Cincinnati Archbishop: Matter of priest who served in Liberty Twp. handled ‘very, very poorly’

UPDATE @ 1:53 p.m.

The archbishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said the organization “made serious mistakes” regarding the Rev. Geoff Drew, a priest who has been suspended and once worked in Liberty Twp.

The archdiocese is holding a news conference today on alleged misconduct by Drew, a former pastor at St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Liberty Twp.

Drew, who served as St. Maximilian Kolbe’s pastor for nine years from 2009-18, was transferred last year to serve as pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Green Twp. in Hamilton County.

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr suspended Drew on July 23 after he was accused “of behavior that violates the Archdiocese’s child protection decree.”

The archdiocese received a letter in 2018 from a St. Maximilian Kolbe parishioner after Drew was assigned as pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Cincinnati “reiterating” previous concerns expressed about Drew, the archdiocese said. The letter was given to the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office, church officials said.

Drew was assigned a “monitor” and asked to restrict his involvement with St. Ignatius during the investigation.

“Our acceptance of this recommendation, combined with inadequate oversight, was obviously ineffective and a mistake, and we will not repeat it,” archdiocese officials said in information distributed at the news conference today.

Another letter was received in October 2018 from a St. Ignatius parishioner that said Drew “inappropriate touched (the letter writer’s son-in-law’s) leg and made him feel very uncomfortable.” That letter was also forwarded to the Butler County Prosecutor, officials said.

Archdiocese officials in May 2019 received the results of an internal investigation into Drew, and they determined no criminal behavior took place but assigned Drew to counseling sessions in June. While in that counseling, the archdiocese received a complaint in June 2019 that Drew was allegedly texting a teenager. Those texts were confirmed, and because they were a violation of the “Decree on Child Protection” and because of a “pattern of behavior in contradiction” to the decree, Drew was removed as pastor of St. Ignatius on July 23.

He was placed on a leave of absence and ordered to undergo evaluations at “an independent in-patient treatment facility.”

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said his office received a statement from the archdiocese several years ago concerning Drew.

“It indicated there was contact by the individual with one of the students in a way that raised questions in a way that raises questions whether or not there was a potential for sexual misconduct,” Gmoser said.

The prosecutor’s office did investigate through the sexual assault division, he said.

“The determination was made that it did not rise to the level of criminality,” he said.

Gmoser said the incident involved communication between Drew and a student. There was no evidence of sexual conduct or contact, he said.

“It was suspect and investigated carefully, not quote ‘swept under the rug,’” Gmoser said. “If there was no evidence of sexual contact or conduct. There was evidence of communication, but that is as far as the issue went.”

Gmoser said his office is usually contacted directly by the archdiocese through an attorney of any allegation and they are investigate. He said he has received three of four over the years.

“It’s obvious that in this matter we have handled things very, very poorly, made serious mistakes. And for that I am deeply, deeply apologetic. I’m deeply sorry. I’m sorry for the pain that this has caused so many people,” Schnurr wrote in a statement.

“I want to assure everybody that we have learned from this experience and that we are making necessary procedural and personnel changes that are, indeed, necessary to not repeat it.

“To the people who have been impacted by this, I express my deep sorrow and my deep apologies.”

Drew served at pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Liberty Twp. from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2018. He also served at Elder High School, in Madisonville, in Beavercreek and in Dayton.

RELATED: Liberty Twp. parish meeting postponed concerning suspended priest

The archdiocese has also removed Bishop Joseph R. Binzer as head of priest personnel while it conducts an investigation into the fact he allegedly knew about the allegations concerning Drew but did not inform Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, according to a report today from the Catholic News Agency.

We’ll continue to update this story as we learn more.

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