The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


The long goodbye, cont’d…

posted by jmcgee

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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Klaire

posted July 6, 2010 at 7:48 am


I threw this story out at one of my weekend bar-b-q’s. While it wasn’t a particularly Catholic audience (albeit most were babtised Cahtolics), not ONE person thought it was wrong to leave a demented spouse, providing of course, that the demented spouse is still “cared for” (just by someone else).
The rationalization was that when the “brain goes”, it’s “Just a body; marriage over.” I then asked if we should change the marriage vows to “To sickness do us part.” That resulted in an uncanny silence and topic change to “Why would anyone expect anyone to “be lonely” when there is no hope.
I sadly conclude that outside of the remnant of faithful minority and even the non faithful who still honor vows, the majority of our “me, me, and me” culture does find such behavior acceptable.
Even worse, one of the responders to my question was a daugher with her parents, who agreed even in front of her parents, that “provided they were cared for”, it would be “unfair” to have either parent live in such hopless lonliness.
This is just one more example as to why I often make the argument that the majority of Americans are no longer truly Christian.
Authentic Christianity always requires the cross, of which most in American want no part.



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adulterer

posted July 6, 2010 at 10:47 am


…”
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.”
when a adultery is committed by one of the spouses, not once but three times, and there is forgiveness, is the sacrament still present? is the “covenant” still intact?



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Patrick

posted July 7, 2010 at 7:47 am


Deacon:
the video you presented of Jan Chorlton and Barry Petersen was truly revealing. The slow deterioration of this lovely and talented woman is truly wrenching and difficult to watch. I hope that we as a loving and caring people will concentrate more of our talent and treasure toward the conquering of this disease. On the otherhand, what was truly wrenching about this video piece was the ease with which both Mr. Petersen and his paramour excuse their lifestyle. Since you are a Deacon of the Church I was surprised that you did not comment on the obvious contempt for marriage by these two people. “For better or for worse? in sickness and in health? til death?” I don’t think so. Not for Mr. Petersen. It’s very hard to make a public stand against this type of livng arrangement, isn’t it, Deacon? Mr. Petersen and his partner now join thousands upon thousnds of other couples who live together and in doing so mock the committed, honored life of married people.
[Patrick, I chose not to comment because I didn't want to give away the ending, and I didn't want to color people's reactions. I wanted to hear what people honestly thought. Regrettably, this didn't elicit many comments here -- there were many more at The Anchoress and Rod Dreher. Having said that, the overall story is one that left me saddened, and angry. I felt shamelessly manipulated into feeling sympathy for a situation that, once all the facts are known, really isn't very sympathetic. Barry's love for his wife is palpable, and so is his sorrow. But so, unfortunately, is his betrayal. It's a tragedy, on many levels. Dcn. G.]



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