Gozo Priest Faces New Charge of Sex Abuse

The Malta Independent

October 19, 2008

Father Anthony Mercieca, the priest from Gozo who spent some years in Miami, is now facing a new charge of sex abuse.

US lawyer Jeffrey Harman said on Thursday that he has filed a lawsuit against the Miami archdiocese alleging that a 15-year-old boy was sexually abused in 1977 by a priest at St James Church in North Miami.

The unidentified youth alleges that the abuse began after he went to confession and met the Rev. Anthony Mercieca. He accuses Mercieca of gaining his trust and grooming him, which led to sexual assaults over a two to three-year period inside the church and in the priest’s car, according to the suit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

Last year, Herman settled another sexual abuse case involving the same priest, who gained notoriety in 2006 after admitting that he had had an inappropriate relationship with former US Representative Mark Foley, a Palm Beach County Republican.

Herman would not disclose the amount of that settlement.

According to a lawsuit, in the 1970s Fr Mercieca allegedly took a 13-year-old altar boy at St James Church on a bicycle ride and afterward molested him in the church’s bell tower.

That suit was filed in October 2006, about a month after Foley resigned from office after reports surfaced that he had sent sexually explicit emails to male pages. Foley later said through a lawyer that Mercieca had abused him when he was a boy.

Mercieca, who is living in Gozo, told several media outlets in 2006 that he had fondled Foley and they had swum naked together, but he denied having sex with the former legislator.

On Thursday, the Miami archdiocese issued a statement about the latest lawsuit alleging Mercieca’s misconduct. “Father Mercieca’s faculties were removed in October 2006 after he was accused of abuse by former representative Mark Foley,” the statement said. “A priest without faculties cannot perform or dress as a priest.”

Questions by this paper to the diocese of Gozo regarding the case remained unanswered by the time the paper went to press.

Earlier, in a rare public act of contrition regarding a sexual abuse claim, the Archdiocese of Miami issued an apology in a settlement with a teenage girl who claimed that a Pinecrest Catholic Church youth minister had assaulted her during a 2006 field trip.

In a statement posted on its webpage and published in the Florida Catholic newspaper, the Archdiocese of Miami said it “amicably resolved” the case.


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