Former auxiliary Bishop Binzer made pastor of two parishes

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A former auxiliary bishop, who resigned after failing to pass on reports of inappropriate behavior by a priest, has been made the pastor of two Cincinnati parishes.

Bishop Joseph Binzer resigned as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati last year, following a report on his failure to flag inappropriate activity by Fr. Geoff Drew to both the archbishop and the priest personnel board.

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The archdiocese confirmed to The Pillar on Tuesday that Binzer will serve as the new pastor of Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Mt. Healthy and of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Springfield Township. He is set to formally take over as pastor beginning July 1.

On May 7, 2020, Pope Francis accepted Binzer’s resignation as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati at the age of 65.

Binzer’s resignation as auxiliary bishop followed the previous decision by Cincinnati Archbishop Denis Schnurr to remove him from his role as head of priest personnel on August 5, 2019, after the archdiocese was presented with an investigation by journalists into allegations that Binzer had failed to pass on reports that Fr. Drew had engaged in inappropriate behavior with teenage boys in 2013 and 2015.

In 2019, Binzer was also serving as a member of the U.S. bishops’ conference committee for the protection of children and young people.

Although Binzer did forward the complaints against Drew to local law enforcement, who determined the allegations did not constitute criminal behavior, the bishop did not alert the archbishop or priest personnel board, even as Drew was transferred to a parish with the largest Catholic school in the archdiocese.

Drew was arrested on August 19, 2019, following allegations of sexual abuse of a minor dating back some 30 years, prior to his priestly ordination, when Drew was working as a music minister in a parish. He is currently in custody awaiting trial on nine counts of rape; if convicted he faces life in prison. No archdiocesan officials were aware of the accusations of rape at the time of Drew’s initial removal from ministry.

At the time of his resignation last year, Binzer 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.” 

Last year, Archbishop Schnurr said that, following Binzer’s resignation, the former auxiliary and vicar general of the archdiocese would adopt the title “Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus” and would continue to serve in the archdiocese in a manner to be determined in consultation with the archdiocesan priest personnel board.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese told The Pillar on Tuesday that Binzer’s appointment reflected the outcome of this process.

“In May of 2020 Bishop Binzer resigned from the Office of Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. His resignation was accepted by Pope Francis. He remains a priest in active ministry in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and is eligible to be a pastor,” the spokesperson said.

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The spokesperson also confirmed that Binzer had been canonically named as pastor of both parishes separately, though they are administratively linked.

“A Pastoral Region is more than one parish that is under the leadership of one pastor. So, yes, they are separate parishes, but both under the leadership of one pastor,” the spokesperson said.

The trial of Fr. Drew is set to begin on April 26.