Priest Caught on Secret Recording Admitting to Sex with Teen, Complaint Says
By Ted Sherman
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
January 23, 2019
|The Rev. Thomas Ganley, in a 2017 file photo, who remains in custody after he was charged last week with sexual assault involving a teenager nearly 30 years ago. (Tim Wynkoop | lehighvalleylive.com contributor) (Tim Wynkoop | lehighvalleylive.com contributor)|
A New Jersey priest charged last week with the sexual assault of a teenager nearly three decades ago served as the youth director at St. Ceclia’s Church in Iselin at the time of the alleged incidents, and had sex with the victim in New Jersey, Florida and Washington, D.C., according to criminal complaints filed by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.
The teen also performed oral sex on the priest, the Rev. Thomas Ganley, according to the complaints and affidavits of probable cause released in response to a public records request. Ganley was a parochial vicar at St. Philip and St. James Catholic Church in Phillipsburg and a chaplain at St. Luke’s Warren Campus Hospital until his arrest on Wednesday — just two days after the victim in the case, who is now 42, came forward.
The complaints also revealed that the priest was recorded in a “consensual intercept” with the victim, in which he admitted sexual conduct. In a later interview with investigators, he conceded he had sex with the victim on multiple occasions, according to the affidavit that was filed in the matter.
The documents did not disclose the sex of the victim, but the state Attorney General’s office did report that it was a teenage girl.
Ganley, 63, has been charged with one count of aggravated sexual assault in the first degree, and two counts of sexual assault in the second degree. Currently in custody, he is scheduled to appear before a detention hearing in New Brunswick on Wednesday, according to a spokeswoman for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, which is handling the case.
Meanwhile, a parish meeting will be held on Wednesday night at St. Philip and St. James Catholic Church, to allow congregants to speak with Bishop James Checchio, head of the Diocese of Metuchen. In a statement last week, the bishop said the accusations were the first time the diocese had been made aware of any sexual abuse of misconduct regarding Ganley.
The diocese has said it is also contacting all the parishes and diocesan organizations where Ganley ministered to alert them of the charges.
The charges against Ganley mark the first sexual assault case brought by New Jersey’s Clergy Abuse Task Force, which was created in September by state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal after a Pennsylvania grand jury was released, detailing decades of abuse by priests who preyed upon children. As part of that task force, New Jersey set up a 24-hour hotline — (855) 363-6548 — to allow victims to report allegations of abuse, and that hotline has so far received more than 350 calls since September, officials said.
One of those calls came in last Monday, according to the Attorney General’s office, when the victim called to report being assaulted by Ganley.
The victim, whom Ganley met in his role as youth director supervising the CCD program, alleged having sex with the priest, and performing oral sex, on multiple occasions in New Jersey, Florida and Washington, D.C., between 1990 and 1994 — when the teenager was 16 and he was 39 years old. The affidavit did not explain why the victim and the priest allegedly traveled to Florida or the nation’s capital, or if anyone else was with them.
Two days after the victim called the hotline, authorities disclosed that the unnamed individual agreed to record Ganley, apparently by phone. The complaint said he admitted the sexual contact in that recorded “intercept.” Detectives then met with him, read him his Miranda Rights, and he again acknowledged he had intercourse with the teen, and that oral sex was performed, while he was a priest at St. Cecilia’s.
Diocesan officials said Ganley was parochial vicar at St. Cecelia from Oct. 8, 1991 until June 10, 1996, before he transferred to another parish. A parochial vicar is a priest who assists the pastor in the ministry of a parish. They said there did not seem to be any indication that the transfer it was anything but a routine move that many priests may be asked to make, based on the needs of the diocese, diocesan parishes, the needs of the priests, the population and the number of priests in a parish.
They said they were unaware of anything more about the circumstances of the allegations, than what has been released by authorities.
In a statement to parishioners at St. Philip and St. James Church last week, Bishop Checchio said he was “disheartened by this accusation of, both, the sexual abuse of a minor and the abuse of power in a trusted relationship,” calling such crimes “morally reprehensible, shameful and criminal.” He said the diocese was cooperating fully with law enforcement.
According to Ganley’s bio that was recently removed from the church website, he 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 remains mired in his own scandal. The former head of the Archdiocese of Newark who later became a cardinal, was removed from public ministry in June in the wake of allegations that he had sexually abused a teenage altar boy while serving as a priest in New York 47 years ago, and has since resigned under pressure by Pope Francis.