Saviano's nightmare began when Father David Holley, a priest in his mid-30s with a devilish sense of humor, was appointed to his church, St. Denis in the small Massachusetts town of Douglas
In 2005, Phil Saviano, visited the Vatican as Pope Benedict XVI was being inaugurated. He wore a picture of himself when he was being abused and highlighted his campaign for the survivors of abuse as part of SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
It's the story you won't see on the big screen when Oscar front-runner Spotlight hits theaters this week: how the biggest sex scandal to hit the Roman Catholic Church might never have been exposed if it wasn't for one man contracting AIDS.
It wasn't that Phil Saviano had caught the disease from an abusive priest, but rather that he thought he had only weeks to live so decided to forgo a five figure payout from the church that would have forced him to keep silent.
Instead Saviano's tenacity provided the essential evidence that led to The Boston Globe's team of investigative reporters breaking the story that the church had deliberately covered up the fact that dozens — later learned to be hundreds — of children had been molested.
'If I hadn't had AIDS, I would have been at the top of my career in public relations and coming out as having been sexually assaulted as a child would have been very difficult for me,' Saviano told Daily Mail Online in an exclusive interview.
'AIDS freed me up to do something I would not have done otherwise.'
Saviano, now 63, is a minor but key player in the movie — which is being compared to the 1976 Watergate classic All the President's Men for the way it shows intrepid journalists breaking a major story.
Spotlight is already tipped to run off with the top Oscar. Tom O'Neil, editor of the awards prediction website Gold Derby has installed it as 13/2 favorite for the honor ahead of such blockbusters as Steve Jobs, The Danish Girl and Bridge of Spies.
'It's a very powerful movie,' O'Neil told Daily Mail Online. 'It has an "ick" factor because of the subject matter which is a little scary, but that's what makes it such a brave film.
'It really resonates with the audience because it seems fair, it doesn't go out to crucify the Catholic Church.'
But movie makers decided not to mention that Saviano — played by actor Neal Huff — suffers from AIDS, deciding instead to focus on the dogged legwork by reporters of the Globe's Spotlight team to prove the information that he had brought to them.
For Saviano, his nightmare began as he was nearing his 12th birthday. Father David Holley, a priest in his mid-30s with a impish sense of humor, was appointed to his church, St. Denis in the small Massachusetts town of Douglas.
At 6 ft. 2. in. tall, Holley cut a striking figure. His height allowed him to carry a slightly chunky frame which was topped off by a shock of black wavy hair. 'I wouldn't say he was attractive, but definitely imposing,' said Saviano.
Within weeks Holley had started to focus on young Phil, who delivered newspapers to the rectory, and another young boy. He started by asking them to move hymnals from the attic to the church basement, then there were more little jobs, and he started paying them at 50 cents a time.
When the boys were in Sunday catechism classes, Holley would appear in the room and pull faces, mimicking the nuns behind their backs. He would show them card tricks.
The boys loved it. The young priest was picking them out to be special. Little did they know of the horrors to come.
'He was grooming us,' Saviano told Daily Mail Online in the living room of his cluttered second-floor apartment in the Roslindale area of Boston.. 'The priest figures out ways to get closer to either the child or the parents.
'That gives him an opportunity to know what is going on in our family and in school. I felt pretty lucky that this guy was taking an interest in me.
'For us, he was God's representative on earth, who could perform magic like turning wine into the blood of Christ and forgiving sins.'
But soon Holley's jokes became more risqué. His deck of cards suddenly featured black and white pictures of nude women, then color shots of men and women in sexual acts.
Soon the priest was an unofficial sex-ed teacher to boys at an age when they were only too willing to learn.
Saviano admits he doesn't remember the first time that Holley first exposed himself to the boys and had them masturbate him, or when he first made them perform oral sex on him.
But he soon realized that the priest's interest in him had little to do with wanting to know what was going on in his life, but was instead about his own sexual gratification.
Holley got more brazen. During Holy Week, when devout parishioners were praying before the Stations of the Cross, their priest was assaulting Phil just feet away in the church hallway.
One day when Phil passed by the old Victorian rectory, he looked up to see his abuser pleasuring himself behind the lace curtain.
But young Saviano was trapped. At his tender age, he could see no way out. If he told his parents he feared his quick-tempered father would go to the rectory and punch out the parish priest, bringing scandal down on the family, and surely ruining his paper round.
He tried to make excuses like he had to get home for supper, but in the end decided it was best just to get the sex acts over with and keep the peace, hoping that it would soon end.
And then one day, it did. Suddenly, in September 1965, Father Holley left Douglas. He had been at St. Denis for less than 18 months, and nobody seemed to know where or why he had gone.
Phil Saviano did his best to put it all behind him. 'I was just happy and very relieved that he was no longer there,' he recalled. 'I didn't forget about what had happened, but I never realized the significance of it all until I was 40.'
That was a few days before Christmas 1992. For Saviano it looked like it would be his last holiday season. He had been diagnosed with AIDS and was getting weaker with every passing day.
He wanted to make his final Christmas gifts special and picked up The Boston Globe to look at the ads for ideas.
There in the Metro section, a small story caught his attention, it was about how a priest named David Holley, who, years before, had had a position in the Worcester Diocese of Massachusetts, had been accused of sexually abusing children in New Mexico.
'It was a life-changing moment,' said Saviano. 'It was the day all the bells went off for me. I suddenly saw how naïve I had been in assuming he had only done this to me.'
Saviano soon learned it also wasn't just in Almogordo, New Mexico. Holley had carried out similar abuse in Denver, Colorado, and in El Paso, McCamey, Amarillo and Garden City, all in Texas.
Each time his actions were discovered, the church gave him a few weeks of therapy and moved him on.
Phil Saviano realized the only way he could build up a case to prove what was going on was to sue the Worcester Diocese, which responded with an offer of a $15,500 payment if he agreed never to talk about what had happened. His lawyer recommended he should accept.
'I told him "Are you nuts?" He was suggesting I carry all the secrets I had learned to my grave. He wanted me to take part in an elaborate campaign to keep putting children at risk.'
But more than anything, Saviano did not expect to live. His T-cell count — which hovers between 500 and 1,200 in healthy adults — stood at 1. He had nothing to lose by revealing the abuse he had suffered more than a quarter century earlier.
'By this time, as a gay man with AIDS, my reputation was pretty well shot,' he said.
The court case allowed him to build up reams of evidence, including damning letters between bishops suggesting ways that Holley could continue in the church.
The letters contained phrases such as 'He cannot let this problem ruin the rest of his life,' and 'I…want to ask your prayers for him.'
Never once did any of the bishops write of any concern for the boys Holley was accused of abusing.
Eventually the church agreed to pay Saviano $12,500 with no confidentiality clause. 'They thought I would soon be gone,' he said. But within weeks he was on a new cocktail of drugs that has seen him rebound to health.
He had a kidney transplant — with an organ from another abuse survivor — and now says he is in good health, although he still finds it difficult to put on weight.
For years, Saviano tried to get the Boston media interested in the story but at nearly every turn he hit brick walls. It wasn't just about David Holley, he argued.
He formed a New England chapter of SNAP — Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests — whose members told of other Catholic clergymen, such as Paul Shanley, Ronald Paquin and James Talbot.'
Despite his growing evidence of a cover-up reaching all the way up to The Vatican, Saviano could not get the local media to show interest.
The Associated Press ran one story that none of the Boston media carried. A Boston Herald reporter promised to look into his claims, but left for another job before writing anything.
The Globe did run a handful of stories, but it wasn't until 2001 with the installation of new editor Marty Baron, a Jew from Miami with no ties to the powerful Massachusetts Catholic lobby, that the paper took up the case with gusto, eventually exposing the scandal to the world.
But even that looked like it would be derailed by the 2001 terror attacks. For eight weeks the paper's investigation, which forms the main storyline of Spotlight, was suspended while reporters concentrated on the horrors of 9/11. The first story detailing the abuse was not published until January 2002.
Phil Saviano, now an agnostic, loves the movie, even hoping he might be invited to Los Angeles for the Oscars. He said it is generally accurate, although it took a liberty by turning a letter he wrote to one reporter complaining about the 9/11 delay into an emotional restaurant showdown with a different reporter.
'And I think Neal Huff comes across as more angry than I am,' he added.
As for Father David Holley, he was sentenced in 1993 to up to 275 years in prison on eight molestation counts.
He was granted parole in 2004 but the decision was rescinded because his victims had not been notified of the hearing, a blunder that cost the head of the New Mexico Parole Board his job.
Holley was 80 when he finally died behind bars in 2008.
EXCLUSIVE: 'I had nothing left to lose.' True story of the pedophile priest's victim who inspired new movie Spotlight with his battle to expose the Church’s sex abuse cover-up MARTIN GOULD 2 November 2015
MORTE DI UN ARCIVESCOVO PEDOFILO 1 SETTEMBRE 2015