Church settles lawsuit naming priest linked to Mark Foley case

Posted on 19 Jul 2007 at 8:17pm
By Jennifer Kay Associated Press

MIAMI The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami has settled a sexual abuse lawsuit that named a priest who once acknowledged fondling former Congressman Mark Foley.

The settlement was announced Wednesday, July 18, in the lawsuit, which is not related to Foley’s case. A man who was an altar boy at St. James Church in North Miami alleged that the Rev. Anthony Mercieca, who is retired and lives on the Maltese island of Gozo, sexually abused him in the 1970s when he was about 13 years old.

The man, identified only as John Doe 26, claimed Mercieca molested him in the church’s bell tower after a bicycle ride together.

The lawsuit was filed Oct. 25, 2006, about a month after Foley, a Florida Republican, resigned from Congress after the release of his sexually explicit computer messages to teenage male interns. His lawyer later said that Foley was an alcoholic, gay and had been molested as a boy by a “clergyman.”

Mercieca later said he massaged Foley in the nude and they swam naked together while serving in a parish in Florida in the 1960s, but he denied having sex with Foley.

The lawsuit had sought more than $10 million in damages. Terms of the settlement were confidential, said the man’s attorney, Jeffery Herman.

Mercieca’s attorney in Malta, Alfred Grech, declined comment because he was not aware of the settlement or lawsuit.

A phone message and e-mails to archdiocese spokeswomen were not immediately returned.

Settlements have also been reached in two separate lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by another former South Florida priest, Neil Doherty, Herman said. The terms of the settlements were confidential. A message left for Doherty’s attorney, David Bogenschutz, was not immediately returned.

One of the lawsuits claimed Doherty sexually abused a boy starting when the child was 9 during the 1990s, Herman said.

The sexual abuse occurred between 1996 and 2000 while the boy was unconscious or semiconscious after bingeing on drugs and alcohol, according to the lawsuit filed in 2005.

Under Florida law, there is no statute of limitations if the victim is under 12. Criminal charges are still pending against Doherty, who worked in the archdiocese for three decades before being placed on administrative leave in 2002.

Doherty has been the subject of at least 10 sexual abuse lawsuits against the archdiocese, including a new lawsuit filed Wednesday by a man who claims the priest sexually abused him in the mid-1970s when he was about 12 years old. The man, who is not named, is seeking more than $25 million in damages.

That lawsuit was among seven lawsuits against the archdiocese filed Wednesday and June 15, naming Doherty and five other priests in claims of sexual abuse of a child.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 13, 2007

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