• Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

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Phil Saviano, Survivor of Clergy Sex Abuse, Dies at 69

In that box was a CD with documents from clergy-abuse lawsuits from around the country — detailed documents that Mike Rezendes, a reporter who was part of the Spotlight team, said in an interview were foundational to the team’s understanding of how the church had covered up so many cases of abuse.

“I was just blown away,” Mr. Rezendes said. Mr. Saviano also told the team his personal story of how he had been molested. “When Phil left,” Mr. Rezendes said, “we were simmering with rage and determined to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Mr. Saviano also met with the film’s screenwriter, Josh Singer, reviewed the script and offered pages of suggestions. Some, like the concept of grooming, made it into the film, as did Mr. Saviano’s warning that the abuse was taking place not just in Boston but also across the country.

By 2003, Massachusetts authorities said that as many as 1,000 children had been sexually abused by 250 priests in the Boston archdiocese over 40 years, and that Cardinal Bernard F. Law, the archbishop of Boston, had known of the problem and had covered it up. Cardinal Law was forced to resign in 2002, leaving the archdiocese facing 500 lawsuits and $100 million in damage claims. (He died in 2017.)

Philip James Saviano was born on June 23, 1952, in Worcester, the third of four boys. His mother, Mary (Bombara) Saviano, was a secretary. His father, Pasquale Saviano, was an electrician.

In addition to his brother Jim, he is survived by two other brothers, John and Victor.

Phil graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1975 with a degree in zoology. He enrolled at Boston University to study occupational therapy but changed his mind and earned his master’s degree there in communications in 1979.

He was working in public relations when he discovered he was H.I.V. positive. His mother died in 1976, and he had never told her or his father that he was gay or that he had been abused.