Saviano, clergy abuse survivor, hailed at funeral for his courage

Posted: 12/03/2021 17:58:01 PM

Modified: 12/03/2021 17:57:28 PM

DOUGLAS – Phil Saviano was a clergy sexual abuse survivor whose courage to go public and decide to hold abusers and their facilitators accountable inspired and empowered survivors around the world, his brother said during his funeral mass on Friday .

Saviano, who died Sunday at the age of 69 after a battle with gallbladder cancer, has been called back to St. Denis Catholic Church in the small town of Douglas, Massachusetts, the very church where he was first sexually assaulted at age 11 in the 1960s. pastor died.

He “brought hope, dignity, strength and rebirth to many who have been abused,” said Jim Saviano during his eulogy.

Saviano said he read hundreds of emails to his brother from people all over the world, most of whom are abuse survivors, thanking him for giving them the guidance and courage to overcome the challenges. abuse and lead a productive and joyful life.

Saviano said his brother literally saved their lives.

“My brother Phil was a wonderful man whose work saved lives and brought happiness and love to many people who had known nothing but despair,” he said. “And a man whose work influenced the Catholic Church to improve itself, change its behavior, hold abusers and their protectors to account, and once again make protecting innocent young children one of his most important priorities. “

Phil Saviano’s story featured prominently in the 2015 Oscar-winning film “Spotlight” on the Boston Globe investigation which revealed how priests molested children and how church leaders covered up the abuse, displacing them. abusive priests from parish to parish.

But Phil Saviano was dismissed as a “conspiracy theorist” when he first spoke to Globe reporters with evidence of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, his brother said in his eulogy .

Several years later, with Saviano’s help, the Globe’s 2002 series on abuse won him the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003 and led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, head of the church in Boston. .

While most people will remember Saviano for his efforts to expose the ugly side of the church, he was much more, said David Clohessy, former director of the Priest Abused Survivors Network.

Saviano often told Clohessy that he didn’t want to be remembered as “just a survivor”.

Saviano was a “Renaissance man who knew, appreciated and loved art, gardening, travel, music, writing and everything in between,” he said.

The service was led by Reverend Ron Coyne, a friend of Saviano himself and someone who has at times been a vocal critic of the church.

While the abuse crisis has led many to leave the church, Saviano has remained faithful, preferring change to abandonment, Coyne said.

“Phil’s choice to remain Catholic might be inexplicable to some,” Coyne said. “But it was his church and he was determined to make it everything it was meant to be.”

Saviano, said Coyne, “knew that no religion had captured God and that the church was to be held responsible by those who were true followers of Christ, and he numbered himself among them.”

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