WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of 65-year-old Auxiliary Bishop Joseph R. Binzer of Cincinnati, less than nine months after it was revealed he had failed to inform the archbishop and priest personnel board of a priest’s inappropriate conduct with minors.
Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr removed Bishop Binzer as director of priest personnel for the archdiocese in August after his failure to report the incidents became known; Bishop Binzer also resigned from the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People.
Bishop Binzer’s resignation as auxiliary bishop was announced May 7 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Vatican nuncio to the United States.
The announcement and a similar one published by the Vatican did not give a reason for the resignation. The normal retirement age for a bishop is 75.
Bishop Binzer continued to serve as auxiliary bishop but was removed from the priest personnel board after Archbishop Schnurr placed the priest, Father Geoff Drew, on a leave of absence in July 2019.
The archdiocese said it had received reports in 2013 and again in 2015 that the priest engaged in inappropriate behavior with teenage boys. “Those reports were held by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer, who upon receiving the information, spoke with Father Drew on two occasions and received assurances that the behavior would cease.”
“In both instances, the concerns reported to the central office were promptly forwarded to the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office and Butler County Children’s Services,” according to a report in The Catholic Telegraph, the archdiocesan newspaper. The prosecutor’s office found no evidence of criminal behavior.
A statement Aug. 5 from the archdiocese said, “The alleged behavior involved a pattern of such things as uninvited bear hugs, shoulder massages, patting of the leg above the knee and inappropriate sexual comments about one’s body or appearance.”
In 2018, Father Drew applied to the personnel board to become pastor of another parish. Archbishop Schnurr gave him the appointment “upon recommendation of the priest personnel board, but at that time, the board and Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr were unaware of the priest’s alleged past transgressions,” The Catholic Telegraph reported.
A month later, Archbishop Schnurr received a letter expressing concern about Father Drew’s behavior. The prosecutor’s office was again informed, and the archdiocese hired an independent firm to investigate as well.
The bishop, installed in 2011, became a priest of the Cincinnati Archdiocese in 1994 and was named vicar general in June 2007. He served as chancellor from 2003 to 2007.
Bishop Binzer was born April 26, 1955, in Cincinnati and graduated from La Salle Catholic High School in 1973. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting at Miami University of Ohio in 1977 and worked for 11 years as a certified public accountant with Crowe Chizek and Co. in South Bend, Indiana, and with Arthur Young & Co., in Cincinnati before entering the seminary in 1988.
He earned a master of divinity degree from Mount St. Mary’s of the West Seminary, Cincinnati, and has a canon law degree from The Catholic University of America, Washington.
Following his priestly ordination, he served as associate pastor of St. Dominic Church in Delhi for three years. In 1999, he was assigned to study at Catholic University. He then was named resident associate pastor at St. Bartholomew Parish in Cincinnati while he serving on the archdiocesan tribunal.
In 2003, he was appointed chancellor of the Cincinnati Archdiocese.
He also supervised the Office of Communications and The Catholic Telegraph, the archdiocesan newspaper; the archdiocesan archives; the tribunal; the offices for religious, vocations and the permanent diaconate; and the coordinator of victims’ assistance and child protection programs.
He had been a member of the Athenaeum of Ohio’s board of trustees, the archdiocesan college of consultors and the archdiocesan finance council. He also served in an ex officio capacity with the archdiocesan Child Protection Review Board.