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Priest Admits Sexually Abusing Girl, First Conviction For NJ Clergy Abuse Task Force

Fr. Thomas P. Ganley
Fr. Thomas P. Ganley Photo Credit: COURTESY: NJ Attorney General

A massive investigation by New Jersey authorities into the sexual abuse of young boys by Roman Catholic priests has produced its first conviction -- by a priest who admitted abusing a young girl.

Fr. Thomas P. Ganley, 63, of Phillipsburg admitted abusing the girl from 1990 through 1994, -- from when she was 14 until she was 17 -- while he was a priest at St. Cecelia Church in the Iselin section of Woodbridge.

The charges were the first brought by the New Jersey Clergy Abuse Task Force, which state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal created last September to investigate allegations of clergy abuse.

Ganley, in turn, pleaded guilty in exchange for a sentence of four years in state prison.

He will be required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law and will be prohibited from having any contact with the victim, as well as from having unsupervised contact with children under the age of 18, grewal said.

Ganley was assigned to Saint Philip & Saint James Church in Phillipsburg when he was arrested in January -- just two days after the victim called the Clergy Abuse Task Force Hotline to report him, the attorney general said.

Sentencing was scheduled for July 2.

Ganley was investigated and prosecuted by members of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office assigned to the New Jersey Clergy Abuse Task Force: Assistant Prosecutor Allysa Gambarella, Detective Paul Kelley, and Detective Julissa Alvarado, Grewal said.

The attorney general formed the task force in response to the publication of a report by a grand jury in Pennsylvania outlining allegations of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests against more than 1,000 victims uncovered in a multi-year investigation there.

Task force members investigate allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy within the Catholic dioceses of New Jersey, as well as any attempted coverups.

Detectives and prosecutors from all 21 New Jersey county prosecutors’ offices and the state Division of Criminal Justice participate – using documents and subpoenas to compel testimony before grand juries, among other measures.

“Our message today is that we will move swiftly and decisively to secure justice for survivors,” Grewal said.

"This case was not time-barred even though it is 25 years old," the attorney general said. "Where a prosecution is no longer viable, we will work equally hard to determine if the Church was aware of the abuse but failed to take action or prevent it from recurring, which will be the subject of a state grand jury presentment and report.

"We are determined to expose past wrongs and seek justice for survivors in whatever form is possible.”

Veronica Allende, the director of the state Division of Criminal Justices urged "all survivors, witnesses of sexual abuse, and others with information" to call the Clergy Abuse Hotline established by Grewal.

It is staffed by trained professionals around the clock.

More than 480 calls have been received through the hotline as of Monday, he said.

The Clergy Abuse Hotline: 855-363-6548 .

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