Catholic archdiocese of Miami has asked priests at eight
Florida churches to speak with parishioners about whether a
retired Catholic priest accused of molesting former
congressman Mark Foley may have molested anyone else.
The archdiocese on Friday also barred the Reverend
Anthony Mercieca from all church work while it investigates
''Such behavior is morally reprehensible,
canonically criminal, and inexcusable,'' archdiocese
officials 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. 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 was gay and said Foley had been
molested as a boy by a clergyman.
Agosta said Foley should speak to church
officials to assist in 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.
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 on
''You can't predict what's going to happen when
he gets out of treatment,'' Richman said. ''There's no
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 that he regularly celebrates Mass and hears
confessions. (Brian Skoloff, AP)