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Priest accused of sex abuse got church’s blessing for a new job — at Disney World

Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. AP File

Edward George Ganster was one of the more than 300 names in the 1,300-page grand jury report detailing allegations of priests sexually abusing children in the Pennsylvania Catholic Church.

But Ganster’s life after he quietly resigned from the priesthood in Allentown took a turn that is only now coming to light, four years after his death.

According to the grand jury report, Ganster’s superiors in the Diocese of Allentown knew in 1990 that Ganster’s alleged transgressions, “were at least partially sexual,” leading him to ask to be “laicized” or removed from the priesthood.

Despite his removal from the priesthood, the diocese wrote Ganster a recommendation for a new job — driving the train at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, according to the grand jury report.

“He really loved trains,” his wife, Mary Ganster, told the Orlando Sentinel for his 2014 obituary.

A Pennsylvania grand jury says its investigation of clergy sexual abuse identified more than 1,000 child victims. The grand jury report released August 14 says that number comes from records in six Roman Catholic dioceses.

In 1990, he told Allentown’s bishop, Nobert Dorsey, that he wanted to leave the priesthood so he could get married. The report states that the same year he asked the Diocese for a recommendation for the job he was seeking at Disney World.

“Despite knowing Ganster was a sexual predator,” the grand jury report reads, Monsignor Anthony Muntone wrote back to Ganster, “I am quite sure that the Diocese will be able to give you a positive reference in regard to the work you did during your years of service here as a priest.”

Ganster’s first accuser came forward to the Diocese as an adult in 2002, while Ganster was still employed driving the train for families and other park visitors at the Lake Buena Vista, Fla., theme park, the report states. The accuser, “then aged 37, married, and the father of two children,” reported that “when he was 14 years old and an altar boy at St. Joseph in Frackville, he was fondled and groped by Father Edward George Ganster.”

“On one occasion, Ganster dragged the boy across a living room floor, pulling him by the underwear,” and “also beat the victim repeatedly, once using a metal cross,” the report states. All the alleged abuse happened in the church rectory, according to the report.

In 2005, “the mother of a second victim reported to the Diocese that her now adult son was sexually abused in 1977 by Ganster, when the second victim was thirteen years of age.” That victim alleged Ganster “hurt him and got in bed with him” during an overnight trip to the beach.

He held the job at the Magic Kingdom for 18 years, according to the Allentown Morning Call.

In its more general findings, the grand jury report called the abuse “systemic.”

The victims “were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all,” it reads. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing: they hid it all. For decades.”

In the 1970s, Mark Holden was abused by a priest at Boise's Sacred Heart Catholic School. Over the next 40 years, at least two bishops, eight priests and several others knew. None of them told police.

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