CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The second-highest ranking bishop at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati who resigned in the fallout over a West Side priest charged with raping an altar boy three decades ago will be the pastor of two Hamilton County churches starting July 1.
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Joseph Binzer was assigned to oversee the “pastoral territory” of Corpus Christi Catholic Church off Springdale Road in Mt. Healthy and St. John Neumann Catholic Church located on Mill Road in Springfield Township, according to one of the church’s websites.
Bishop Binzer’s new assignment comes nearly a year after the archdiocese announced Binzer offered to resign but would remain a priest, and Pope Francis had accepted his resignation.
The archdiocese removed Bishop Binzer from overseeing priest personnel matters in Cincinnati in 2019, saying he failed to report accusations Father Geoff Drew behaved improperly with children to Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and the Priests’ Personnel Board.
Father Drew, 59, is set to go to trial April 26 on 9 counts of rape or enter a plea, court records show. He has pleaded not guilty and faces life in prison if convicted.
He is currently held in lieu of $5 million bond at the Hamilton County jail.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has said Father Drew raped a 10-year-old fourth-grader several times between 1988 and 1991, before he was a priest but while he was the music minister at St. Jude School in Green Township.
The victim is now in his 40s and told prosecutors the abuse happened in Drew’s office after school hours.
“I am 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,” Binzer said a statement released by the archdiocese at the time of his resignation.
Archbishop Dennis Scnurr said at the time that Bishop Binzer would “continue to serve the people of 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.”
The decision to assign Bishop Binzer pastor at Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann came as a surprise to their current pastor, the Rev. Kyle Schnippel, who says he is now leaving six years earlier than expected, according to a letter he posted to parishioners on St. John Neumann’s website.
The letter states:
“When we started discussing the Beacons of Light Pastoral Planning Process, I had no expectation, not even a thought, that we would also be discussing a change of pastor during this process as well. I was surprised to be nominated for Dayton Region XII of St. Peter, St. Adalbert, Our Lady of the Rosary and Holy Cross. And I am very sad to be leaving this pastoral region of Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann.
“Of course, that transition has not happened just yet, but the planning for the transition to Bishop Joseph Binzer as the new Pastor of the Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann Pastoral Region has already begun. He attended our joint staff meeting this past Tuesday and will be attending our next Pastoral Leadership meeting in April. I anticipate that much of the planning that we have begun in the Pastoral Region will continue on through Bishop Binzer’s tenure here as pastor.
“As I spoke to Bishop shortly after the announcements were made, he assured me of his excitement and joy at coming here. The first thing he wanted me to pass along to everyone here is that he is already praying for us, for you: the parishioners of these two parishes. He has some connections here already. An Aunt and Uncle were parishioners at Corpus Christi for a time and he has celebrated Mass here a number of times as well. He is looking forward to getting to know you all better over the coming years.
“On my end, perhaps a main question to be addressed is: ‘Why am I moving early?’ I can assure you I am very happy and content here in this pastoral region and was looking forward to six more years of service in this region. I believe we have an excellent staff across the board and I was excited to build upon what we have already done together.
“However, I also started to feel the promptings of the Holy Spirit in regard to Dayton Region XII. The former pastor resigned a few months ago and the parishioners there need a shepherd. Shortly after the Open Listing was published, the current parochial vicar there approached me with the desire to nominate me as the potential next pastor of the region. It was then that the Holy Spirit started to really work on my heart and soul. Hence, I accepted the nomination and the Priest Personnel Board forwarded my nomination to Archbishop Schnurr to name me as pastor there.
“It is a truly humbling experience, and one which will require great prayer and patience. I humbly ask for your prayers for me during this time of transition. Please know of my esteem and gratitude to all of you for your patience with me as I learned to be a pastor in this region. It was not always the smoothest of sailings, but I am happy of the work done so far and will see through the work that I have remaining until taking up the same mantle in Huber Heights.”
The archdiocese has come under much criticism for its handling of misconduct complaints against Father Drew. He was most recently pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Green Township.
When we reached an archdiocese spokeswoman for comment Monday and sent her a copy of Rev. Schnippel’s letter, she confirmed Bishop Binzer’s new assignment but declined an interview or to answer most of our written questions.
Later Monday, she directed us to a new announcement on the archdiocese’s website that said in addition to Bishop Binzer joining St. John Neumann and Corpus Christi July 1, he would continue “as Program Coordinator: Services for Senior Clergy; Director of Health and Hospital Ministries; and Chaplain for the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Cincinnati.”
The archdiocese announcement also states that Rev. Schnippel will begin July 1 as the pastor of Region XII, which includes, St. Peter, Huber Heights, St. Adalbert, Holy Cross, and Our Lady of the Rosary, Dayton.
The pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in Huber Heights resigned Jan. 11 after he was placed on a leave of absence, according to at statement from St. Peter Catholic Church in Huber Heights earlier this year.
The Rev. Anthony Cutcher was allegedly “texting a minor in a manner that was inconsistent with the requirements of the Decree on Child Protection,” according to a Jan. 15 letter from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
The archdiocese reported the incident in January to the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office, the Dayton Daily News reported. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said they were not investigating.
Three police departments, including the Huber Heights Police Division, also told the newspaper in January they were not involved in any investigation into Cutcher.
When Bishop Binzer quit last year, Cincinnati chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said they were concerned his resignation “would do little to address systemic issues within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”
On Monday, SNAP was no less blunt in expressing their dismay over Bishop Binzer becoming the pastor at two churches.
“In a tone-deaf move from Catholic officials in Cincinnati, a former auxiliary bishop who resigned his position after it was discovered he ignored allegations against an abusive priest for six years has now been reassigned to a local parish. We are outraged that a man who so failed in his duty to protect children from abuse has been put in charge of a parish and we hope parents and parishioners will stand up against this appointment.”
Church officials announced in the summer of 2019 Father Drew was being removed from St. Ignatius after parents complained the priest had sent text messages to a boy there.
After Father Drew was placed on leave, church officials disclosed he previously was accused of inappropriate behavior involving children in 2013 and 2015 at St. Maximilian of Kolbe in Liberty Township.
Prosecutors in both Butler County and Montgomery County have reviewed previous complaints and said they determined that, while Drew’s behavior may not have been appropriate, it was not a crime.
Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser has told FOX19 NOW he explicitly verbally warned a chancellor with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in September 2018 to keep the priest away from children and to monitor him.
Gmoser told us he felt Father Drew was “sexually grooming” the boys for future sexual abuse and he was upset to learn his verbal warning to the archdiocese was clearly not heeded.
Parishioners at St. Ignatius were upset because they were not told about previous complaints against the priest while he was at St. Maximilian.
Parents said they are worried the cycle of abuse and cover-up will continue if changes are not made within the local church leadership.
The Archdiocese has said it submitted a report to the Vatican concerning the handling of allegations of abuse against Father Drew and they are waiting for a response.
They have said they anticipate the Vatican may order a full investigation into the handling of this case.