1st Catholic Priest Charged with Sex Assault after Tip to Ag’s Clergy Abuse Hotline to Be Sentenced
By Sophie Nieto-Munoz
August 26, 2019
|Rev. Tom Ganley in a 2017 file photo. He is facing a four-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a teen in the 90s.|
A disgraced Roman Catholic priest who admitted to sexually assaulting a teenage girl three decades ago will be sentenced Monday in Superior Court in Middlesex County.
Thomas P. Ganley, 63, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a girl who was a member of the youth group he led in the 1990s. The priest’s case was the first criminal case prosecuted after the start of the Attorney General’s Clergy Abuse Task Force, which was formed last year to investigate allegations of clergy abuse.
Ganley, who will be sentenced by Judge Diane Pincus, faces four years in prison. He will also be required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law and will be forbidden to have unsupervised contact with any child under 18.
When he was arrested in January, 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.
|Father Thomas P. "Tom" Ganley, 63, of Phillipsburg was arrested on January 16, 2019, and charged with one count of aggravated sexual assault, police said.|
He faces laicization from the priesthood after he is sentenced, Bishop James F. Checchio of the Diocese of Metuchen said at a parish meeting days after his arrest.
Ganley’s arrest came just 48 hours after the victim called the state’s 24-hour hotline, which allows victims to report allegations of abuse, law enforcement officials said. The hotline is part of the state’s clergy abuse task force launched in September 2018 in the wake of a grand jury report out of Pennsylvania detailing decades of horrific abuse at the hands of priests.
The hotline has received hundreds of calls since its inception, state officials said.
“This case illustrates that we are prepared to move swiftly to investigate allegations, and where there are viable criminal charges, to pursue those charges," Grewal said at the time.
The now-42-year-old victim, who met Ganely in a CCD program, said she was sexually abused by the priest between 1990 and 1994 in New Jersey, Florida and Washington, D.C., according to a complaint filed in Superior Court in Middlesex County.
The complaint also showed the priest was recorded in a “consensual intercept” with the victim in which he admitted sexual contact. When detectives met with Ganley, he again acknowledged he had sex with the teen while he was assigned to St. Cecilia’s Church is the Iselin section of Woodbridge, the complaint states.
Ganley was transferred to another parish in 1996, though diocesan officials said there was no indication that the transfer was anything but a routine move that priests may make based on needs of the diocese. They said at the time they were unaware of the allegations prior to the arrest.
According to Ganley’s bio that has since been removed from the church website, he has been a priest of the Diocese of Metuchen 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 and the Diocese of Metuchen who later became a cardinal, was removed from public ministry in June 2018 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. He resigned under pressure by Pope Francis and was removed from the priesthood.
Anyone with information on misconduct or abuse involving clergy or church personnel can contact local law enforcement or New Jersey’s 24-hour Clergy Abuse Hotline at (855) 363-6548.