The Deacon's Bench

Last week, I posted this potent and wrenching video by a former CBS colleague Barry Petersen, recounting his wife’s steady decline into Alzheimer’s. It’s since popped up elsewhere around the blogosphere, and is generating some thoughtful response, including over at The Anchoress.

Now Elizabeth Scalia has just started a new gig over at Patheos, and has a put up an extended meditation on the video, and reaction to it, and marriage in the age of relativism:

Contrary to what secularists might suspect, most of the Christians responding to Petersen’s story were neither quick to condemn, nor blithely approving. Comments described both Petersen’s circumstances and the resulting questions his decisions have raised as “agonizingly complex.”

Over at Huffington Post, where perhaps the readers are of more of a secular bent, there was little to agonize over. Empathy and compassion trumping any-and-all other considerations, the commenters were very quick to approve of the beautifully “sensible” and “healthy” decisions Petersen had made-and to endorse notions of a “marriage of three”-and even quicker to condemn anyone who dared to intrude on their approval with “cruel,” “cold-hearted,” “hateful” or “judgmental” questions and musings. Petersen’s thoughtfulness, which led to a conclusion they endorse, was apparently an acceptable sort of thoughtfulness, settling all matters succinctly. Other thoughts were not made welcome.

Catholicism teaches that each human person is called to a “vocation,” of some sort; that we were not created to wander around directionless, but to serve God and each other and a transcendent purpose. For the Catholic, Sacramental Marriage is both a reflection of the Eternal love of God for his creation, and of Christ for his church; it is also a vocation as vowed and consecrated as any priesthood. By Christ’s own instruction, a sacramental marriage creates from a couple, a singular new creature-of “one flesh”-and therefore inseparable. Illness or incapacity within that flesh is meant to be tenderly treated, for it cannot be cast-off without destroying the whole. And as with any body, children may come through, but additional parts may not be added.

Do check out the rest. There’s a lot to ponder — and it needs to be pondered.

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