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 scandal that erupted last month and cost the former congressman his job .
Foley, who served as an altar boy at the Sacred Heart Catholic church in Lake Worth, Fla., when Mercieca was assigned there 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.
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 to the Herald-Tribune and in the Post interview, the Post could not confirm that Foley was referring to Mercieca in his allegations, or whether there may be another priest involved.
Catholic Church officials have encouraged Foley to name the priest who allegedly abused him, and Foley was expected to turn that information over to law enforcement authorities yesterday, wire services reported. A statement issued by the Archdiocese of Miami this morning said church officials believe the name had been given to the Palm Beach County State’s Attorney on Wednesday, but added that the state’s attorneys office had not revealed the information to the church.