Victim criticizes church
Saturday, January 19, 2002
By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram &Gazette Staff
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
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 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
``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.
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
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 www.survivorsnetwork.org, 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