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Did clergyman molest more? Miami diocese investigates



Published: Sat, October 21, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The lawyer of ex-Rep. Mark Foley says he's in rehab.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- The Archdiocese of Miami has asked priests at eight Florida churches to speak with parishioners about whether a retired Catholic priest accused of molesting former Rep. Mark Foley may have molested anyone else.

The archdiocese on Friday also barred the Rev. Anthony Mercieca from all church work while it investigates the allegations.

"Such behavior is morally reprehensible, canonically criminal and inexcusable," the archdiocese said in a statement.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta said pastors at each of the churches where Mercieca worked between 1965 and 2002 will talk to parishioners to uncover any other accusations against him.

Lives in Malta

Mercieca, 69, now lives in Malta in the Mediterranean, where church officials opened an investigation after he admitted fondling Foley and being naked in saunas with him when Foley was a boy in the 1960s.

Foley, 52, resigned from Congress last month after the release of sexually explicit computer messages he sent to teenage male pages. His lawyers later acknowledged he is gay and said Foley had been molested as a boy by a clergyman.

Agosta said Foley should speak to church officials to help the investigation. She said if the allegations are true, Mercieca could be forced from the priesthood.

"An apology is due to Mr. Foley for the hurt he has experienced," the archdiocese's statement said.

In rehab

Foley's attorney, Gerald Richman, said he did not know if the Florida Republican would cooperate in the church's investigation. The former congressman entered a 30-day rehabilitation program for alcoholism Oct. 1.

"You can't predict what's going to happen when he gets out of treatment," Richman said. "There's no immediate plan."

Mercieca, who lives on the Maltese island of Gozo, has denied having sexual intercourse with Foley, but has given different details about the encounters in interviews.

A spokesman for the Gozo diocese said Mercieca does not serve in any parish on the island, but he regularly celebrates Mass and hears confessions.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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