Rome A Roman Catholic diocese has opened an investigation of a priest who said he fondled and shared saunas while naked with Mark Foley when the former U.S. congressman was a boy in Florida.
In interviews in the past two days, the Rev. Anthony Mercieca, 69, who is now retired and lives on the Maltese island of Gozo, has given different details about his encounters with Foley four decades ago.
On Wednesday, he told the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune by telephone that he massaged the boy in the nude, was naked in the same room on overnight trips with him and had gone skinny dipping with him. On Thursday, he told The Associated Press that he was naked in a sauna with Foley.
Also Thursday, he told WPTV of West Palm Beach, Fla., that he touched Foley "once, maybe."
In all of the interviews, he denied having sexual intercourse with Foley.
"It's not something you call, I mean, rape or penetration or anything like that, you know," he told the TV station in a telephone interview. "It was just fondling."
On Friday, the Archdiocese of Miami confirmed that Mercieca is the person Foley said abused him as a teen. It received the name in an e-mail from Florida state prosecutors, who got it from Foley's attorneys.
Foley, a 52-year-old Florida Republican, resigned from Congress last month after the release of his sexually explicit computer messages to young male pages.
After Foley's resignation from Congress, his attorney said that Foley was an alcoholic, gay and had been molested as a boy by a "clergyman." Foley's civil attorney, Gerald Richman, said the alleged abuser was a Catholic priest whose name he shared with Florida prosecutors.