Disgraced former Florida congressman Mark Foley—deflecting attention from emails and IMs showing he engaged in sex talk with male teenage congressional pages—said last week that he had been abused by a clergyman when he was young. This was said as he was entering rehab for alleged alcoholism, which came as a surprise to everyone who knew him. Such tactics are often used to blunt criticism and turn the perpetrator into a victim.
Since Foley was raised Catholic, the assumption is that he was abused by a priest. The Palm Beach diocese is calling his bluff.
“It would be inappropriate to comment, because at this time we’ve only heard a vague allegation,” Alexis Walkenstein, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Palm Beach, told the Washington Post, adding that Foley has not reported the abuse to local Catholic Church officials, either. “If Mr. Foley was abused within the Catholic Church, we would encourage him to report it to law enforcement,” she said.
David Clohessy, national director of the 7,000-member Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, is also demanding that Foley come clean about the alleged abuse. He told the Post: “He [Foley]should absolutely report the perpetrator, living or dead,” Clohessy said. “He should do it now, not when his civil lawyer says it is convenient. Every day that a molester walks free is a day when he can hurt other kids.”
If indeed there was a molester. In fact, Foley’s lawyer said his client was abused between the ages of 13-15. If you don’t name the abuser, then everyone looks back at all the priests in Foley’s life at that time and the gimlet eye of suspicion falls upon them.
William J. Brooks, a Palm Beach Town Council member who is a former Catholic priest and a friend of Foley’s, told the Post it was “outrageous” that Roth pinpointed the years of the abuse without naming the abuser. According to the Post, Foley attended Cardinal Newman High School in 1969 and 1970, a Catholic high school school in West Palm Beach where Brooks was a member of the faculty.
“Get the name out there and let the legal process unfold. And clear the names of the other clergy people back in the early 1970s,” Brooks said.
I have a feeling that Foley’s lawyer thought no one would really want a name. Hey, all he wanted was sympathy for his client. Now he needs a scapegoat. Who knew those Catholics would be so touchy about clergy sex-abuse?