‘It just doesn’t make sense’: Ex-bishop who failed to report misconduct to lead 2 parishes

Cincinnati Enquirer / cincinnati.com

April 15, 2021

By Dan Horn

A Cincinnati bishop who resigned after failing to report misconduct accusations involving a priest he supervised will soon get a new job as pastor of two parishes.

The Rev. Joseph Binzer, who resigned as the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s auxiliary bishop more than a year ago, is set to take over as pastor on July 1 at Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann parishes in Springfield Township north of Cincinnati.

Some parishioners and lay Catholic groups are outraged by the move, saying Binzer can’t be trusted to lead families or to protect children at the two parishes.

“It feels like the archdiocese is slapping us in the face,” said Teresa Dinwiddie-Herrmann, a leader of Concerned Catholics Cincinnati. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Binzer resigned his post as auxiliary bishop in 2019 after acknowledging he failed to report accusations of inappropriate behavior with children involving the Rev. Geoff Drew, who had been the subject of multiple complaints related to text messages and other interactions with kids while serving as pastor at two West Side parishes from 2013 to 2019.

Drew, who was put on administrative leave after those allegations became public, was later arrested after a former altar boy accused the priest of raping him 30 years ago at St. Jude’s parish in Bridgetown. He is scheduled for trial in Cincinnati later this year.

Binzer is not accused of misconduct with children, but his role as auxiliary bishop put him in charge of priest personnel decisions, including handling allegations of misconduct and enforcement of the archdiocese’s Decree on Child Protection.

The decree requires church officials to report all complaints of misconduct involving children to local authorities. Archbishop Dennis Schnurr has said he did not know about the allegations against Drew because Binzer did not share them with him.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Jennifer Schack said church officials made the decision to assign Binzer to Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann after consulting with Binzer, the parish councils and parishioners.

During meetings with parishioners, Schack said, some expressed concern and others support for Binzer’s appointment. “Concerns of the faithful were listened to and shared with the archbishop,” she said. “A lot of voices were listened to.”  

The current pastor at Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann told parishioners about Binzer’s appointment in an April 9 letter. The letter from the Rev. Kyle Schnippel indicated the pastor’s job at one point was going to be posted so other priests might seek the appointment, but church officials opted instead for Binzer, who still is considered a “bishop emeritus.”

“Upon further consideration and input, including from our parish’s Pastoral Councils, the original assignment of Bishop Binzer as Pastor has been confirmed,” Schnippel wrote in the letter.

Rev. Joseph R. Binzer resigned in 2020 from his office of auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Rev. Joseph R. Binzer resigned in 2020 from his office of auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Schnippel is leaving to replace a priest who stepped down in February from his post as pastor at St. Peter’s Church in Huber Heights, north of Dayton. Archdiocese officials said the Rev. Anthony Cutcher resigned from St. Peter’s after he was accused of sending inappropriate texts to a minor. They said local authorities investigated the allegations and “found no evidence of illegal activity on the part of Fr. Cutcher.”

Dan Frondorf, spokesman for the Cincinnati chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said he’s been contacted by parishioners at Corpus Christi, St. John Neumann and St. Peter about the recent shuffling of priests, including Binzer’s appointment. He said most are upset about the moves.

“It’s tone deaf. It just ignores everything that happened with the Drew incident,” Frondorf said. “I kind of feel Schnurr has been thumbing his nose at the people in the pew.

“You think you’re making progress, and then they turn around and do something that makes you think maybe they haven’t been listening after all.”