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NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A New Jersey priest ordained by now-disgraced Theodore McCarrick is the first cleric to be sentenced for sex abuse since New Jersey launched its clergy abuse task force in September.
Father Thomas P. Ganley, ordained by McCarrick for the diocese of Metuchen in 1985, faces a four-year sentence for sexually abusing a teenage girl in the 1990s while assigned to Metuchen's St. Cecelia Church in Iselin, New Jersey. He is being sentenced Monday.
Ganley was arrested in January just 48 hours after the victim contacted the task force's hotline set up by the state's attorney general, Gurbir Grewal.
"This case illustrates that we are prepared to move swiftly to investigate allegations, and where there are viable criminal charges, to pursue those charges," said Grewal following Ganley's arrest.
One reason the task force moved so quickly on Ganley was owing to the fact that the now-42-year-old female victim had previously recorded Ganley admitting to the abuse. Ganley, who is reportedly repentant, again acknowledged his guilt to detectives following his arrest. He also pleaded guilty to the charges in April.
The abuse occurred between 1990 and 1994 after initially meeting at a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine program. They subsequently had a sexual relationship in multiple states including New Jersey, Florida and Washington, D.C., according to the complaint filed in New Jersey's Middlesex County Superior Court.
At the time of his arrest in January, the 63-year-old Ganley was parochial vicar at St. Philip and St. James Catholic Church in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. He was also chaplain at St. Luke's Warren Campus Hospital in Phillipsburg.
Following Ganley's sentencing, the diocese of Metuchen will move forward with laicization proceedings to defrock him, according to Metuchen's Bp. James Checchio. Speaking to parishioners in January, Checchio claimed the diocese had not been aware of the abuse prior to Ganley's arrest.
"We had absolutely no indication of anything in the father's background that would have led us to believe anything about this," said Checchio.
Grewal confirmed that Ganley's case was the first criminal case filed by his task force since it was formed on Sept. 6. Grewal revealed in September that he'd formed his task force in response to the findings of the Pennsylvania grand jury report showing more than 1,000 victims had been abused by more than 300 priests.
"We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here," said Grewal. "If it did, we will take action against those responsible."
The same day that Grewal created the task force, he also launched a statewide investigation into clerical sex abuse. He issued subpoenas to each Catholic diocese in the state. He's further authorized his task force to present evidence of any wrongdoing to a state grand jury.
New Jersey's Gov. Phil Murphy on May 13 signed into law a bill that opens a two-year window for victims seeking to file sex abuse claims who were otherwise barred by the state's statute of limitations. Metuchen has posted a list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. Ganley's name appears on this list.
Grewal confirmed in April that his office will seek to determine if the diocese of Metuchen had been aware of Ganley's case but covered it up:
This case was not time-barred even though it is 25 years old, and 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.
There may be much more corruption in the dioceses of New Jersey for Grewal's task force to uncover, owing to the fact that after leaving Metuchen in 1986, McCarrick went on to become archbishop of Newark, New Jersey. Catholic corruption in Newark under Abp. John Myers and in Metuchen under Bp. Paul Bootkoski is well-recorded.
Catholic author and commentator Taylor Marshall remarked on how both dioceses had been aware of abuse by McCarrick but did little to stop his rise to power.
"It was Abp. John J. Myers who paid the 2004 payout in Newark for McCarrick," commented Marshall. "It was Bp. Bootkoski who paid out the 2007 payout in Metuchen for McCarrick. These two bishops 100% knew about McCarrick and did not follow the Zero Tolerance policy."