'Healing' Foley Plans to Name Alleged Molester Priest

Oct. 17, 2006 — -- Disgraced ex-Congressman Mark Foley, R-Fla., will in the coming days tell the Archdiocese of Miami the identity of the priest who he claims molested him as a young teen, his civil attorney said today.

Gerald Richman, a civil attorney and politically active Democrat in Palm Beach County, told ABC News that the priest is still alive, though he didn't yet know his name or location, and wasn't sure whether the alleged perpetrator still had contact with children or teenagers.

Foley, 52, is "going through a difficult healing process," said Richman, who spoke with Foley today by telephone. Foley is currently in a rehabilitation clinic reportedly dealing with alcoholism.

"When I spoke with him he had a therapist with him," Richman said. The two didn't discuss the specifics of the alleged molestation but rather focused on "how to handle the disclosure issue," he said.

"He has already publicly stated through (his criminal attorney) David Roth that he's not doing this any way to excuse his behavior," Richman said. "He accepts full responsibility for his behavior."

Criminal Charges Against Priest Unlikely

Richman said that he discussed with Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer possible criminal repercussions against the priest but was told it was unlikely much could be done because during the alleged abuse -- some time between 1967 and 1969 -- boys were not then covered by the Florida felony law against molesting children.

"The problem with regard to Florida legislation at that time is that, believe it or not, the law did not protect young males, only young females," Richman said. "This has given the state attorney's office problems in the past."

In 1998, after Palm Beach County Bishop J. Keith Symons admitted sexually molesting five boys decades before, the state attorney's office complained its hands were tied because until 1972 the language of the specific Florida law made rape a capital offense, but applied only to female victims.

After speaking to Foley by telephone today, Richman said he called J. Patrick Fitzgerald -- general counsel to both the Archdiocese of Miami and the Diocese of Palm Beach -- to try to schedule a meeting to notify them as to the name of Foley's alleged abuser.

Richman said Fitzgerald had not returned his call as of this evening. No one at the archdiocese could be reached for comment.

After the congressional page scandal broke on Sept. 29, Foley resigned. On Oct. 2, Roth told reporters that Foley -- a Roman Catholic who served as an altar boy at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lake Worth, Fla., and attended Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach -- had been molested by a clergyman around the ages of 13 to 15.

After that press conference, Fitzgerald wrote to Roth asking for the name of the alleged perpetrator and advising that he report the alleged perpetrator to the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office.

"Until such time as you identify the alleged perpetrator, all clergy that served in Palm Beach County have been needlessly placed under suspicion," Fitzgerald wrote. He added that the archdiocese would offer assistance in helping with Foley's "healing process."

Identity of Priest a Mystery

According to the Web site bishop-accountability.org, which tracks priests and Catholic church officials accused of molesting underage boys and girls, at least one priest later accused of molesting boys taught at Cardinal Newman during the time Foley attended as a student.

Raymond A. Prybis was at the school from 1968 through 1974, the website's records claim.

According to the Boston Globe, Prybis was accused in 1992 "of approaching, while naked, a 14- or 15-year-old boy at Sacred Heart rectory in Lowell in the 1980s and asking the teenager to beat him with a belt."

Just three of the more than nine priests who have served in the Palm Beach Diocese accused of such misconduct include:

Lucien Meunier, extradited from West Palm Beach to stand trial in Canada on charges of molesting six boys in the 1950s and 60s. Meunier was convicted in 1976 of child molestation and reportedly died in prison;

Francis Maloney, who reached a settlement with a 17-year-old boy from Port St. Lucie after being accused of trying to seduce him by walking around naked and reading to him from sexually explicit letters; and

Arthur Bendixen, suspended in 1994 as rector of a seminary in Boynton Beach after the church received a sexual abuse complaint against him. A 1995 lawsuit accused the priest of abusing a 13-year-old boy beginning in 1982.

"As is so often the case with victims of abuse, Mark advises that he kept his shame to himself for almost 40 years," Roth said.

The Palm Beach Diocese has the ignominious distinction of being the only parish in the country where two successive bishops were forced to resign following the revelation of inappropriate sexual contact with young men or boys.

The first of those bishops was Symons in 1998. Symons' successor, Anthony J. O'Connell, resigned in March 2002 after admitting having sexually abused a teenage seminary student in the 1970s.

An Unlikely Advocate

Richman, who spoke to ABC News as he made his way to a fundraiser for Foley's former opponent, Democrat Tim Mahoney, is an unlikely advocate for Foley.

A politically active Democrat, Richman in 1989 ran a losing campaign for Congress against current Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. He has been opposing Foley and supporting Mahoney for months, and estimates he's given Mahoney around $1,500.

The Center for Responsive Politics' database of Federal Election records indicate Richman has given $19,150 to Democrats since 2002. He was involved in the Florida recount, opposing Republican ballot efforts in Seminole County.

He and Foley also worked at cross-purposes in 2002 when Richman took a deposition from Foley while representing former Palm Beach County undersheriff Ken Eggleston in a lawsuit relating to Eggleston's 2002 congressional campaign against Foley.

Eggleston had alleged that Sheriff Ed Bieluch and Foley conspired to force him to quit his campaign, a case eventually dismissed by a federal judge.