Former Cincinnati auxiliary bishop’s role with Catholic school undetermined, as parents express concerns

binzer fix bkdrp final 5x7 3334 Cincinnati auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer. | Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Parents at St. John the Baptist School in Hamilton County, Ohio expressed concern this week about former Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer, who resigned and apologized last year after failing to report concerns about a priest to the archbishop, being assigned to pastor two churches associated with the school. 

The archdiocese has so far responded to the concerns by saying that Bishop Binzer’s role, if any, at the school has not yet been determined, and the archdiocese is listening to concerns from parents and parishioners. 

Bishop Binzer resigned last year as auxiliary bishop after failing to report to the archbishop allegations of inappropriate conduct on the part of a Cincinnati priest. 

Bishop Binzer was earlier this month named pastor of the Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann Pastoral Region, which includes two Catholic churches in Hamilton County. 

Parents say those two parishes feed into the nearby St. John the Baptist School.

In addition to the pastorship, the archdiocese told CNA that Bishop Binzer will continue his roles as the program coordinator for senior clergy services; director of Health and Hospital Ministries; and chaplain for the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Cincinnati.

Some parents at St. John the Baptist School told FOX19 that they are concerned about Bishop Binzer’s record on reporting inappropriate conduct, and worry that he will now be leading two churches with ties to the school. 

Archdiocesan spokeswoman Jennifer Schack told CNA that there have been “no decisions at this time about the role that Bishop Binzer will (or won’t) play at St. John the Baptist School.”

“Several meetings with several groups have been held over the last few weeks to hear from parishioners both concerned about the assignment as well as supportive of the assignment,” Schack said in an email to CNA.

She said the archbishop’s decision to assign Bishop Binzer to the two churches is currently still moving forward. 

“A town hall meeting was held a few weeks ago for the faithful to express their concerns and ask questions about the assignment. Those concerns were shared directly with the Archbishop. In addition a subsequent meeting was held with the Parish Councils of St. John Neumann and Corpus Christi Parishes. “

The controversy surrounding Bishop Binzer concerns allegations of inappropriate behavior on the part of Father Geoff Drew, a Cincinnati priest currently facing rape charges. 

In August 2019, CNA reported that Bishop Binzer was told in 2013 and in 2015 about allegations of inappropriate behavior concerning Fr. Drew, and failed to disclose them to Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and other archdiocesan officials.

Bishop Binzer apparently forwarded information about Fr. Drew’s conduct to Butler County civil authorities, who determined that Fr. Drew’s behavior was not criminal. 

Sources in the archdiocesan chancery told CNA in August 2019 that Bishop Binzer met with Fr. Drew twice, was assured by him that he would reform his conduct, and the bishop considered this sufficient.

Bishop Binzer reported neither the complaints nor the investigation to the archbishop or the priest personnel board, which he was leading at the time. 

In 2018, Fr. Drew requested a transfer to St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Green Township, which is attached to the largest Catholic school in the archdiocese. As head of priest personnel, Bishop Binzer was in charge of the process that considers requests and proposals for reassignment, in conjunction with the priest personnel board. 

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Neither the board nor the archbishop were made aware of the multiple complaints against Fr. Drew, and the transfer was approved.

A month after Fr. Drew’s arrival at St. Ignatius, a parishioner his former parish resubmitted the 2015 complaints about the priest, and this time the complaint was also brought to the attention of Archbishop Schnurr.

Also in 2018, Bishop Binzer received an additional complaint of similarly inappropriate contact by Fr. Drew, dating to his time as a high school music teacher, before his ordination as a priest.

Archbishop Schnurr removed Bishop Binzer from his position as head of priest personnel in August 2019, after CNA reported that Bishop Binzer had failed to inform Archbishop Schnurr or the personnel board of Fr. Drew’s inappropriate behavior.

Bishop Binzer later resigned as a member of the U.S. bishops’ conference committee for the protection of children and young people.

In May 2020 the Holy See Press Office announced that Pope Francis had accepted the then-65-year-old bishop’s resignation as an auxiliary bishop of the Cincinnati archdiocese. The statement gave no reason for the decision.

On July 23, 2020, Fr. Drew was removed from ministry, when it emerged that he had sent a series of inappropriate text messages to a 17-year-old.

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Fr. Drew, who is now 59 years old, is scheduled to go to trial April 26 on 9 counts of rape or enter a plea. He has pleaded not guilty, but could face life in prison if he is convicted. He is accused of raping a 10-year-old student multiple times from 1988-1991 as a music minister at a Catholic school, before he became a priest.

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