Victim Criticizes Church

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
January 19, 2002

Philip Saviano, who as a child was molested by a priest of the Worcester Diocese at St. Denis Parish in East Douglas, said he was glad to hear that a jury yesterday convicted John J. Geoghan, a former priest of the Boston archdiocese, for fondling a boy at a swimming pool 10 years ago.

"At least he is finally off the street," Mr. Saviano said in a telephone interview from his home in Jamaica Plain.Mr. Saviano, who heads the New England chapter of SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests), criticized the Vatican for its new directives on handling accusations of sexual misconduct by priests. The accused priests will now be subject to secret church trials in addition to secular criminal and civil trials.

"The operational word is secrecy," Mr. Saviano said. "Sexual misconduct thrives amidst secrecy. The pope knows all about these cases."

Mr. Saviano said the Roman Catholic Church is still trying to handle these issues behind its own closed doors.

He questioned why the church for years had operated its own treatment programs for sex offenders, including the now-closed House of Affirmation in Whitinsville. The church was able to hide its offending priests from public scrutiny, he said.

The closed church tribunals, which will be conducted at the Vatican or at the diocesan level, will allow the church "to keep the public spotlight off of them," Mr. Saviano said.

The church is not doing enough to deal with priests who molest children, he added.

"This is a worldwide problem within the Catholic Church. It isn't just Boston or Worcester. It is happening in Ireland, Austria, Australia and numerous other places around the world," he said.

He did laud Cardinal Bernard Law's recent apology for sexual misconduct by priests, but criticized the cardinal's new directive that priests and church workers report alleged misconduct to police.

"He said the sexual misconduct has to be reported as of now. What about something that happened six months earlier? What happens to those victims?" he said.

Mr. Saviano agreed to a $12,500 settlement with the Worcester Diocese in 1996 after he sued, charging sexual misconduct by the Rev. David A. Holley, who served at St. Denis. The Worcester diocese offered him more money if he would agree to remain quiet about the allegations. He refused.

Holley was a priest in the Worcester diocese from 1958 to 1969 and then went to New Mexico. He was later charged there in connection with several allegations of sexual misconduct with children, was tried and sentenced to more than 200 years in jail.

Mr. Saviano, who has not given up his battle for justice for victims of clerical abuse, said the Geoghan trial helped put the issue of pedophile priests back into the public's consciousness. While many Catholic laypeople have accepted that some of their priests molest children, others refuse to deal with this reality, he said.

He was busy yesterday updating his organization's Web site at, which gives information on how clerical sexual abuse survivors can get help and offers newspaper articles from around the country and world on clerical sexual abuse.


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