Cincinnati auxiliary bishop resigns after failing to act on allegations

Bishop Binzer Cincinnati Bishop Joseph Binzer. | Archdiocese of CIncinnati

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Joseph Binzer, Cincinnati's auxiliary bishop, who was accused in August of failing to act on allegations made against a priest. 

A statement from the Holy See press office May 7 said the pope had accepted the 65-year-old bishop's resignation but gave no reason for the decision. 

In a statement released by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr said the pope accepted Binzer's resignation after conversations between the bishop and the Holy See. 

The archdiocese also included a brief statement from Binzer in which he 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," said Binzer. "I believe this to be in the best interest of the archdiocese."

Archbishop Schnurr said that although retired, Binzer will continue to serve in the archdiocese with the title of "Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus." 

"What exactly that ministry will look like will be determined after discussions between Bishop Binzer, the Priest Personnel Board, and me," Schnurr said. "In this difficult and unfortunate time, please keep Bishop Binzer and all the people of the archdiocese in your prayers."

Archbishop Schnurr removed Binzer from his position as head of priest personnel in August, after CNA presented officials with its investigation into claims that Binzer failed to pass on reports that a priest had engaged in inappropriate behavior with teenage boys.

In August last year, Schnurr told CNA that "We obviously made serious mistakes in our handling of this matter, for which we are very sorry."

While Schnurr's public comments did not address Binzer's role directly, senior sources in the archdiocese told CNA in August that Schnurr had "gone nuclear" when he discovered the situation.

"The archbishop was as mad as I have ever seen him. When he was told that Bishop Binzer had withheld information, well, he used words I have never heard him use before," one senior source told CNA, saying Schnurr called Binzer's actions a "firestorm" for the archdiocese.

In September, 2019, an archdiocesan spokesperson told CNA that Schnurr had sent a "full report to Rome on the whole case and he is waiting for the Vatican's response," and he expected "a full investigation" to be conducted by the Vatican.

Binzer later resigned as a member of the U.S. bishops' conference committee for the protection of children and young people, on which he represented Region VI.

CNA reported in August last year that Binzer was told in 2013 about allegations concerning a recently suspended priest, Fr. Geoff Drew, and failed to disclose them to Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and other archdiocesan officials.

While the archdiocesan victims' assistance coordinator, who reported to Binzer, was aware of the allegation, the information was not made known to the diocesan priest personnel board or Archbishop Schnurr. 

In 2015, similar allegations were again made against Drew. The matter was forwarded to Butler County officials, who determined that the activity was not criminal. Again, Binzer reported neither the complaints nor the investigation to the archbishop or informed the priest personnel board.

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

More in US

In early 2018, Drew applied for 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, Binzer was in charge of the process that considers requests and proposals for reassignment, in conjunction with the priest personnel board.

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

The allegations were also reportedly not recorded by Binzer in the priest's personnel file that would have been available to the archdiocesan personnel board as part of the process.

A month after Drew's arrival at St. Ignatius, a parishioner at Drew's former parish resubmitted the 2015 complaints about the priest, but this time it was also brought to the attention of Archbishop Schnurr.

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

Following a diocesan investigation, Drew was ordered to attend counselling with a psychologist.

(Story continues below)

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

Chancery sources told CNA in August that it was only after the recent incident at St. Ignatius that archdiocesan officials discovered that the otherwise undisclosed complaints about Drew had been made to Binzer, and that the auxiliary bishop had failed to report them to other diocesan officials, or raise them during the decision to approve his transfer in 2018.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.