Jan. 18 (UPI) — New Jersey officials said the first arrest has been made by its Clergy Abuse Task Force — a team created months ago to prosecute abuse in the Catholic Church.
Authorities said Thomas P. Ganley, 63, was a priest at St. Cecelia church in Woodbridge, N.J., when abuses were committed between 1990 and 1994. He was arrested by the task force Wednesday and is set for a hearing Friday.
Ganley is charged with one count of first-degree sexual assault and two counts of second-degree assault involving a teenage girl.
“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,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said in a statement Thursday.
“This case illustrates that we are prepared to move swiftly to investigate allegations. … We urge all survivors, witnesses of sexual abuse, and others with information to call our hotline.”
“We want survivors to know that our task force is comprised of experienced prosecutors and detectives from every county and we stand ready to bring all these resources to bear to investigate these crimes and hold abusers accountable,” Veronica Allende, director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, said.
“Even if the abuse they suffered occurred many years ago, criminal prosecutions may still be possible and we will do everything in our power to bring those responsible to justice.”
New Jersey’s clergy abuse task force was created on the heels of a bombshell grand jury report in neighboring Pennsylvania last year that accused six dioceses of covering up abuse cases involving more than 1,000 children.
That report also sparked a Justice Department investigation. Pope Francis has condemned the priests involved in the scandal and told U.S. bishops in a letter this month the scandal has harmed the credibility of the Catholic Church.