Sexual Abuse Claims Involving Gozitan Priest Settled

By Herman Grech
The Times of Malta
July 20, 2007

The Archdiocese of Miami has settled a lawsuit that named a Gozitan priest who allegedly sexually abused a 13-year-old altar boy in the 1970s.

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

The lawsuit had sought more than $10 million (€7.3 million) in damages but the terms of the settlement were confidential, the man's attorney, Jeffrey Herman, was reported as saying in the US press.

Fr Mercieca was under the media spotlight last October after having acknowledged having inappropriate encounters with former disgraced US Congressman Mark Foley. The priest admitted he had had encounters, which Mr Foley may have perceived as sexually inappropriate, 40 years ago.

After the Foley case hit world headlines, the Archdiocese had asked any possible victims of inappropriate behaviour or abuse by the Gozitan priest to come forward or contact a law enforcement agency. Within days, a second American man made similar claims.

Legal sources close to the priest had wrongly said in May that the charges had been dropped after a number of irregularities were noted in the prosecution's claims. Fr Mercieca's lawyer in Malta, Alfred Grech, was not available for comment yesterday.

Since the incident, Fr Mercieca's faculties have been removed, barring him from celebrating Mass publicly, administering any sacraments of the Catholic Church and from wearing clerical clothing.

Settlements have also been reached in two separate lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by another former South Florida priest, Neil Doherty. The terms of the settlements were confidential.

Contacted yesterday, a spokesman for the Miami Archdiocese said she had no further comments to make. However, in a statement, the Archdiocese of Miami said it had been informed of new lawsuits claiming sexual misconduct.

"It is a sad day for the Catholic Church when we receive an allegation of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy. Every accusation is taken seriously by the Archdiocese of Miami.

"To begin a journey of healing, psychological and pastoral counselling is offered to each alleged victim and we take this opportunity to encourage those who have been victims of sexual abuse to please come forward," the Miami Archdiocese said.


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