MANHATTAN — A well-known New York City priest is maintaining his innocence amid an investigation into an allegation that he sexually assaulted a female security guard earlier this month.
Father George Rutler, pastor of the Church of St. Michael in Manhattan, on Nov. 20 voluntarily stepped aside from his pastoral duties, while prosecutors are investigating the allegations, the Archdiocese of New York told CNA.
Ashley Gonzalez, a 22-year-old security guard with MG Security Services, went public Nov. 26 with an allegation that Fr. Rutler forcibly groped her, after she had allegedly seen the priest, late at night, watching homosexual pornography on an office computer in the church rectory.
Fr. Rutler is the author of over 30 books and is a well-known public speaker and television commentator on EWTN. He has also been a frequent contributor to the Register. The archdiocese told News12 there have been no other allegations raised against Fr. Rutler in the past.
Gonzalez hired Manuel Gomez, a private detective and founder of Black Ops Private Investigators, to help her file a police report following the alleged incident.
Gomez told CNA that the alleged victim's family was familiar with work he had done on a previous case, and that family members had recommended that Gonzalez contact him before contacting police.
The alleged incident happened around 1:20am Nov. 4, Gomez said. He said Gonzalez contacted him at 2:45am asking for help, and that he helped her to file a police report that morning.
The alleged incident took place during Gonzalez’s second night on the job, Gomez said.
According to Gonzalez, Fr. Rutler had offered that she could sit in his office when she was not actively doing her rounds. Gonzalez had finished her first set of rounds at around 1:15am and was sitting in the office texting her mother when Fr. Rutler entered the office and greeted Gonzalez.
He then sat down at the computer and checked the ongoing General Election results, Gonzalez alleges, before beginning to watch a homosexual pornographic video. Gonzalez said she filmed Fr. Rutler with her cellphone as he did so.
In the video obtained by CNA, a bald-headed man — fully clothed and wearing a grey or black sweater or long sleeve shirt — can be seen from behind sitting at a desk in an office decorated with religious photographs and holy cards, watching a video depicting lewd homosexual acts on a desktop computer. CNA could not verify the identity of the man, whom Gonzales claims is Fr. Rutler.
Gonzalez alleges that as she tried to exit the office, Fr. Rutler stood and slammed the door shut, breaking one of her fingernails. She alleges that he then grabbed her chest before she escaped the office.
Gonzalez sent a text message to her mother telling her that she felt unsafe and claiming that she had “almost” been raped.
In a Nov. 20 letter to his parish, Fr. Rutler denied that he “improperly touched” Gonzalez, but said he has offered to “step aside at this moment from my duties” while authorities conduct their investigation.
He urged his parishioners to “ignore any misleading accounts should they appear in the media” and asked for prayers.
Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the New York archdiocese, told CNA that Fr. Rutler’s case is in the hands of the district attorney, and that Cardinal Dolan does not plan to open an archdiocesan investigation while the DA’s investigation is ongoing.
Zwilling reiterated that Fr. Rutler had “voluntarily stepped away from his duties as pastor.” He said the archdiocese is “fully cooperating” with the district attorney’s office in its investigation.
The priest has apparently curtailed all public activity.
A spokesman for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office told CNA that the office does not confirm whether investigations exist, and declined to comment.
Gomez said he hopes Fr. Rutler will soon be brought into the DA's office for questioning, and added that he has forwarded all the evidence he has collected on Fr. Rutler's alleged misconduct, including the video allegedly taken by Gonzalez, to the archdiocese.
CNA attempted to contact Father Rutler at the Church of St. Michael to discuss the allegations, but did not receive a response.
A convert from Anglicanism, Fr. Rutler was appointed a Missionary of Mercy by Pope Francis in 2016.