Phil Saviano, clergy abuse victim who refused to stay silent, dies at 69

Phil Saviano Clergy Abuse

: Phil Saviano, clergy abuse victim who refused to stay silent, dies at 69
Author: Bryan Marquard
Publisher: The Boston Globe
Date: 28NOV2021

Phil Saviano was near death from AIDS three decades ago and thousands of dollars in debt when the Worcester Diocese tried to silence him with a settlement that would have prevented him from publicly revealing that he had been sexually abused by a priest when he was a boy.

“I just couldn’t agree to it,” Mr. Saviano told the Globe in 1995. “I knew if I did I would just be contributing to their campaign to look away and shut everybody up.”

By refusing to sign a confidentiality agreement, he received a smaller settlement that kept him in financial peril. But his principled stand became a landmark moment in victims’ efforts to expose the Catholic Church’s worldwide history of covering up the abuse of children.

Mr. Saviano, whose personal story and precise documentation of priests who assaulted children helped inform The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, was 69 when he died Sunday at his brother’s home in Douglas.

Along with emotionally surviving the sexual abuse inflicted on him, he had lived for years with an HIV diagnosis, a kidney transplant, and more recently liver cancer.

Through it all he became one of the most internationally prominent voices among victims seeking justice, even traveling to Rome in 2019 to meet with Vatican officials before they met in a conference about clergy sex abuse.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that Phil’s impact has been global,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, codirector of, which tracks allegations against priests.

“He was also a man who triumphed,” she said. “He was a true survivor, and I think through his story he gave other victims a blueprint for how to turn this trauma into something empowering.”

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