Pat Robertson, host of "The 700 Club," told viewers Tuesday that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer's disease is acceptable. The Christian broadcaster advised, without citing any Scriptural support, that a man with a wife suffering from Alzheimer's "should divorce and start all over."
"I hate Alzheimer's. It is one of the most awful things because, here is a loved one, this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years, and suddenly, that person is gone. They're gone. They are gone. So, what he says, basically, is correct," Robertson said.
Co-host Terry Meeuwsen appeared alarmed by Robertson's comments. She interjected, noting that couples vow to remain together "for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer."
Robertson responded that if people respect those vows they will also keep in mind the part that says "until death do us part." He added that Alzheimer's "is a kind of death."
The controversial "700 Club" host also said he would not put a "guilt trip" on someone who divorced for such a reason.
However, before deserting your spouse with a debilitating disease, make sure they have "custodial care" and someone to look after them, Robertson said.
Robertson's comments were in response to the following question submitted by a "700 Club" viewer:
I have a friend whose wife suffers from Alzheimer's. She doesn't even recognize him anymore, and, as you can imagine, the marriage has been rough. My friend has gotten bitter at God for allowing his wife to be in that condition, and now he's started seeing another woman. He says that he should be allowed to see other people, because his wife as he knows her is gone… I'm not quite sure what to tell him. Please help.
Neither Robertson nor Meeuwsen mentioned biblical passages that address the issue of divorce, some of which are:
"'I hate divorce,' says the Lord, the God of Israel…" (Malachi 2:16, NIV)
"So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." (Matthew 19:6, NIV)
Robertson added, "I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something he should divorce her and start all over again."
The former televangelist did tell the viewer who submitted the question, however, "Get some ethicist besides me to give you the answer."
Alzheimer's is a cruel condition that causes memory, cognitive and behavioral impairment.
Viewers and church leaders have expressed outrage with Robertson's advice, with some suggesting that divorcing a spouse because he or she has Alzheimer's is plain cruel and goes against biblical teachings on divorce.
"That is absolutely ridiculous and has no basis in Scripture. Regardless of the stage of the disease there are still moments when they recognize their loved ones," said Ken Curtis, associate pastor for Faith Bible Baptist Church, according to according to the Greeley Gazette.
Other biblical passages often referred to regarding the issue of divorce include:
"But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery." (Matthew 5:32, NIV)
"…If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him…but if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace." (1 Corinthians 7:12-15, NIV)