Priest Is First Charged by State Task Force Launched to Investigate Clergy Sex Abuse
By Ted Sherman
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
January 17, 2019
|The Rev. Thomas Ganley gives the invocation at the opening of a drug and mental health treatment facility in Phillipsburgin 2017. (Tim Wynkoop | Lehigh Valley Live) (Tim Wynkoop | lehighvalleylive.com)|
In the first criminal case filed by a state task force set up to investigate allegations of clergy abuse, a well-known Phillipsburg priest has been arrested on sexual assault charges involving a teenager in Middlesex County more than two decades ago.
The Rev. Thomas P. Ganley was a priest at Saint Cecelia Church in the Iselin section of Woodbridge when the alleged assaults occurred, from 1990 through 1994, state prosecutors said in announcing the arrest late Thursday. He is currently assigned to Saint Philip & Saint James Church in Phillipsburg.
Ganley was taken into custody on Wednesday and charged with one count of aggravated sexual assault in the first degree, and two counts of sexual assault in the second degree, according to state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. He is being held at the Middlesex County Adult Corrections Center in North Brunswick pending a detention hearing on Friday.
No details of what allegedly happened, or how the attorney general’s office came to bring charges against Ganley, were released by the attorney general. The teen was reported to be between the ages of 14 and 17 when the alleged assaults occurred.
Ganley’s arrest was made by members of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office assigned to the task force. It was not known if the priest had an attorney yet.
“It’s a shock,” said Rev. John Barbella, the pastor at Saint Philip & Saint James Church. Barbella said he didn’t know anything more about the allegations against Ganley than what was released by the attorney general, and could say little more, but expected the diocese would have a statement tomorrow. The Diocese of Metuchen did not return a call.
According to a bio on his church website, Ganley serves as parochial vicar and has been a priest of the Metuchen Diocese since his ordination by then Bishop Theodore E. McCarrick at St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral in 1985.
McCarrick, the former head of the Archdiocese of Newark who later became a cardinal, was removed from public ministry last June following allegations that he had sexually abused a teenage altar boy 47 years earlier while serving as a priest in New York, and later resigned as the scandal rocked the church.
|The Rev. Thomas P. Ganley, in a photo released by the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office. Courtesy photo | For lehighvalleylive.com|
New Jersey launched its clergy abuse task force in September to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy within all the Catholic dioceses of the state — as well as any efforts to cover up such abuse — following the disclosures last year by a Pennsylvania grand jury, which graphically detailed the horrific sex abuse by priests who preyed upon children for decades.
“This case illustrates that we are prepared to move swiftly to investigate allegations, and where there are viable criminal charges, to pursue those charges,” said Grewal in a statement. “Our clergy abuse task force is diligently pursuing its mission to expose the truth about past wrongs and seek justice for survivors, because no person is above the law and no institution is immune from accountability.”
Former Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino, who leads the task force, said a hotline set up by the state to reach out to victims continues to draw calls. “Every caller who contacts our hotline can be assured that their case will be taken seriously, and that we will make every effort to hold their abuser accountable,” he said.
That hotline — (855) 363-6548 — has received more than 350 calls since September, officials said.
In addition to investigating allegations of sexual abuse by clergy, the state task force is expected to also conduct a review of existing agreements between the Catholic dioceses of New Jersey and state law enforcement. Those agreements grew out of a 2002 Memorandum of Understanding between the state’s five dioceses, the attorney general’s office, and several county prosecutors' offices, mandating policies and procedures to report potential cases of sexual abuse within their churches to law enforcement.
Late last year, church officials in New Jersey said the names of every priest and deacon "credibly accused" of sexually abusing a child will be made public by the state’s five Catholic dioceses early this year. The dioceses—Newark, Camden, Paterson, Metuchen and Trenton —are also establishing a victim compensation fund and counseling program for victims of sexual abuse by clergy and other church employees, according to Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the head of the Archdiocese of Newark.
Tobin did not give a date for the release of the names or indicate how many priests and deacons may be on the list.