Lawsuit involving Foley priest settled

Associated Press/July 18, 2007

Miami — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami has settled a sexual abuse lawsuit that named a priest who acknowledged having inappropriate encounters with former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley.

The settlement was announced Wednesday in the lawsuit unrelated to the Foley case. A man who was an altar boy at St. James Church in North Miami alleged the Rev. Anthony Mercieca 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, about a month after Foley, a Florida Republican, resigned from Congress after his sexually explicit computer messages to young male pages surfaced. His lawyer later said Foley was 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, 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, Jeffrey Herman.

Mercieca has retired to the island of Malta in Europe. His attorney there, 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.

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