Phil Saviano, whose activism and personal story inspired a Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation and an Oscar-winning movie, died Sunday. He was 69. His death came at the end of a lengthy battle with gallbladder cancer, roughly a month after he began hospice care at his brother’s Massachusetts home. The Globe’s 2002 Spotlight investigation was fueled largely by Saviano, whose meticulous records-keeping helped prove the Church’s secretive and systemic predation. A Catholic clergy sex abuse survivor himself, Saviano’s role as the leader of the New England chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests was fictionalized in 2015’s Spotlight, which won that year’s Best Picture Oscar.
After going public with his story in 1991, Saviano—also dealing with an AIDS diagnosis—struggled for years to make his voice heard. Mike Rezendes, a member of the Spotlight team during its investigation into the abuse, called Saviano “an essential source” on the story. “He also shared his own heartbreaking story of abuse, imbuing us with the iron determination we needed to break this horrific story,” Rezendes added. “During our reporting, and over the last 20 years, I got to know Phil well and have never met anyone as brave, as compassionate or as savvy.”