Diocese Has Abuse Record
9 Other Clergy Members in Area Where Foley Grew up Are Named in Lawsuits Related to Sex Abuse

By Thomas Hargrove
Detroit News [Florida]
October 20, 2006

The Catholic diocese in South Florida where former Rep. Mark Foley lived nearly 40 years ago when he said a clergyman sexually abused him has one of the nation's worst records of sexual misconduct by priests and bishops.

The Diocese of Palm Beach in South Florida is the only U.S. diocese to suffer the forced consecutive resignations of two bishops -- Keith Symons in 1998 and Anthony O'Connell in 2002 -- following disclosures of inappropriate sexual contact with boys or young men.

On Thursday, the Rev. Anthony Mercieca, 69, acknowledged he was naked in saunas and went skinny-dipping with Foley when the former congressman was a boy in Florida, but denied they had sex.

Criminal complaints and sex-abuse-related lawsuits have named another nine priests who served in the Palm Beach diocese, according to, a Boston group that monitors abuse claims against Catholic clergy.

"Palm Beach is certainly among the most troubled dioceses in terms of clergy sex-abuse cases," said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "Most victims never disclose their victimization. Those who do, often make their disclosure in a crisis."

It was certainly an atmosphere of crisis Tuesday when Foley, through attorney David Roth, announced he had been molested when he was 13, 14 or 15 years old.

Foley is being investigated by the Justice Department after release of Internet messages showing sexually explicit exchanges he had with male House pages.

Foley is an active Roman Catholic and was an altar boy at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lake Worth, Fla.

In a speech on the House floor this year, Foley said, "At Sacred Heart, I was taught how to be a better citizen because of their focus on discipline and moral values."


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