.- A priest who served in former U.S. Representative Mark Foley’s parish in 1966 and 1967, when Foley would have been about13, has admitted that he had a close relationship with the young man and that Foley may accuse him of acting inappropriately.
Fr. Anthony Mercieca, a 72 year old priest who has returned to his homeland of Malta, said that he and the young Foley had a close friendship and spent a lot of time together, sometimes alone.
Mercieca told the Associated Press this morning that the two "were friends and trusted each other as brothers and loved each other as brothers." Asked if their relationship was sexual in nature, the priest replied: "It wasn't."
The elderly priest had previously been reported in Southern Florida’s “Herald-Tribune” as having a sort of one-night-stand with Foley. Mercieca says the paper exaggerated his words and "wrote many things that I didn't say."
Mercieca did admit that he and Foley had visited a sauna together in the nude, but claimed that “everyone does that.”
Mercieca also admitted that he had taken Foley along on overnight trips, but did not see anything wrong with that.
He told the AP that at the time he knew the young Foley "I had a nervous breakdown and was taking some pills and alcohol and maybe I did something that he didn't like."
The priest said he based that statement on what he had seen on TV news accounts about the Foley case. When the AP reporter pressed Mercieca for details about what Foley might not have liked, he claimed it was too long a go to remember anything specifically.
Foley "seems to have interpreted certain things as inappropriate. ... I don't know what I did to him," the priest said. "I wonder why 40 years later he brought this up?"
Foley resigned from his Congressional seat earlier this month, after messages between him and a young male page surfaced. Prior to entering alcohol rehab, Foley released a statement, through his lawyers, that claimed he had been molested by a “clergyman” when he was 12 or 13.
On Tuesday, Foley’s council announced that he would be disclosing the priest’s name to officials with the Archdiocese of Miami, at their request.