CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Parents of young children at a private Catholic school say they are infuriated and may withdraw their students after the Archdiocese of Cincinnati assigned a former high-ranking bishop who resigned in the fallout over a priest charged with raping an altar boy to be the pastor at two churches affiliated with their school.
“We are outraged. We are being ignored and our children’s safety is not being considered at all,” said Kim McRoberts, whose 11-year-old daughter is in the fifth grade at St. John The Baptist School on Dry Ridge Road in Colerain Township.
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Joseph Binzer was assigned effective July 1 to oversee Corpus Christi Catholic Church off Springdale Road in Mt. Healthy and St. John Neumann Catholic Church located on Mill Road in Springfield Township, the archdiocese confirmed to FOX19 NOW earlier this week,
Parents say those two parishes and a third one, St. John The Baptist Catholic Church, which has a different pastor, feed into St. John The Baptist School.
Earlier this week, we specifically asked a spokeswoman for the archdiocese in writing if Bishop Binzer’s new parishes were affiliated or connected in any way to any schools and if so, in what capacity.
The spokeswoman, Jennifer Schack, did not answer the question. We reached out to her again Wednesday.
“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 (parishioners, Parish Councils, etc.) have been held over the last few weeks to hear from parishioners both concerned about the assignment as well as supportive of the assignment.
“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. Many voices were heard and many factors were weighed in the decision to continue forward with the plan to assign Bishop Binzer to St. John Neumann Parish and Corpus Christi Parish.”
Parents tell FOX19 they do not trust Bishop Binzer. They said they shared their concerns with church officials including the current pastors at St. John the Baptist and St. John Neumann, as well as a representative of the archdiocese, at the town hall meeting.
They said they implored church officials not to bring him in.
“They told us they didn’t know there were children associated with his pastor assignment,” McRoberts said. “We all laughed. At some point, we just had to laugh it was so ridiculously stupid. I held up five fingers and said ‘We Do Not Want Him. I feel like they would not have ever assigned him here if they knew there were children, but they don’t want to backpedal and more work for themselves. They’ve already assigned him and don’t want to have to reassign other priests.”
She and other parents say they are not sure they will stay now.
“I told my daughter last night if this continues we may have to leave. She was heartbroken,” McRoberts said.
Another parent, Angie Reynolds, says she feels frustrated their pleas are apparently falling on deaf ears.
Her family attends St John The Baptist Catholic Church and two daughter enrolled in the school. Her 10 year-old daughter is active in the youth group at St. John Neumann Catholic Church.
“Who is going to put an end to this and allow us a safe place for our kids to have an education and practice our faith?” she rhetorically asked. “It’s been very frustrating and very concerning that no one will listen to us. We are paying our hard-earned money to send our kids to this school yet we have no say. It makes no sense.”
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 a 2013 accusation that Father Geoff Drew behaved improperly with children to Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and the Priests’ Personnel Board.
Bishop Binzer did promptly report the allegation to the Butler Country Prosecutor’s Office and Butler County Children’s Services and addressed the concern himself with Father Drew, Schack has pointed out.
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, faces life in prison if convicted and 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.
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.
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.
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.”
Earlier this weekk, SNAP blasted the assignment of Bishop Binzer to two local parishes, calling it “a tone-deaf move.”
“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.
The Vatican has not responded to several requests for comment over the past year and could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.
“I feel like this behavior will continue. This behavior among priests and bishops has gone on far too long. It has to be stopped,” said another St. John the Baptist parent, Janie Kinzer.
She said parents were told at the town hall meeting “that Binzer was deeply sorry for not doing the right thing. Obviously, the archdiocese and Binzer realize this was not acceptable behavior.
“It’s time they are held accountable,” she continued. “We were told at the meeting if our parish didn’t want Binzer, he wouldn’t come. He would understand, they said. He is not wanted because we don’t want our children alone with someone who covers up sexual abuse. In my eyes his behavior is despicable. I feel he should have been charged as an accomplice to Drew for covering up his abuse.
“When is enough enough? I’m hoping if the media puts pressure on the Archdiocese they will do the right thing finally. The fact that Father Kyle is replacing another priest in Huber Heights that has been accused of texting boys is quite troubling. It’s become too common. The diocese moves them around covering up! I do not want Binzer at our school and will remove my child if it happens.”