The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
to New Mexico Parole Board
September 13, 2004
Mr. Tim Kline, Chairman
Dear Mr. Kline:
Tomorrow, you will have an opportunity to send an important message to people across the United States. It's a diverse group, made up of tens of thousands of victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, nuns, brothers, and bishops. It also includes law enforcement officials who work hard to get predators off the streets, and average citizens who are concerned about the abuse of children. Most important, however, are the scores of wounded men whose childhood innocence was snatched away by one of the Catholic Church's most notorious, serial child molesters. We refer, of course, to Father David A. Holley, whose parole you will be considering on Tuesday, September 14. These citizens are hoping, some even praying, that you will wisely deny his request for parole.
During his 30-year career in Massachusetts, New Mexico, Texas and Colorado, there were many reports of David Holley molesting children. Bishops sent him to various church-run treatment centers, but then he continued to assault kids in each new assignment. He seemed to target the innocent and helpless, preying on boys as young as eight-years-old, and on teens hospitalized in medical centers where he was chaplain. His case is significant because of the length of his career, the high number of victims, and the fact that he served in so many towns and states. Thus, any action you take in his case is likely to be closely scrutinized in the media, and has great symbolic meaning for all victims.
Holley, as you know, was sentenced in 1993 after pleading guilty
to sexual abuse of eight boys in New Mexico between 1972 and 1974.
He was given a term of not less than 55 years, and not more than
275 years. We are told that, by law, he became eligible for parole
after a mere seven years. As you consider all the nuances of the
law and Holley's sentence, we hope that you will give equal consideration
to the sentence imposed on each of his victims. Consider not just
the eight victims he admitted to in this conviction, but the dozens
In SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, we have provided support to men victimized by Holley as early as 1962, and as recently as 1988. Every single one of these was a child betrayed by the ultimate figure of trust--a priest, from whom they expected nothing but kindness and God's love. The fallout from their experiences with Father Holley has been profound. Many have borne a lifetime sentence of psychological turmoil. Some have chronic depression, some fear intimacy, some have problems with other authority figures. Many now struggle with addictive behaviors, learned at a young age to escape the pain, shame and guilt of their assaults by this priest. Nearly all have an unending, spiritual restlessness resulting from an early, painful loss of faith.
We realize that Holley may appear to be contrite and cooperative in the prison setting. Holley's "good" behavior while he was with other adult prisoners in jail is far less significant than the way he behaved toward innocent children while wearing his Roman collar. We strongly believe he is still a dangerous threat to children. We see no reason to think his eleven years in prison have "cured" him of his compulsive need to assault the innocent.
As recently as 1996, in a letter he wrote from prison to SNAP's Phil Saviano, one of his early Massachusetts victims, Holley showed neither remorse nor understanding for the havoc he had inflicted on so many children's lives. Regarding his long prison sentence, he wrote, "I have been sadly disillusioned by our legal system and mistakenly took the poor advice from an . . . inexperienced public defender. He strongly urged me to plead guilty to blanket charges from accusers, many of whom I have never met. . ." We fear that Holley has not experienced eleven years of rehabilitation and reflection; just eleven years of pent-up desire and continued denial.
As a parole official, you must realize how important the cooperation of average citizens is in the enforcement of the law. If crime victims and witnesses do not come forward and cooperate with prosecutors, criminals will not be punished, and the innocent will suffer. The entire system is built, in effect, on trust. It's trust that criminals will be caught; trust that the punishment will be appropriate to the deed. It may be an old-fashioned viewpoint, but we believe that the punishment ought to fit the crime. If parole is granted to David Holley, thousands of people--from victims, to police to prosecutors--will feel that their trust in the system has been violated. And violating this trust will inevitably deter other crime victims from speaking up.
Please also think for a moment of the New Mexico child who is being sexually abused today, whether by some relative, a neighbor or a priest. How will he or she feel when the youth sees one of your state's most notorious child molesters get out of jail at this early opportunity? Will it encourage this child to come forward and bravely report his own victimization? Certainly not.
At tomorrow's hearing, you will be given an opportunity to make a difference in the fight against child sexual abuse, to bring some peace of mind to the many victims of this priest, and to send a message to thousands of concerned citizens. We hope that you will decide to deny David Holley's request for parole.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests