Douglas native Phil Saviano who spoke out against sex abuse by Catholic Church clergy, remembered as a ‘hero’

BOSTON — Douglas’ Phil Saviano was a hero who spoke truth to power — truth directed at the Roman Catholic Church, as Saviano shone the spotlight on the priest sex abuse scandal.

That was the central message delivered at a press conference held Monday morning outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston to honor Saviano, a day after his death at 69.

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The cause of death was gallbladder cancer, according to Saviano’s brother, Jim Saviano.

A funeral service will be held Friday at 10 a.m. at St. Denis Parish in Douglas, the same parish where Saviano said he was sexually assaulted at age 11 by Reverend David Holley.

Following: Archives: The diocese wanted Reverend Holley out. Personal letters detailing the priest’s situation obtained by T&G

Holley died in a New Mexico prison in 2008 while serving a long sentence for molesting eight boys.

In 1995, Saviano reached a $12,000 settlement in a civil lawsuit he filed against the Diocese of Worcester.

A lifeline

“Phil Saviano literally saved my life,” said Skip Shea, a Uxbridge resident who attended Monday’s press event.

Shea and Saviano’s lives are intertwined.

Following: Douglas man who was key clergy sex abuse whistleblower and survivor dies

Both have gone public with their stories of abuse by priests; and each channeled their pain into storylines that became movies.

These creative endeavors have helped both men overcome their crises, while inspiring other victims of clergy sexual abuse to go public with their grief.

Shea met Saviano after the Boston’s Globe report exposed the priest sex abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston, a report that relied on documents and sources provided by Saviano.

“I was black on white with my anger towards the church,” Shea said. “Phil helped me see that it wasn’t that simple. It literally saved my life. »

The Globe’s reporting won him a Pulitzer Prize and served as the basis for the 2015 Oscar-winning film “Spotlight.”

Shea’s film, “Trinity”, is based on a chance encounter at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Millbury. It was a moment when Shea unexpectedly bumped into the priest who Shea says sexually abused him. at St. Mary’s Parish in Uxbridge in the early 1970s.

The abuse happened, Shea said, when he was 11.

perfect temperament

According to Shea, Saviano was not only instrumental in uncovering hidden abuses within the walls of the Catholic Church. He did it with the perfect temperament to be the voice of crisis.

“He could reach the general public, which was the most dangerous for the (Catholic) institution,” Shea said. “He told the truth in that tone. It was easy for everyone to hear.

“There is no one to replace that.”

Heroes with lasting impact

Reached by phone, Jim Saviano, who watched over his brother at the end of his life, said the family viewed Phil as a hero who had a lasting impact.

“He lit a fuse that ultimately blew up the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, the eruption isn’t big enough and I’m not happy with the changes made,” said Jim Saviano. “There is still a lot of work to do.”

Saviano’s impact went beyond being a whistleblower.

“Because he showed others who had been abused a way to throw off the yoke on their shoulders and start living more productive and joyful lives, I think that’s just as important,” said said Jim Saviano.

Garabedian remembers a “great man”

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represented numerous victims of priestly sexual abuse allegedly at the hands of the Archdiocese of Boston, called Saviano a ‘great man’ as he addressed those in attendance outside the cathedral on Monday. of the Holy Cross.

“His strength, his determination, his courage and his inspiration will live on forever,” Garabedian said.

Holding a sign with the words “Phil Saviano Hero” and another with “He Spoke Truth To Power,” Robert Hoatson said Saviano proved a cover-up of massive abuse within the Catholic Church.

“He was nothing short of heroic,” said Hoatson, a clergy sex abuse survivor who is co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, Inc., a New Jersey-based nonprofit. which helps victims of sexual abuse and their families. .

“The legacy (of Phil Saviano) for victims and survivors is that silence is no longer an option. We must speak and shout our message.

Another Saviano admirer in attendance Monday was board member Terence McKiernan. Saviano served on the nonprofit’s board of directors for seven years.

According to McKiernan, Saviano made three essential contributions.

The first is that he created the New England Chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Second, Saviano understood the value of legal documents in putting pressure on the Catholic Church.

And eventually, Saviano accepted his suffering and found other interests to feed his soul. One was a love for Mexican art that inspired Saviano to start a website, Viva Oaxaca Folk Art, which sold handmade pieces that Saviano had purchased while traveling in southern Mexico.

“He had boundless passion,” McKiernan said. “I miss him terribly. His contributions will live on.

Noticed absence

A representative of the Catholic Church was absent from Monday’s event, a development not lost on those who believe Phil Saviano was a beacon of truth.

“I’m not surprised (a church official wasn’t present),” Jim Saviano said. “It’s another strong signal not to come to terms with their problems.”

Of the hundreds of emails Phil Saviano received in the last five months of his life, only one came from an official with ties to the Catholic Church.

It was written by a priest who, according to Jim Saviano, had the “courage to recognize what Phil had accomplished and thanked him for doing it”.

As for an email Jim Saviano sent Pope Francis nearly two weeks ago asking the Vatican to recognize his brother’s work in publicly exposing clergy sex abuse, there has been no response.

“You see which side of the coin (Pope Francis) is on. I haven’t had an answer and I don’t expect one. »

Contact Henry Schwan at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @henrytelegram

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