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A task force specifically assembled to combat sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has arrested a New Jersey priest, who cases charges that he molested a teenage girl from 1990 through 1994 at Saint Cecelia Church in Woodbridge, New Jersey.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued a press release on January 17, indicating that Father Thomas P. Ganley, 63, was arrested by the New Jersey Clergy Abuse Task Force, and faces one charge of aggravated sexual assault in the first degree, and two counts of sexual assault in the second degree.
Grewal formed the Catholic Church sex abuse task force in September 2018, and Ganley is the first priest arrested by the group that was established amid increasing concerns about a long history of misconduct by priests throughout the state in recent decades.
“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,” Grewal said in the press release. “This case illustrates that we are prepared to move swiftly to investigate allegations, and where there are viable criminal charges, to pursue those charges.”
Ganley’s arrest on January 16 came a day after the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits, released a list of 50 Jesuit priests against whom there are credible claims of sexual abuse. Most of the priests on the list are dead.
The events come at a time when Catholic church sex abuse claims are mounting nationwide, and there is increasing pressure for related organizations to become more transparent and accountable for the behavior of priests or others placed in a position of trust and authority over minors.
In August, a grand jury report highlighted cases involving at least 90 Catholic priests accused of sex abuse in the Pittsburgh area, involving allegations and cover-ups that spanned decades.
That report indicated that the Catholic Church of Pennsylvania covered up abuse involving priests who assaulted more than 1,000 victims, mostly children, over the course of 70 years. After 90 of those priests were identified, it sparked investigations by the Justice Department and states’ attorneys general nationwide.
The scandal has reignited concerns that existed for decades regarding the church’s alleged efforts to cover up sex abuse by priests by shuffling them from one parish to another and preventing police involvement. Grewal formed his task force a month later.
The task force is charged with both investigating allegations of clergy abuse, as well as any efforts by the Catholic diocese of New Jersey to cover up incidents of abuse.