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.
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.
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.