A retired priest with "multiple" reported sexual abuse victims was charged with multiple sexual contact with a child under the age of 13 in the late 1990s while he served at a Howell church.

The arrest followed a call to the state's Clergy Abuse Task Force Hotline.

Father Brendan Williams, 78, was accused of touching the intimate parts of the girl with his hand on at least three occasions between 1997 and 1999, twice in Colts Neck and once in Ocean County, while he was with St. Veronica Church, according to Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal.

The priest was arrested Friday at his home at a Mercer County retirement community in Lawrence.

The Diocese of Trenton in a statement said they were first notified of the Ocean County allegation against Williams in November 2018 and reported it to the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

Williams is on the list of credibly accused clergy released in February by the Diocese of Trenton. The list states that Williams he had "multiple" victims. The list does not disclose information about where and when the incidents took place.

The diocesan list said he was ordained in 1965 and worked at St. Joan of Arc in Marlton, Holy Angels in Hamilton, St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Edison as its chaplain before being assigned to St. Veronica.  The Diocese said he has been "out of active ministry" since 2012.

Thomas Ganley, who sexually assaulted a teenage girl over whom he had supervisory authority in the early 1990s at St. Cecelia Church in the Iselin section of Woodbridge, was the first person convicted as a result of the Task Force.

“Once again, a call to our hotline has led to a thorough investigation by members of our Clergy Abuse Task Force and charges against a priest who allegedly assaulted a young girl many years ago," Grewal said. "No person is above the law and we want survivors to know that, despite the passage of time, justice may still be within reach. We will do everything in our power to hold their abusers accountable."

The state created a compensation program after all five Catholic dioceses in New Jersey — Camden, Metuchen, Newark, Paterson and Trenton — released their respective lists of known offenders. All compensation will come from church funds.

A victim who accepts the compensation will be required to sign a release that frees the particular diocese from any further litigation in that matter.

The program will conclude on Dec. 31. All claims must be submitted by then.

The state Clergy Abuse Hotline number is 855-363-6548, which is staffed by trained professionals and operated on a 24/7 basis. More than 540 calls have been received through the hotline to date, according to Grewal.

Previous reporting by Dino Flammia was used in this report.

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