Letters Show Worcester Diocese Wanted Rev. Holley
Personal letters detailing priest's situation obtained
Monday, September 20, 2004
Kathleen A. Shaw - Telegram & Gazette STAFF
WORCESTER, MA - Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan in 1971 decided that
one reason the Rev. David A. Holley should go into the care of Servants
of the Paraclete in New Mexico or some other location operated by
the order was because they would be able to find a placement for
him after he completed treatment, the bishop said in a letter written
at the time.
Rev. Holley, denied parole last week, is now serving a 55- to 275-year
prison sentence in New Mexico for sexually abusing and raping eight
Although Rev. Holley was taken in as a priest of the Worcester
Diocese in 1962 and incardinated in 1967, which means he became
a priest of the diocese, he proved to be problematic because of
his history of sexually molesting boys. Bishop Flanagan and Auxiliary
Bishop Timothy J. Harrington clearly did not want him back in the
diocese although no move was made to remove him permanently from
the priesthood, the letters show.
His relationship with the Worcester Diocese is detailed in the
series of personal letters obtained by the Telegram & Gazette.
Bishop Flanagan in a March 15, 1971, letter to Rev. Holley, who
was then in Pittsburgh, said he discussed the situation with Bishop
Harrington and they agreed to suggest that Rev. Holley go to "one
of the houses of the Paraclete Fathers - either Via Coeli in New
Mexico or one of their other hospices. They now have some professionally
directed programs of therapy, so that you could continue whatever
treatment is indicated.
|Phil Saviano in Boston, 2002
"Also, by reason of their many contacts with bishops who are
in need of priests, they are able to find openings for their guests
after a reasonable period of time," he wrote.
Phil Saviano, now a Boston area resident, released to the Telegram
& Gazette a series of letters he obtained during his civil suit
against the Worcester Diocese in which he alleged sexual abuse by
Mr. Saviano was a member of St. Denis parish, East Douglas, during
the 1960s when he alleged he was sexually abused by Rev. Holley.
The Worcester Diocese offered him about $15,000 to settle his suit,
but he refused to sign a confidentiality agreement and took about
Bishop Harrington in 1970 told a psychiatrist at the Seton Psychiatric
Institute where Rev. Holley was receiving treatment, "People
have been so greatly disturbed by his behavior that we would wonder
whether he can avoid his reputation going before him in any area
of this compact diocese." The bishop, who was a licensed social
worker, also questioned where the diocese could "chance the
possibility of his having another relapse."
Yet an Oct. 5, 1987, letter to Rev. Holley from the Rev. Lawrence
St. Peter, an official of the Denver archdiocese, said, "I
have contacted your Bishop, Bishop Timothy J. Harrington of Worcester,
Massachusetts, and he assures me that you are a priest in good standing
and that he has given you permission to be a Chaplain at St. Anthony
Hospital Central, Denver."
Bishop Flanagan attempted in 1971 to get him transferred to the
Wilmington, Del., Diocese while Rev. Holley was being treated at
the Seton Institute. Bishop Thomas J. Mardaga of Wilmington told
Bishop Flanagan that request was denied.
"Despite the unfavorable decision in this particular case,
I trust that you will realize that we are still sympathetic to requests
regarding the placement of priests who have experienced difficulties
in their own communities," Bishop Mardaga said. "Regrettably,
Father Holley's case presented a greater problem than we could handle,
at least with the present prognosis," he said.
Bishop Flanagan in a Feb. 11, 1971, letter to Bishop Mardaga, said
he did not believe Rev. Holley should continue ministry in Worcester
after treatment at Seton Institute for what the bishops called "a
homo-sexual problem." He told the Wilmington bishop that there
had been "at least two incidents" involving Rev. Holley
but "they did not evoke wide public scandal" but did become
known to several priests and lay people.
"In this very compact diocese, it is practically impossible
to transfer a priest to a place where his previous history is not
known - at least by the priests of the diocese," he said.
Rev. A. Dixon Hartford of St. Raphael parish in El Paso, Texas,
informed Bishop Sidney M. Metzer of the El Paso Diocese in an April
27, 1976, letter that he had to immediately terminate Rev. Holley's
assignment in that parish.
"Of course, Father was deeply humiliated and mortified and
very apologetic," he said. Rev. Hartford said he would have
Rev. Holley's things "packed and shipped to wherever he wished."
However, Rev. Hartford proposed that Rev. Holley be transferred
to another parish in Texas and that he would work with him on what
he called "reality therapy." Rev. Hartford said Rev. Holley
had many talents but "his problem must be faced up to. He cannot
let this problem ruin the rest of his life."
Rev. Holley was accepted into the San Angelo, Texas, Diocese, where
he served several years until Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza informed
Bishop Harrington in a May 25, 1984, letter that "on a few
occasions his past problems surfaced." He told Bishop Harrington
that he had earlier informed Bishop Flanagan in 1982 that he would
give Rev. Holley "one more chance."
"It is with great regret that I write now to say that Father
Holley has made it impossible for us to keep him in this diocese,"
Rev. Holley contacted the Worcester Diocese in 1992 and requested
that they cover health and dental insurance. Rev. Rocco Piccolomini,
vicar for priests, said his request was being considered. Rev. Piccolomini
said in the "charity of the Lord" the diocese accepted
his need for money and sent him $500.