A Roman Catholic priest in New Jersey has been arrested and charged with multiple counts of child sex abuse, including alleged crimes dating back to the early 1990s. This is the first criminal case brought by New Jersey’s Clergy Abuse Task Force, a group established last year to investigate and prosecute cases of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Father Thomas P. Ganley Arrested For Sex Crimes

Father Thomas P. Ganley was arrested on Wednesday, January 16, 2018. He has been charged with one count of aggravated sexual assault in the first degree and two counts of sexual assault in the second degree, according to the office of Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. No details have been released on the alleged victim’s sex, but officials say the child was between 14 and 17 at the time of the alleged abuse, the New York Times reports.

Man In Church

In a press statement, representatives for the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office say the alleged abuse occurred between 1990 and 1994, when Father Ganley was assigned to Saint Cecilia Church in Woodbridge.

Priest Served Throughout Metuchen Diocese

At the time of his arrest, Ganley was assigned to Saint Philip and Saint James Church in Phillipsburg. Both churches are covered by the Metuchen Diocese. Ganley also served as a chaplain at St. Luke’s Warren Campus Hospital, but was never employed by the institution, as a spokesperson was quick to clarify when interviewed.

Prosecutors Struggle To Bring Charges Against Clergy Members

America’s Catholic establishment has been inundated by new and reinvigorated stories of child sexual abuse. In the wake of a damning Pennsylvania grand jury report, which disclosed the abuse committed by over 300 clergy members, survivors from across the country have been making their voices heard in an unprecedented surge of public disclosures.

At the same time, state prosecutors have taken to the investigation of priest sexual abuse cases with new aplomb, creating specialized bureaus and appointing grand juries to investigate the crimes.

Once hidden from view, hundreds of sexual abuse cases have now come to light, but prosecutors have thus far struggled to press charges against the responsible priests. Dozens of Catholic dioceses around the country have begun to publish lists of priests who have been accused of sexual abuse, but many of the lists are populated primarily by the dead.

In other cases, a state statute of limitations prevents the prosecution of sex crimes committed decades ago. It’s been extremely difficult to bring priests to justice, despite a national push to do so.

New Jersey’s Clergy Abuse Task Force Gets To Work

With the announced prosecution of Father Thomas Ganley, New Jersey becomes one of the first states to heed the calls of sexual abuse advocates everywhere in their pursuit of justice. “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,” said Attorney General Grewal in a statement.

“This case illustrates that we are prepared to move swiftly to investigate allegations, and where there are viable criminal charges, to pursue those charges.”

– New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal

Metuchin Diocese Denies Knowledge Of Misconduct

Metuchin’s Diocese has denied any and all knowledge of allegations of impropriety against Father Ganley. In a statement following the arrest, Bishop James F. Checchio wrote, “the diocese has never received an accusation of sexual abuse nor misconduct in the past regarding Father Ganley.”

Checchio, somewhat more forthcoming than the Attorney General’s office, says that Father Ganley has already confessed to the misconduct. “It’s our understanding the victim just came forward to prosecutors as an adult with an allegation of abuse that occurred while a minor in the early 1990s,” Bishop Checchio wrote.

Father Ganley is now being held at the Middlesex County Adult Corrections Center in New Brunswick, according to the Attorney General’s office.

Parish Seeks Normalcy In Wake Of Scandal

The Reverend John Barbella, pastor at Father Ganley’s parish in Phillipsburg, sent a letter to parishioners following the arrest, saying a full statement would be read during Mass this weekend. “It truly breaks my heart to have to share such news with you,” Father Barbella wrote, “please pray for the victim of this crime, and for the healing of everyone who has been hurt by it.” Father Ganley’s name has been removed from the parish website.