MassLive.com/The Republican [Springfield MA]
November 28, 2021
By Benjamin Kail
Phil Saviano, who survived sex abuse by Catholic clergy and who helped blow the whistle on a decades-long pattern of abuse and cover-ups by the Catholic church, died Sunday. He was 69.
“Phil decided it was okay to let go,” read a post on Saviano’s Facebook page, where supporters and loved ones flooded the comment section with messages of support.
In October, Saviano had posted that his health had been “dicey” after a pair of doctors were “unable to offer any effective treatment for my gallbladder cancer.” He started staying with his brother, Jim, under hospice care in Douglas, Massachusetts, Saviano said at the time.
Saviano established the New England chapter of SNAP, the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests, in the late 1990s.
According to the biography on his website, Saviano first broke his silence in 1992 about being sexually assaulted by Worcester Diocese priest David Holley, leading to headlines and a settlement with the diocese. Holley died in prison in 2008 while serving a 275-year sentence after pleading guilty to molesting eight boys.
Over phone interviews with reporters and a historic 2001 meeting featured in the 2015 film, “Spotlight,” Saviano helped The Boston Globe investigative team kick off a story exposing how dozens of Boston-area priests had been accused of abusing children only to have church leaders place them on sick leave or transfer them to other parishes. Actor Neal Huff portrayed Saviano in the film, which won the Academy Award for best picture.
The Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation led to the resignation of Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law and hundreds of settlements for victims.
Saviano in 2002 bolstered SNAP’s website, which “became a critical lifeline, connecting and mobilizing clergy abuse survivors across the United States,” according to his website.
“My gift to the world was not being afraid to speak out,” Saviano told The Associated Press earlier this month.
His brother, Jim, told AP that when they were children, the perception of priests was that they “never did anything wrong.”
“You didn’t question them, same as the police,” he said. “There were many barriers put in [Phil’s] way intentionally and otherwise by institutions and generational thinking. That didn’t stop him. That’s a certain kind of bravery that was unique.”