updated 10/6/2006 6:01:53 AM ET 2006-10-06T10:01:53

Former Rep. Mark Foley’s refusal to identify the clergyman he says molested him as a boy is reckless and could put other children at risk, say victims’ advocates and a former priest who knows the ex-congressman.

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If Foley has information about a child molester, especially one who is still living, he should come forward with that immediately, they say.

“To simply say, ‘I can’t tell you the name,’ in my judgment, that’s despicable,” said William Brooks, a former Roman Catholic priest at Cardinal Newman High School in Lake Worth where Foley was briefly a student in 1969. “It casts a dark cloud of suspicion over all the clergy who worked during those days. I just think it’s wrong.”

The Florida Republican abruptly resigned last week over sexually explicit Internet communications he had with teenage boys who worked as pages on Capitol Hill. He has since gone into rehab for treatment of alcoholism and “other behavioral problems.”

Earlier this week, Foley’s attorney, David Roth, announced that his client was molested between the ages of 13 and 15. He declined to identify the clergyman or the church, but Foley is Roman Catholic. Roth also said that Foley was gay, something that friends had known but the lawmaker had kept secret from the public.

Roth said that the announcements were part of Foley’s “recovery” and that Foley would not disclose the name of the alleged abuser until after he is released from treatment, in 30 days, at the earliest.

Putting minors at risk
“If this perpetrator is still alive, then there’s a very good chance that he’s still molesting minors,” said Anne Barrett Doyle of the Web site BishopAccountability.org, which tracks clergy abuse cases.

Roth declined to comment Thursday.

Mark Serrano of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, echoed the call for Foley to reveal his abuser. He said it was a “great tragedy” that Foley did not reveal this sooner, when he could have worked on behalf of those abused by clergy in his capacity as a congressman.

“As a clergy abuse survivor, it angers me because Congressman Foley, of all people, should know the trauma and pain and anguish that comes from the effects of child sexual abuse,” he said.

The accusations have also cast a wider shadow over the Diocese of Palm Beach, which in the past 10 years has seen two bishops admit to molesting boys, and a third accused of abuse. Authorities also recently issued arrest warrants for two priests accused of misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars at a Delray Beach church.

A family with deep religious roots
Foley was an altar boy at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lake Worth and attended Cardinal Newman High School for his freshman year before transferring to Lake Worth High School.

His father was an assistant football coach at Cardinal Newman, and the Foley family was deeply involved in the church, often having priests at their home, said Joan Arsenault, whose children attended school with Foley.

“They were friendly with the priests,” Arsenault said Thursday.

The Palm Beach Diocese has declined to comment on any aspect of the accusations, given that Foley has not said where the abuse occurred.

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