A letter to the Washington Post revealing abuse at an SBC seminary

Megan Cox of Give Her Wings has given me permission to repost her letter to  Sarah Pulliam Bailey, the author of the Washington Post series on Paige Patterson. The abuse and abuse enabling in SBC circles is far worse than what I talked about yesterday

Megan Cox in 2014 with her newly published book, “Give Her Wings: Hope and Healing after Abuse”

Dear Ms. Bailey,

I was deeply encouraged by your recent piece on Dr. Paige Patterson. I have long-awaited this type of abuse to be uncovered.

I was married to an abusive man when he attended Southeastern Seminary, when Paige Patterson was the president. While I was there, I had a friend, whose husband also attended seminary. They have five children and they were abused regularly, in every way.

Since I was “only” suffering from emotional, financial, mental and spiritual abuse, I went to security and reported the abuse of my friend. The security officer said that he “hears about this type of thing all the time.” He did nothing.

I then went to the counseling department (Dr. Frank Catanzaro, who is now working under Patterson in Texas), and told him about the abuse of my friend. Her child had recently suffered a broken hand at the hands of her father. Dr. Catanzaro said, “This happens all the time. There’s nothing we can do.”

I argued, “But, this man is here to be a PASTOR. You can’t let him go through with it!” Dr. Catanzaro also remarked, “There is nothing we can do.” His casual demeanor was shocking.  

I also called upon Dr. Catanzaro many times for my own abuse. He told me things such as, “Be more active in bed. Submit more. Pray for him.” He never once gave me the option to leave.

When [my abuse] began to get physical, I finally took our four children and left (seminaries, then, were big on their beliefs against birth control, which left us women very vulnerable). By the time I left, we had moved overseas to be with my ex husband’s family. A friend noticed bruises on the children and myself and she and her husband paid for tickets for us to escape.

We found no comfort from our previous Southern Baptist churches. Further, they harassed us for a good year for my “sin” of leaving my ex. I was told that I am a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and that God is no longer with me. I was so spiritually brainwashed that I really thought I was going to hell — but I wanted to give my children a better chance. During that time, the children and I were in near-poverty.

Slowly, I climbed my way out and I have been remarried for almost 6 years. I won sole custody of my children. Six years ago, I started a non-profit ministry called Give Her Wings, Inc. to try to help the women who, like me, were shunned by their community, families and in-laws for the “sin” of leaving abuse. We regularly pay bills for these brave women to get on their feet and they do! We have helped close to 100 women become free. We are small, but mighty!

Paige Patterson’s teaching and support of the good ole’ boy system has hurt so many more women than I could count. Please don’t stop reporting these things. Please keep on digging.

Sincerely,

Megan Cox

*****

The abuse that has been sanctioned under Paige Patterson, and far far wider in fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism, is so shocking as to leave one wondering where the Christians are.

Last night a woman wrote to me who is an SBC missionary to Muslims. As a woman serving in a Muslim country every day she works and fights against a culture that devalues women. She expressed her discouragement to me to know that the denomination that sent her there is practicing some of the same type of devaluation of women.

This is not representative of the Jesus we know and love and serve. This is not who He is. This is not what He wants for His church.

*****

Follow-up: A question arose about Megan speaking to Dr. Catanzaro “about [her] abuse” during the days when she was at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I asked her whether she had recognized it as abuse at that time, and what specifically she said to the professor. She replied to me:

“I never said it was abuse. I didn’t KNOW it was abuse then. I told him that he had a porn addiction. I told him about how he spoke to the children. I told him how he would flick the children on their heads, grab their arms, over-spank them, and how he had recently grabbed my son and shook him upside down.

I also told him specifics of how [my then-husband] hurt me, like squeezing me so hard out of anger that I couldn’t lift my babies for two weeks. Cornering me in the kitchen, spanking me (humiliating). But I never used the term “abuse.” 

Another follow-up: Though Frank Catanzaro has been charged with mishandling abusive situations in both of the accounts above, someone wrote to me that she knew of at least one marriage counseling situation in which he advised a separation. After the husband and wife had been counseled separately, the wife saw a change in her husband and they were successfully reconciled.

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Song of Joy
Guest
Song of Joy

The church is so corrupted and in such bad shape that some days I feel like the only remedy is the glorious return of Jesus Christ. He will separate the goats from the sheep… and SBC goats will not get a pass. I look forward to that day very much.

I admire Megan Cox for her loving work on behalf of abused women and children, and I also appreciate this blog!

Joe
Guest
Joe

The Megan Cox abuse thing , I add I had seen abusive ways in words that were spoken from the pulpit of using fears to make the sheep go with the flow from about 2013 on / example is to use fear of martyrdom to get the sheep on the bandwagon by telling them the horrible things they will go through and suggesting they are left unsafe and vulnerable during the Great Tribulation period of the future in scripture ( using this to say they may miss God’s protection or safety as a punishment , and this is not a theology issue ) . The pastor was using abusive subtly unkind words in that message he does repeat often !!).. It is as if the Rapture idea and God’s care of His sheep went to a rogue idea that’s very abusive and frightening to use fear to scare the ”sheep’ to obedience !
This when claiming they believe in God’s grace and mercies . Something is not right here. This one church I left because of this. This all ignores the suffering struggles Christians do go through all over . It leaves the idea also that such suffering saints will end up in hell = is a false notion against grace God has for us !! I never seen a trend like this and from a supposed ”good’ group that started in California , and when the founder had died is when trouble started .The founder likely a good man , but those who took over after he died are not acting right , nor good . I let God reveal stuff to me and in a prayerful attitude . This church group that is very big [ not SBC here] I started my Christian walk in long ago in the 1970’s and changes came over 10 years ago they had bad fruit . they didn’t teach this way in the past and this is making me re-think how far evil society is when churches appear ”evil” in their ideas put forth that are very toxic . I am still saved , but aware of much .The churches allowing bad stuff is like a sign of the times .

Jeff crippen
Guest
Jeff crippen

I would go further and say “this is not Christ’s church.” It is a counterfeit. Megan’s letter is absolute truth. And the SBC was only playing appeasement politics when their seminary removed Patterson as president. He’s still there. Still influencing. A wicked man is to be put out, not harbored. The SBC is corrupt.

NGl
Guest
NGl

This is appalling. I don’t understand how a ministry can claim to preach liberty to the broken and bruised in an abusive culrure, but in the same time, tolerate the same abusive behavior in their own ranks.
Sadly, I know it is way, way too common.
The missionary circles are full of abusive men, and also some very abusive women (in the guise of being ‘strong’ and ‘pioneering’)

Kayla1998
Guest
Kayla1998

It seems like almost every day I am reading another story about a woman who was being abused and went to a “Christian” leader for help only to be told to “[b]e more active in bed. Submit more. Pray for him.” It makes me angry to keep reading stories like this, to read about “Christian” leaders who either are the ones doing the abuse, or covering up abuse. The Church and Christian Institutions need a cleansing.

NGl
Guest
NGl

I’d like to add that sometimes it takes years to know the real character of the person, in any relationship. Not all abusive behaviors come to the surface right away. And, sometimes a sincere Christian person can ‘snap’ – and have a harsh and abusive reaction. I have seen much volatile behaviors in ministry settings, and sometimes one could never have imagined it.
That’s why it is so hard to define and be aware of all ‘red flags’, since often, there have been none… until…

MeganC
Guest

[In reply to a deleted comment] Rebecca “Becky” Link and her husband are the very ones who called me a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. I actually went to Becky for help because of my deep depression (without mentioning why I was depressed). I asked her if she thought that I should take medication and she convinced me not to, because of the teaching of Frank Catanzaro, at the time. Becky was well-aware of the fact that I was not doing well. She and her husband are SBC-loyalists and have been for years. They gossiped about me to my local church and marred my reputation because they did not believe me. She might be interested in the fact that some of those people who said I was lying have since apologized, as they now see it.

Thank you for posting this. I will not stop speaking out against this! And thank you for knowing me so well, being my friend, loving me and loving our ministry.

Bekah Mason
Guest
Bekah Mason

[In reply to a deleted comment]

Becky,

Megan wrote, “We found no comfort from our previous Southern Baptist churches. Further, they harassed us for a good year for my “sin” of leaving my ex. I was told that I am a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and that God is no longer with me. I was so spiritually brainwashed that I really thought I was going to hell — but I wanted to give my children a better chance.”

Seems like all you’re doing is confirming her words. Has the thought occurred to you that maybe Megan never disclosed what was going on because she knew you weren’t a safe person to confide in? Just because you didn’t know doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening. I watched how people treated Megan and responded when she began reaching out for help, and it’s no wonder she never said anything to us when we were all in church together— when she reached out to that church for help, she was shot down and abandoned.

As for Dr. Cat, I spent time in both his classroom as a student and in his office as a counselee, and I can personally attest to the fact that the braggadocious swagger he projected in the classroom was nowhere present when I went to him with my struggles with same sex attraction. If he counseled abuse victims like he did me, they were told to lay low, tell no one, and just deal with it.

Please, please consider for a moment that, at the very least, your experience is just different, if not flat out wrong.

Sherry
Guest
Sherry

In regards to Becky Link’s comment about Megan, it’s harsh and unfounded!

Lori Bridgwood
Guest
Lori Bridgwood

Megan,
Thank you for your courage in speaking up. You are helping many by doing so as this issue is not going away and the church will be forced to deal with it, not only in the present, but for all the ways they have allowed and fostered abuse in the past. Those in leadership who are truly humble will display godly sorrow and a willingness to change, the rest is self-preservation and damage control. The Hound of Heaven is watching, He will not let this go.