March 31, 2005

A Brave Face

Valley Advocate

by Maureen Turner - March 31, 2005

The sheer number of abuse charges filed against Catholic priests in recent years has had the sad effect of making the victims seem almost like a faceless, indistinguishable mass. And the ways in which their stories are revealed -- sound-bite stories of decades-old crimes, many committed by men who are now retired, perhaps even dead -- can allow an already overwhelmed public the comfort of some psychological distance.

But there΄s no comfort for the victims, the very real people who had very real atrocities committed against them by people who were long considered beyond reproach. Phil Saviano knows this all too well: four decades ago, as a young boy in the small town of East Douglas, Mass., he was sexually abused, he says, by his pastor, the Rev. David Holley. Like many victims, Saviano felt scared and ashamed, and he kept his mouth shut. The abuse ended when Holley was transferred from the parish without explanation.

Years later, as an adult, Saviano picked up the newspaper and saw that Holley had been arrested for molesting kids at another parish in New Mexico. It was one of a number of cases making news in the early Œ90s, when the first wave of the priest-abuse scandal broke. And it prompted Saviano to begin dealing with what had happened to him all those years ago -- talking to his family, his therapist, and the media. (See Telling Secrets, Dec. 19, 2002,

Saviano filed suit against the Worcester diocese, which, after years of legal wrangling, settled his case in 1996. The next year, he founded the New England chapter of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

Posted by kshaw at March 31, 2005 06:06 PM