A New York City priest known for his controversial views and regular appearances on a global Catholic television network has been accused of sexually assaulting a 22-year-old security guard.
Rev. George William Rutler, the 75-year-old pastor at Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Manhattan, allegedly forcibly touched Ashley Gonzalez on Nov. 4, according to News12. The assault allegedly happened during the overnight security guard’s second day on the job, moments after Gonzalez says she saw the priest watching gay porn on an office computer in the church rectory.
“He looked at me with a smile, looked away, and he put his hand inside his pants, and he was playing with himself,” said Gonzalez, who is now calling for the priest’s arrest. When she tried to leave the pastor’s office, the 22-year-old said he shut the door, “aggressively threw himself on me and grabbed me sexually, aggressively, and I was fighting him off of me.”
The allegations have rocked the church led by Rutler, who has condemned “abortionists and the sodomites,” criticized Pope Francis, and once hosted former Trump adviser Steve Bannon at the inauguration of a shrine for persecuted Christians. He also once defended former Pope Benedict XVI after he seemingly referred to Islam as a religion inherently flawed by fanaticism.
Rutler, who has written over 30 books, is also nationally known for his appearances on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), his contributions to Crisis Magazine, and his weekly newsletter that is reprinted in Church Militant, a fringe right-wing website.
“Christ does not call us to cope with the culture, but to transform it,” Rutler wrote in his pastor’s column printed in Church Militant on Nov. 29, where he also lamented fertility rates in Europe and the migration of Muslims. “Transformation happened in a decaying Roman Empire and it can happen in our quaking modern imperium, but only by facing reality.”
While Rutler has denied the assault allegations, the Archdiocese of New York said in a statement the priest has stepped aside from the post he has held since 2013 pending an investigation. (The church website, however, still names Rutler as its head pastor.) EWTN also stated it is suspending the pastor’s broadcasts until a probe is complete.
"I strongly deny this allegation, which I maintain is incoherent and painful to my reputation and inconsistent with how I have conducted myself in 50 years of ministerial service without any accusation of misbehavior," Rutler wrote in a Nov. 20 letter to parishioners, adding the security guard was “temporarily assigned to provide security at our parish at the time of the election.”
Rutler also states in the letter that no charges have been brought against him and urged his constituents to “ignore any misleading accounts should they appear in the media.”
Gonzalez is now demanding Rutler’s arrest—and has even released a cellphone recording of the pastor that she says proves her account. In the 18-second video, obtained by The Daily Beast, a bald man can be seen sitting under several religious icons watching porn on a computer with his hands down his pants.
According to Manuel Gomez, who represents Gonzalez through Black Ops Private Investigators, Rutler had invited the security guard to his office between her rounds.
“While she was sitting in his office, Rutler comes into the room and goes on the computer to go check on the presidential election results,” Gomez told The Daily Beast. He said while Gonzalez was texting her mom to say goodnight, she suddenly heard “noises, these moans.”
When she looked up, she saw Rutler watching pornography with “young men” and instantly began filming—sending several text messages to her mother asking for help, he alleged.
“Why do you think he told her to go into his office? The porn was a warm-up to the assault,” Gomez said.
When Rutler realized Gonzalez was filming, the pastor allegedly lunged at her and began to assault her. When he groped her breast, Gonzalez ran out of the room, according to Gomez.
“It was like a monster,” Gonzalez told News12 about the alleged attack. “That was the scariest part too. I had no one to help.”
Within hours of the alleged incident, Gonzalez hired Black Ops Private Investigators to help her file a police report. The cellphone footage has since been turned over to the New York City Police Department, which declined The Daily Beast’s request for comment. Gomez said it took the NYPD’s sex-crimes unit about 11 days to interview Gonzalez.
“Why is Rutler still here? He is a threat to society,” Gomez told The Daily Beast. “She was supposed to be in the safest place on earth—a church. But instead was in a house of horrors.”
A spokesperson for the archdiocese told The Daily Beast that Rutler’s case is currently with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and that they are cooperating with the investigation. Danny Frost, a spokesperson for the Manhattan DA's office, confirmed to The Daily Beast on Thursday that an “investigation is active and ongoing, and we encourage anyone with relevant information to contact our office.”
Gonzalez, who has not returned to her work at MG Security since the incident, said the alleged attack has poisoned her view of the church.
“I was raised to respect them and look up to them, and now I’m disgusted," she said, adding that while her company has offered to reassign her, she has declined.