Phil Saviano, a native of Douglas who denounced the sexual abuse of clergymen of the Catholic Church, was remembered as a « hero »

BOSTON – Phil Saviano of Douglas was a hero who told the truth to power – a truth addressed to the Roman Catholic Church when Saviano brought the priestly sexual abuse scandal into the spotlight.

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

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

A memorial service will be held on Friday at 10am at St. Denis parish in Douglas, the same parish where Saviano said he was sexually abused by Rev. David Holley at the age of 11.

More: Archives: The diocese wanted to get Rev. Holley out. Personal letters detailing the priest’s situation were received from T&G

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

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

A lifesaver

« Phil Saviano literally saved my life, » said Skip Shea, a Uxbridge resident who attended the press event Monday.

Shea and Saviano’s lives are intertwined.

More: Douglas man, who was a major whistleblower and survivor of clergy sexual abuse, dies

Both went public with their stories of priestly abuse; and everyone channeled their pain into scripts that became films.

These creative endeavors helped both men overcome their crises and inspired other clergy victims of sexual abuse to speak up about their grief.

Shea met and reported on Saviano after the Boston Globe coverage broke up the priestly sexual abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston, based on documents and sources provided by Saviano.

« I was black and white with my anger at the church, » Shea said. “Phil helped me to see that it is not that easy. It literally saved my life.  »

The Globe’s coverage earned him a Pulitzer Prize and was the basis for the 2015 Oscar-winning Spotlight.

Shea’s film « Trinity » is based on a chance encounter in a Barnes and Noble bookstore in Millbury. It was a moment when Shea unexpectedly met the priest Shea said he had sexually abused in St Mary’s Parish in Uxbridge in the early 1970s.

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

Perfect temperament

From Shea’s point of view, Saviano was not only instrumental in exposing the abuse that was hidden within the walls of the Catholic Church. He did it with the perfect temperament to be the voice of the crisis.

« He was able to reach the general public, which was most dangerous to the (Catholic) institution, » Shea said. “In that tone he was telling the truth. It was easy for everyone to hear.

« There is no one around who can replace that. »

Hero with lasting effect

Jim Saviano, who took care of his brother at the end of his life, said over the phone that the family saw Phil as a hero with lasting effects.

“He lit a fuse that eventually broke through the Catholic Church. Unfortunately the eruption is not big enough and I am not satisfied with the changes made, ”said Jim Saviano. « Its a lot to do »

Saviano’s effect went far beyond that of a whistleblower.

« Because he showed others who have been molested the way to throw the yoke on their shoulders and lead more productive and happier lives, I think that’s just as important, » said Jim Saviano.

Garabedian remembers « great man »

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who allegedly represented numerous victims of priestly sexual abuse through the Archdiocese of Boston, called Saviano a « great man » when he addressed those in attendance outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Monday.

« His strength, determination, courage, and inspiration will live on forever, » said Garabedian.

Robert Hoatson held up a poster that read « Phil Saviano Hero » and another that read « He Spoke Truth To Power » and said Saviano had proven a cover-up of massive abuse within the Catholic Church.

« He was nothing short of heroic, » said Hoatson, a clergyman sexual abuse survivor, co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, Inc., a New Jersey-based nonprofit that supports sexual abuse victims and their families.

“(Phil Saviano’s) legacy for victims and survivors is that silence is no longer an option. We have to raise our voices and shout our message.  »

Another Saviano admirer who attended Monday was Terence McKiernan, board member of BishopAccountability.org. Saviano served on the board of the non-profit organization for seven years.

From McKiernan’s perspective, Saviano made three major contributions.

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

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

Eventually Saviano came to terms with his suffering and found other interests that nourished his soul. One was the love of Mexican art that inspired Saviano to start a website, Viva Oaxaca Folk Art, that sold handcrafted pieces that Saviano had bought while traveling to southern Mexico.

« He had limitless passion, » said McKiernan. “I miss him terribly. His contributions will endure.  »

Noticeable absence

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

« I am not surprised (a church official was absent), » said Jim Saviano. « This is another strong signal that they cannot get their problems under control. »

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

It was written by a priest Jim Saviano said he had the « courage to acknowledge and thank Phil for what Phil has achieved. »

There was no response to an email Jim Saviano sent to Pope Francis almost two weeks ago asking the Vatican to recognize his brother’s work to publicly expose clergy sexual abuse.

“You can see which side of the coin (Pope Francis) is on. I have not received an answer and do not expect any.  »

Contact Henry Schwan at henry.schwan@telegram.com. Follow him on Twitter @henrytelegram

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