Man accuses priest named by Foley

October 26, 2006|By Madeline Bars Diaz | Madeline Bars Diaz,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- A Florida man accused a priest yesterday of molesting him almost 30 years ago -- the same priest former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley alleges sexually abused him.

In a suit filed against the Archdiocese of Miami in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, the unidentified man said that the Rev. Anthony Mercieca fondled and performed oral sex on him when he was 12 or 13 years old. At the time, the alleged victim was an altar boy at St. James Church in North Miami, where Mercieca was assigned.

The man is seeking more than $10 million in damages.

Mercieca could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In a statement released at a news conference at the office of the accuser's attorney, Jeffrey Herman, the alleged victim said he came forward after seeing news reports about Mercieca.

The suit said the archdiocese knew or should have known that Mercieca was abusing boys and did nothing to stop it.

Foley, 52, resigned from Congress last month after the discovery of his sexually explicit instant message exchanges with young male pages. His attorneys told prosecutors last week that Mercieca sexually abused Foley when Foley was a 13-year-old altar boy.

Mercieca, 69, has said he and Foley skinny-dipped and sat naked in saunas and in hotel rooms on overnight trips. He admitted fondling Foley but he denied they had sex. The Archdiocese of Miami suspended Mercieca, who is retired and living on the Maltese island of Gozo, and urged other victims to come forward.

Both the Archdiocese of Miami and the Diocese of Gozo have said they will investigate Foley's accusations. The archdiocese also said in a statement yesterday that the lawsuit's accusations "were previously unknown to the Archdiocese of Miami" and that it typically investigates when it receives such an accusation.

"There were no prior allegations or information to indicate Father Mercieca did or would engage in any type of inappropriate or abusive behavior," it said.

Herman said his client would also speak to law enforcement officials. Gerald Richman, an attorney for Foley, said he could not comment on the merits of the lawsuit but added: "The things that have come out regarding this particular priest in general, including his own statements, bolster what Mr. Foley has said."

Foley has been in a 30-day alcohol treatment program at the Sierra Tucson treatment center since Oct. 1, his attorneys said.

Barbara Blaine, founder of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said at yesterday's news conference that church leaders have not done enough to prevent Mercieca from abusing children.

"We know that Father Mercieca abused more than Mark Foley," she said. "We also know that he admitted it. We also know that his bishop has not ordered Father Mercieca to go into treatment. Father Mercieca is still a dangerous man and poses a risk to children."

Madeline Bars Diaz writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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