First criminal case filed by new state task force on clergy abuse

The Rev. Thomas Ganley

The New Jersey attorney general’s clergy abuse task force has filed its first criminal case against a Roman Catholic priest who allegedly sexually assaulted a teenage girl in the 1990s.

AA priest from Phillipsburg has been arrested and charged with multiple criminal counts in the sexual assault of a child who was between the ages of 14 and 17 when the abuse allegedly occurred. The arrest was made by members of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office assigned to the task force.

The Rev. Thomas Ganley, 63, was arrested on Jan. 16. He was charged with one count of aggravated sexual assault in the first degree, and two counts of sexual assault in the second degree. Ganley was a priest at Saint Cecelia Church in the Iselin section of Woodbridge when the criminal acts allegedly occurred from 1990 through 1994.  He is currently assigned to Saint Philip and Saint James Church in Phillipsburg.

“This first arrest by the Task Force is indicative of the painstaking effort we are undertaking to give a voice to the survivors of clergy abuse, many of whom have suffered in silence for decades,” said Robert Laurino, who leads the task force.  “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.”

The investigation of Ganley is ongoing. Anyone with information about the priest is asked to call Detective Paul Kelley at (732) 745-4499 or Detective Julissa Alvarado (732) 745-3711 of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.

The New Jersey Clergy Abuse Task Force was formed by the New Jersey attorney general in September of 2018 to investigate allegations of clergy abuse. 

“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,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal 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.  We urge all survivors, witnesses of sexual abuse, and others with information to call our hotline.”

Grewal formed the task force in response to a report by a Pennsylvania grand jury outlining allegations of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests against more than 1,000 victims in that state. The allegations were uncovered as part of a multi-year investigation led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. 

The New Jersey task force was formed to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy within the Catholic dioceses of New Jersey, as well as any efforts to cover up such abuse. The attorney general has authorized the task force to present evidence to a state grand jury, and use subpoenas when necessary, to compel testimony and the production of documents.

In addition to investigating allegations of sexual abuse, the task force is conducting a review of agreements between the Catholic dioceses of New Jersey and law enforcement agencies.  These agreements, entered in 2002, mandated that the dioceses establish policies and procedures to ensure that their leaders and employees report information to prosecutors about potential cases of sexual abuse within their churches and cooperate in any resulting law enforcement investigations.  The task force, as part of its mission, is determining whether the dioceses complied with the mandatory reporting requirements that were part of the agreements, and whether any additional action is necessary.

The New Jersey Clergy Abuse Task Force hotline is 855-363-6548. The hotline is staffed by trained professionals and operated on a 24/7 basis.  More than 350 calls have been received through the hotline to date, officials said.