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Foley's Priest Unmasked

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune busts the story on the priest who molested Mark Foley. And, in proper priestly style, it's creepy as all living hell.

The culprit is Father Anthony Mercieca, who admitted to Herald-Tribune reporters Matthew Doig and Maurice Tamman in a telephone interview from his home on an island called Gozo near Italy that he'd fondled the boy in 1966 and 1967. Foley would have been 12 or 13. Here's the key excerpt:

Among them: massaging Foley while the boy was naked, skinny-dipping together at a secluded lake in Lake Worth and being naked in the same room on overnight trips.

One night, when Mercieca says he was in a drug-induced stupor, there was an incident he says he can't clearly remember that might have gone too far.

"I have to confess, I was going through a nervous breakdown," he said. "I was taking pills -- tranquilizers. I used to take them all the time. They affected my mind a little bit."

The reporters got the name from anonymous "sources close to Foley's family" and tracked him down. He obviously talked because he knew Foley was giving up his name anyway.

For many South Florida Catholics in South Florida, it wasn't welcome news. In addition to his year at Sacred Heart in Lake Worth, Mercieca served at Pompano's St. Coleman from 1970 to 1973, at Sacred Heart in Homestead (1974-75), in North Miami at St. James (1977-82), at St. Ambrose in Deerfield Beach (1985-87), at St. Henry in Pompano Beach (1987-93) and then finished off his career at Blessed Trinity in Miami Springs from 1993 to 2003.

So how did the Sarasota get the scoop? Well, Foley's sister Cathleen lives in Clearwater, which isn't far north from Sarasota (though it's more in the St. Pete Times and Tampa Tribune circulation area). I imagine some family members might have had motivation to expose this predator. Whatever the case, nice scoop for Doig and Tamman.

So what does this mean for Foley? I would say it will bring him some actual sympathy. It adds some poignancy, where there was just hypocrisy, to his zealous efforts in Congress to combat predators of children.

After the jump: Till Fallout, Democracy Survives (Barely) In Hollywood, and Negron Is Still Foley

-- Yep, people aren't pleased with the Frank Till firing. School Board member Beverly Gallagher, who voted against the firing but is probably as responsible for it as anyone, tells the Miami Herald's Hannah Sampson and Nirvi Shah, ''The people are mad. Oh, are they mad. We're getting e-mail ranging from 'I am so sorry' to 'You stupid idiots, we're gonna vote you out of office.' '' Let's hope they keep that promise with some of the bought-and-sold bozos on the board right now.

What is slightly humorous is the way the Herald emphasized the chaos while the Sentinel, whose coverage of a bad land deal may have paved the way for the firing, acknowledged the problems but played up the need for "unity." Jean-Paul Renaud and Buddy Nevins quote school board chairman Ben Williams saying, "We will overcome."

-- The Hollywood City Commission voted to hold a special election -- after Mayor Mara Giulianti and city attorney Dan Abbott pooh-poohed the idea last week as too expensive -- yesterday. Good for them. The coverage of the meeting, which was marked by numerous citizens voicing their outrage over the sludge scandal, was lackadaisical and dull in both the dailies.

-- The Palm Beach Post's William C. Bender reports on how a judge has banned signs at polling places that announce that Joe Negron has replaced Mark Foley on the ballot. Republicans are pissed, Democrats are crowing. Think what you will about the concept of those signs, but this is exactly the kind of thing that turns average voters off, since if the shoe was on the other foot, both parties would be doing the complete opposite.

It's clear that the Legislature decided that if one of the party's candidates dropped out close to an election, the party would be penalized by having the ousted candidate's name remain on the ballot. I understand that -- protects against switching candidates at the last second and installing ringers, too. So I have to agree with the ruling, even though it goes against everything we are taught about democracy, namely that knowledge and good information is essential.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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