Phil Saviano, Boston priest abuse whistleblower, dies at 69

Member of Boston clergy abuse inquiry panel that revealed Catholic hierarchy’s hide-and-seek tactic at conceal, conceal

Phil Saviano, a former Boston-area priest and one of the most well-known members of the clergy abuse inquiry in Boston, has died at 69.

Saviano worked at St Joseph’s, an all-boys Catholic school in Concord, where he was a teacher in the 1960s and ’70s, and then as an associate pastor at St Thomas More, another all-boys school in the city.

Saviano came forward in 1990 to reveal that he was the former student of a priest in another parish in Needham who allegedly abused him.

The Globe reported in March 1996 that a group of mostly middle-aged men had been meeting for years to discuss the abuse of children by clergy, including Saviano, and that they had formed the Boston Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Phil Saviano | Archdiocese of Boston photo file photo Photograph: Boston Globe

From 2000 to 2005, Saviano was a member of the group that was supposed to examine a culture of cover-up within the Roman Catholic church and to shine light on any conspiracy of silence. In 2002, the Boston Globe also was publishing a series exposing the clerical sex abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston, but the cardinal in Boston, Theodore McCarrick, rebuffed all media requests for information, and his foot-dragging silenced much of the church’s response.

Saviano went public with allegations against McCarrick in the Globe in July 2000. He also provided the newspaper with a 1978 letter to Saviano’s parish parents, urging them to investigate “the serious issue of apparent homosexual behaviour in the midst of young boys”. Saviano claimed that he warned a former superior at the school about the priest’s behaviour in 1967.

The priest was eventually defrocked in 2008 after the Vatican cracked down on clergy sexual abuse. He died in hospital earlier this month, according to the Globe. Saviano had been plagued by colon cancer for more than 20 years, but still came forward when he learned that he had been receiving a Social Security benefit as an old man.

Charles Chrin, a Catholic Bishop in New Jersey, said in a statement: “Phil Saviano was an advocate for children in need and the same was true of his work as a whistleblower for decades.”

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