Allegations against former a former Liberty Twp. pastor have prompted the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to make immediate changes for how situations involving priests suspected of improper behavior are handled.
The Rev. Geoff Drew has been accused of inappropriate touching and sexual comments directed at teenage boys starting in 2013 while at St. Maximillian Kolbe Catholic Church.
During a news conference Monday, archdiocese communications director Mike Schafer outlined allegations against Drew that led to Archbishop Dennis Schnurr suspending him July 23 and ordering him into “comprehensive physical, psychological and spiritual evaluation at an independent in-patient treatment facility.”
“In 2013 and again in 2015, the central office of the archdiocese received concerns from St. Maximilian Kolbe parishioners regarding Fr. Drew’s behavior. 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, directed at teenage boys,” Schafer said. “This behavior naturally made these boys uncomfortable.”
In addition, there was a report of Fr. Drew texting some of the boys “teasing them about girlfriends.’”
Bishop Joseph R. Binzer, as the archdiocese director of priest personnel, discussed the issues with Drew. New allegations surfaced recently, and the church ordered a monitor for Drew. Monitoring is no longer part of the discipline process, as a suspected priest will immediately be placed on administrative leave during an investigation.
The archdiocese also revealed Monday it has removed Binzer as director of priest personnel while it conducts an investigation into the matter because he did not inform Schnurr.
Drew left St. Max after nine years, taking up the post as pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Cincinnati last summer. There were no other complaints about Drew until Schnurr, who said he was not made aware of the previous complaints, received a letter directly from a St. Maximilian Kolbe parishioner reiterating previous concerns expressed about Drew, the archdiocese said.
The letter was given to the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office, church officials said. No criminal activity was found.
Prosecutor Mike Gmoser’s office recommended Drew’s involvement with St. Ignatius School be restricted and a monitor be assigned.
“Our acceptance of this recommendation, combined with inadequate oversight, was obviously ineffective and a mistake, and we will not repeat it,” Schafer said.
Schafer said the process was inadequate.
“(Drew) was told to limit his interaction with the school, obviously not enforced or regulated adequately because he still as we know appeared at the school on several occasions,” Schafer said.
“The monitor was person he met with — and monitor might be the wrong term but that’s what we call it — a person that he met with for accountability purposes on a regular basis. But that person wasn’t tracking him 24/7. So a lot of that was going off his own self-reporting, much like you’d go to an AA meeting and tell us how the last week was.”
Gmoser told the Journal-News his office has investigated every complaint the archdiocese has brought and will continue to do so. He said he came close to crossing the line of his responsibility by suggesting the monitor, since criminal behavior wasn’t involved. He said it isn’t his job to “monitor the monitor.”
“My job is to determine whether or not a crime was committed and I went out on a limb a little bit by saying you need to monitor this guy and keep him away from kids,” Gmoser said, adding he could have potentially opened himself up to a civil defamation suit by giving the warning.
“We may have some consequences by saying you need to keep an eye on this guy or monitor him, but I was willing to do it because I thought it was important that the archdiocese know that was something they should do.”
Schafer said that since this matter came to light, more complaints have come in both to the archdiocese and the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office.
“I do know that they are receiving a number of reports as could be expected with all the publicity around this,” Schafer said. “Of course, we are urging people to contact either the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office or the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office if they have any information, know of, or experienced anything that is worthy of report regarding Fr. Drew.”
Fr. Steve Angi, chancellor for the archdiocese, said he has received six or seven recent complaints from parishioners at St. Max, St. Ignatius and elsewhere, and he has forwarded them to the prosecutors.
Angi also confirmed Fr. Clarence Heis, who was assigned as archdiocesan director of health and hospital ministries, previously served at parishes in Coldwater, Mechanicsburg and North Lewisville, is also on administrative leave.
After pleading no contest on a charge of public indecency and resisting arrest at a Dayton-area park in 2005, he was suspended from active ministry in 2006 for three years before being reinstated in 2009.
Here is how to report suspicious or criminal allegations:
Mr. Mark Piepmeier
Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office
Ms. Teresa Maley
Coordinator of Ministry to Survivors of Abuse, Archdiocese of Cincinnati
513-263-6623 or 800-686-2724 ext. 6623
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