stays in prison
New Mexico board denies parole for Worcester
Kathleen A. Shaw - Worcester Telegram & Gazette
September 18, 2004
The Rev. David A. Holley, a priest of the Worcester Diocese
serving a jail term in
New Mexico after pleading guilty to sexually abusing and raping
eight boys there, has been denied parole and will remain behind
Ella Frank, executive director of New Mexico's parole board,
said the three people who heard Rev. Holley's plea for release
all voted to keep him in prison in Los Lunas, N.M., where
he has served 11 years of a 55- to 275-year jail term.
The decision was not to be released until Monday, but the
parole board decided instead to release its findings Thursday.
At a parole hearing Tuesday, three of Rev. Holley's New Mexico
victims testified against releasing the priest. The national
leadership of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
and its former New England leader, Phil Saviano - an alleged
victim of Rev. Holley in the Worcester Diocese - sent a letter
to the parole board asking that he not be released.
Rev. Holley left Worcester in 1969 when he was sent to a treatment
center operated by the Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico;
however, he was not laicized and remains a priest of the Worcester
While with the Servants of the Paraclete, allegations surfaced
that he sexually abused boys in the Alamagordo, N.M., area.
He pleaded guilty to abusing the boys in 1993 and was sent
A series of letters released by Mr. Saviano, obtained during
his civil suit against the diocese, show that the diocese
had continued contact with Rev. Holley at least until the
The letters show that the Worcester Diocese had serious misgivings
about Rev. Holley as early as 1970, but later told the archdiocese
of Denver that Rev. Holley was a priest in good standing with
the Worcester Diocese.
The late Bishop Timothy J. Harrington told a psychiatrist
on July 27, 1970, that "Bishop (Bernard J.) Flanagan
and I have had such serious doubts about Father (Rev. Holley)
continuing in the priesthood that, at one time, it was suggested
that he seek a dispensation and return to the lay state."
His last three parish assignments in the Worcester Diocese
were what priests would consider "ideal," Bishop
Harrington said. "In each place, Father's difficulty
came to the fore and caused us to give him leave of absence."
Bishop Flanagan, in one letter, indicated that getting Rev.
Holley involved with the Servants of the Paraclete in New
Mexico or elsewhere would make it easier for Rev. Holley to
receive approval to be a priest in another area of the country.
"I hope Holley's victims and their families feel some
comfort knowing that he remains behind bars," said David
Clohessy, national SNAP director. "I know that innocent
children are safer because of the parole board's wise and
Rev. Holley, 77, almost did go free. The parole board voted
on May 26 to release him. He was awaiting placement in an
in-patient sex offender treatment program run by the state
when word got out that victims had not been notified of the
parole hearing, as required by New Mexico state law.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson rescinded the parole last
month, fired Robert Martinez, then the executive director
of the parole board, and ordered a new hearing. The two parole
board members who had voted to free Rev. Holley recused themselves,
and three other members conducted the hearing Tuesday.
Mr. Saviano, who received a settlement from the Worcester
Diocese several years ago after he alleged sexual abuse by
Rev. Holley when he was assigned to St. Denis Church in East
Douglas, said yesterday he was "greatly relieved"
to hear Rev. Holley's parole was denied.
"What seems to have made the difference is that this
panel was allowed to consider the victims' perspective, in
addition to Holley's," he said.