The Church implicated in the Foley case? Nooo.......

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The Church implicated in the Foley case? Nooo.......

Geez, saw this one comin' a mile away.

Priest Acknowledges Relationship With Foley

By Howard Schneider and Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 19, 2006; 11:46 AM

A retired priest from Malta acknowledged today that he had intimate contact with a youthful Mark Foley in the mid-1960s that involved nudity and -- on at least one occasion -- "light touching," but denied that he had "sexual intercourse" with him.

The Rev. Anthony Mercieca, in a telephone interview with The Washington Post from the Maltese island of Gozo, said he was surprised that his long-ago interaction with Foley had become linked to the former Congressman's troubles. Foley, a former altar boy at the Sacred Heart Catholic church in Lake Worth, Florida, where Mercieca served in the mid-1960s, resigned from Congress after reports about sexually intimate electronic messages he had sent to Congressional pages.

Following his resignation, Foley entered alcohol rehabilitation, said he was gay, and alleged that he had been sexually abused by a member of the clergy as a youth.

Catholic Church officials have encouraged Foley to name the priest involved, and Foley was expected to turn that information over to Florida law enforcement authorities yesterday. As of last night, however, Florida officials said no name had been provided, according to wire service reports.

This morning the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, citing confidential sources close to Foley's family, identified Mercieca as the priest in question. Though Mercieca confirmed his past ties to Foley this morning in an interview with The Post, there has been no independent confirmation that Foley was referring to Mercieca in his allegations, or whether there may be another priest involved.

In the interview, Mercieca said that issues like molestation and sexual harassment are "in the eye of the beholder," and that Foley -- who was 12 or 13 at the time -- might have interpreted some of their contact "the wrong way." Mercieca said he is currently 69, meaning he would have been close to 30 at the time he served in Foley's Florida parish.

"I was a little out of myself there," Mercieca said, from his use of medication following what the Sarasota paper described as a nervous breakdown. "The whole idea is . . . that I did something that he did not like, but at the time he did not say anything."

Mercieca said that he regarded their trips to skinny dip in Lake Worth, Fla., or to local saunas, as well within the cultural bounds he learned in Brazil, where he said he attended seminary and spent his first years as a priest.

"We had some kind of friendship. I was very friendly with him and his family," said Mercieca. "Then almost forty years passed without him saying anything. . . . And now because he got caught he recited these things."

In Brazil "they skinny dip all the time and no one gets scandalized. It is part of the culture. It is natural," Mercieca said. "They don't make an issue out of a skinny dip in the park or a massage."

"It was not what you call intercourse. . . . There was no rape or anything. . . . Maybe light touches here or there," said Mercieca.

Mercieca said he could not explain why Foley might be attributing his broader problems to their contact.

A House ethics panel is investigating how Congressional leaders dealt with reports about Foley's conduct with pages. Catholic officials in Florida have said they would release the name of the accused priest after consulting with prosecutors in Palm Beach County, and reviewing the priest's history. They said they would encourage any other potential victims to come forward.

An employee at the civil law firm that is representing Foley said his attorney, Gerald F. Richman, had no comment on Mercieca at this point.

Mercieca said he did not expect to be sued or prosecuted criminally over his ties to Foley. For criminal cases, the statute of limitations has expired.

Mark Serrano, a board member with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, encouraged a full investigation, including whether he had similar involvement with other minors, and whether any allegations had been reported to church officials.

"I can't speak to the culture in Brazil but I can speak to the culture in America and speak to basic standards of morality. A crime is a crime is a crime," Serrano said. "Advanced age is no indication that kids are safe from a perpetrator . . . An investigation would be required."

Mercieca, who grew up in Malta, said he is retired now, but helps out occassionally at a cathedral in Gozo, a Mediterranean island and part of Malta about sixty miles south of Sicily. Mercieca said recent allegations of sexual abuse by priests had prompted extensive scrutiny of all clergy, and that he had never been accused or referred for counseling. He said he had no other friendships similar to the one he had with Foley.

"If anyone had even a shadow of a complaint he was thrown out of the priesthood. I had been in many parishes and the bishop never found anything. And if he found [something] he would have taken action," Mercieca said.

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Big fucking surprise.

Big fucking surprise. wtf

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