Cincinnati-area parishioners question archbishop over removal of priest

Updated: Aug. 7, 2019 at 11:59 AM EDT
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LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio (FOX19) - Parishioners packed the house at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish Tuesday night to question the archbishop over the news a priest was put on leave.

Father Geoff Drew was placed on administrative leave on Tuesday, July 23.

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According to the archdiocese, Drew’s alleged behavior involved pattern of things such as uninvited bear hugs, shoulder massages, patting of the leg above the knee, and inappropriate sexual comments about one’s body or appearance, directed at teenage boys.

In addition, there was a report of Drew texting some of the boys “teasing them about their girlfriends.”

Following multiple complaints over a pattern of similar behavior by Drew even after a transfer to St. Ignatius Loyola, He was placed on administrative leave.

The Catholic News Agency says he was placed on leave due to the pattern of behavior in contradiction of the Decree on Child protection.

Tuesday, reaction was mixed as people left the church after 10 p.m. — three hours after the meeting began.

Some people say they were pleased, others were in shock over what Archbishop Dennis Schnurr revealed to them inside.

They said Archbishop Schnurr apologized for how things were handled with Father Geoff Drew.

According to a release from the Diocese, in part, the alleged behavior includes uninvited bear hugs, shoulder massages, patting of the leg above the knee, inappropriate sexual comments about one boy’s body or appearance, and inappropriate text messages.

Some say the apology from the Bishop did little to placate the way they feel about the situation. They say they considered Fr. Drew a close friend.

"I'm sorry is not covering it,” said longtime parishioner David Starr. “How do you mend a broken heart by saying I'm sorry? That's not gonna mend a broken heart and there are many broken hearts in there right now, and I'm one of them."

“You have to do an extensive background. Are they fit to become a priest? What did they do in the past? What did they do before they even thought of becoming a priest? Were they a child molester back then or anything like that?,” asked Starr. “We don’t know that!”

Moving forward, the Diocese said they will not have any monitored or restricted priests.

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In his statement, Schnurr said if there are serious concerns that have the semblance of truth, that priest will be put on leave pending an investigation.

They're also making changes to the way they check priest's backgrounds.

One woman said when Archbishop Schnurr answered her question about whether or not Fr. Drew would be allowed to remain a priest, he shook his head repeatedly and said no, he did not believe Fr. Drew would be a priest much longer.

For now, according to the Diocese, he is officially still a priest and on leave of absence.

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