

  5. Benjamin-148488 November 18, 2011 Reply

    Robertson’s statement is pathetic and intellectually weak, but not shocking. Many in society view marriage as a tool or vehicle for their own betterment, particularly for convenience, but not as a covenant and sacrament that brings glory and salvation of the soul through blessed suffering. Can you look at your future spouse before marriage and know, regardless of health or sickness, you will love her or him to the very end, however bitter or sweet the end is? Suffering is never pleasant or convenient. However, there is so much beautiful mystery in the sufferings and trials that will come. It all brings a harvest of spiritual fruit. Suffering for a holy cause and end does bring greater sanctification appreciation for God, for self, and for spouse. There is a spirit of team work, unity, and mission that matures, deepens, and, yes, brings greater true happiness and satisfaction because it is done God’s way and in God’s time, which is most often a complete mystery. Who are we to tell the Almighty how our marriage will be lived out best? Sometimes, and many times, we are taken into deep waters: alzheimer’s condition in a spouse, coma, paralyzation, other crippling illnesses, depression, despair, separation due to political/diplomatic/war reasons, demanding work schedules, fertility issues, faith crises, family history problems, trouble with finances, trouble with children, community troubles, etc…

    Are people so blind as to think that bad things and trials won’t happen? We would benefit more by preparing for the worst but trusting in God to find the beauty and freedom in all of it, over the long haul and in the end.

    Only Paradise is perfection and freedom from suffering. Perhaps, if people understood the true power of divine love and divine wisdom amidst suffering, we could get over ourselves and become champions and receive the crown of glory God has for us. Marriage is one of the greatest channels for God to enlarge His family and win souls. People are missing the big picture very much these days. Again, sad, but not shocking, given the deception, godlessness, selfishness, fear, and cruelty so rampant in the world today.

    • Maria-453115 February 22, 2013 Reply

      Dear Benjamin,
      I just read Pat Robertson’s article on his response to Alzheimer’s Disease. i was very stunned. I rushed to make a comment and in my heart I was hurt and very upset about it.
      Your comment I think..was written very well. You wrote the rest of what I was thinking. I worked for years in nursing homes and know others there too.
      After caring for many of these people I personally believe they could be trying to communicate to us and watching all that we are doing but we can’t see that and they go by the world if they get caught up on giving up.
      I think it is so horrible with any other Christians going by that statement…I am not even referring to the cults at the moment.

  6. Michaela-426347 November 18, 2011 Reply

    In sickness and in health, till death do us part….what God has joined together, let no man put assunder! Enough said! I agree with Leith Anderson!

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