ROME – On Thursday the Vatican announced that Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer of Cincinnati, who faces allegations of failure to report the suspicious behavior of a priest removed from ministry, has stepped down from his post.
Although not mentioned in the statement, a Vatican source confirmed to Crux that Binzer had undergone an investigation according to the norms of Vos Estis Lux Mundi, the new Vatican law promulgated last year that covers bishops and religious superiors who cover up abuse.
The May 7 Vatican announcement came roughly 10 months after it was announced in July 2019 that Father Geoff Drew, the pastor of St. Ignatius Parish in Cincinnati, had been put on administrative leave after allegations of inappropriate behavior, including uninvited hugs, leg pats above the knee and sexual comments about the bodies and appearances of teenage boys.
The archdiocese said it had received reports in 2013 and again in 2015 that the priest engaged in inappropriate behavior with teenage boys. “Those reports were held by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer, who upon receiving the information, spoke with Father Drew on two occasions and received assurances that the behavior would cease.”
“In both instances, the concerns reported to the central office were promptly forwarded to the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office and Butler County Children’s Services,” according to a report in The Catholic Telegraph, the archdiocesan newspaper. The prosecutor’s office found no evidence of criminal behavior.
Last year Binzer was removed as the Director of Priests’ Personnel for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for failing to bring concerns about Drew to the attention of Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, who oversees the Cincinnati archdiocese, and the Priests’ Personnel Board.
Binzer, who also served on the Child and Youth Protection Committee for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, resigned from the committee in August 2019.
Complaints had reportedly been made about Drew’s behavior at a former parish in 2013 and 2015, however, he was still able to transfer to St. Ignatius parish in 2018 after seeing a pastoral vacancy and applying for the job.
At the time, the complaints were handed to Binzer in his capacity as director of priest personnel. After receiving the information, Binzer reportedly spoke with Drew twice and received assurances from the priest that the inappropriate behavior would not be repeated.
However, roughly one month after Drew’s stepped into his new assignment, Schnurr received a letter voicing concern about Drew’s conduct, highlighting the past complaints from 2013 and 2015. The letter was then passed onto the county prosecutor’s office for investigation, and, at their recommendation, Drew was prohibited from involvement with the parish school and told to meet regularly with a monitoring official.
Despite the warning, the school was apparently not informed of the restrictions, and Drew maintained contact.
A civil investigation reportedly found that he had not committed any crimes, however, Schnurr launched his own archdiocesan investigation with the company Strategic HR, hired by the legal firm representing the archdiocese. This investigation also reportedly found no criminal behavior had been committed, but it was recommended that Drew undergo counseling, which began in June 2019, around a month before Drew was placed on administrative leave and ordered to begin treatment at an in-patient facility outside of Cincinnati.
In a May 7 letter announcing Binzer’s resignation, Schnurr said Binzer will continue to serve the archdiocese as an emeritus.
“What exactly that ministry will look like will be determined after discussions between Bishop Binzer, the Priest Personnel Board, and me,” Schnurr said, adding, “In this difficult and unfortunate time, please keep Bishop Binzer and all the people of the Archdiocese in your prayers.”
In a statement, Binzer said he was “deeply sorry for my role in addressing the concerns raised about Father Drew, which has had a negative impact on the trust and faith of the people of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”
“In April, having studied this matter since last summer, the Holy See informed me that it agreed with this assessment. As a result, and after much prayer and reflection, I offered my resignation from the Office of Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati,” he said, saying he believes the decision is “in the best interest of the archdiocese.”
The Catholic News Service also contributed to this report. This story has been updated.
This article previous said no criminal activity was reported. Allegations of inappropriate behavior were not reported to the archbishop. They were reported to the civil authorities. We regret the error.
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