The first is a brief response to Steve Hays of Triablogue. I feel obliged to respond to Hays, however briefly, because the poor fellow seems desperate for some attention. He keeps saying outrageous things about me. And even though I ignore him, he keeps prattling on like that persistent rattle in an aging Chrysler van.
Oh dear. The poor boy is suffering from hyperthermia. Can’t stand the heat.
Am I saying outrageous things about Rauser? Or is Rauser saying outrageous things?
Steve Hays summarized my position under the heading “Dump your ailing spouse.” I never said “dump your ailing spouse.” But I do advise dumping Mr. Hays’s moral commentary. And I also think that a three year chaplaincy internship at a busy hospital would do Mr. Hays a world of good. Unfortunately I cannot say the same thing for all the poor patients that would be subjected to his “care” during those three years as he slowly worked through all his personal demons.
It’s very funny to see Rauser try to seize the moral high ground when he’s the one defending divorce in case your spouse becomes senile. Imagine the kind of counseling he’d dish out as a hospital chaplain.
First the background. I wrote a sympathetic commentary on Pat Robertson’s commentary on Alzheimer’s Disease which focused on Grant’s dilemma (from the film “Away from Her”). In the scenario the Alzheimer’s of Grant’s wife Fiona has progressed to such a degree that she no longer knows her husband. To make matters worse, she is now in a romantic relationship with a new beau at the extended care facility. I asked whether Grant was morally obliged to maintain his matrimonial ties to Fiona under these conditions and I suggested that he need not be.
Randal already admitted that in her state of diminished responsibility, Fiona didn’t really commit adultery–since she lacks the intellectual capacity to form adulterous intent. As such, there’d be no grounds to divorce her for infidelity.
What about the fact that a senile wife no longer recognizes her husband? Does that dissolve the husband’s obligations to his ailing wife?
It’s easy to dream up far-fetched hypotheticals. Suppose my wife has an identical twin sister. Suppose my sister-in-law is mad at my wife for whatever reason. Suppose, to get back at my wife, my sister-in-law impersonates my wife. She deceives me into sleeping with her. Does that dissolve the marriage? Does that nullify my spousal duties to my wife?
What if our marriage was already on the rocks, and I use this incident as a pretext to divorce my wife. Is Rauser okay with that scenario?
Let’s take a more realistic hypothetical. This all got started with Robertson. He’s been married to the same woman for over 50 years. She stood by him all these years. What if she becomes senile? Is it okay for him to abandon her in her time of greatest need? When she needs him more than ever?
And we could apply this more broadly. What about the obligation of grown children to care (as best they can) for senile parents. What if they no longer recognize their children? Is it permissible to disown your senile parents?
What about the obligation of a grown brother to care for his kid brother with Down Syndrome. His parents cared for him until they died. Is it now his big brother’s duty to assume that demanding responsibility?
What if your best friend comes down with brain cancer. He no longer knows who you are. He says and does things to you which, if he were in his right mind, would betray the friendship. Is it okay to stop being a friend to him now that he can no longer be a friend to you?
This raises general questions about sacrificial love. What if caring for a helpless friend or family member means that we must deny ourselves something that gives us personal fulfillment? What gives? Rauser has already indicated his own priorities. But hey, he’d make a swell hospital chaplain.