Cincinnati, Ohio, Aug 19, 2019 / 11:08 am (CNA).- A Cincinnati priest removed from ministry last month for grooming behavior has been indicted on nine counts of raping an altar server.
Fr. Geoff Drew was arrested Aug. 19 on allegations dating back 20 years, which concern Drew’s time as music minister at a local parish, prior to his ordination as a priest. The accusations concern abuse said to have taken place over two years, when the reported victim was 10 and 11 years old. If convicted, the priest could face life in prison.
Drew was removed from ministry last month, after allegations surfaced that he had sent a series of inappropriate text messages to a 17-year-old boy. A history of similar allegations against Drew was then confirmed by the archdiocese.
In a statement released Aug. 19, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati acknowledged the charges and urged anyone with information concerning the allegations to contact local law enforcement.
“Today, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati learned that a Hamilton County Grand Jury returned a nine-count indictment against Fr. Geoff Drew stemming from alleged crimes during his time at St. Jude Parish,” the statement said.
“We have fully cooperated with this investigation and will continue to do so.The protection of young people is of paramount importance and can never be compromised. We urge anyone who has any information regarding the accusations against Fr. Geoff Drew to please report it to Cincinnati Police.”
Drew worked as music minister at the parish of St. Jude in Bridgetown, Ohio, from 1984-1999. During that time he was also a music teacher at Elder High School until 1991. He entered seminary in 1999, and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2004.
The archdiocesan statement emphasized that neither the archdiocese, nor Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr were aware of the rape allegations at the time of Drew’s removal last month.
“The Archdiocese of Cincinnati was made aware of these allegations after Archbishop Schnurr removed Fr. Drew as pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish on July 23” the statement said.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters told local media that Drew’s alleged victim came forward last month to report the rapes, calling the case “incredibly disturbing.”
Prosecutors also say it is likely the priest has had other victims.
The archdiocese indicated earlier this month that they had referred to law enforcement some allegations of Drew’s misconduct stemming from his time as a high school music teacher to law enforcement. Those allegations reportedly arose during a 2018 investigation into other complaints against the priest.
CNA reported earlier this month that complaints were raised to at least one archdiocesan official about Drew’s inappropriate behavior with teenage and pre-teenage boys as early as 2013. Complaints were made to auxiliary bishop Joseph Binzer, who is the archdiocesan vicar general, in 2013 and 2015.
Binzer referred the complaints to law enforcement, who found no evidence of criminal activity.
Binzer did not, however, notify the archdiocesan personnel board or Archbishop Dennis Schnurr about the multiple complaints he had received against Drew.
The allegations were also reportedly not recorded by Binzer in the priest’s personnel file.
Drew’s 2018 request for a transfer from one parish to another was approved without any member of the board – apart from Binzer – being aware of the previous complaints.
One month after Drew’s arrival at his new parish, a parishioner at his previous church resubmitted a 2015 complaint made about the priest. The complaint was again reported to Butler County officials, but this time it was also brought to the attention of Archbishop Schnurr.
Sources close to the chancery told CNA that because Binzer failed to notify the archbishop or the priest personnel board about the previous allegations he had received, the accusation was believed by them to be an isolated incident.
The priest was asked to restrict his involvement with the school and was assigned to meet regularly with a “monitor,” but school faculty and administration were not told about these restrictions, or the reasons for them.
Sources have told CNA that Drew was on the verge of being sent to an inpatient treatment center for priests at the time he was arrested and charged with rape.
Binzer was removed from his position as head of priest personnel for the archdiocese earlier this month, but remains vicar general of the archdiocese.
On Monday, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati confirmed to CNA that following the initial reports of Drew’s removeal from ministry, Bishop Binzer resigned from the USCCB’s committee on child and youth protection, which advises the bishops’ conference on all matters related to safe environment policy and child protection.
Following questions submitted by CNA, the archdiocese confirmed that the committee were informed of the resignation on Aug. 6.
Binzer had previously served as the representative for Region VI of the U.S. bishops’ conference, including the dioceses of Ohio and Michigan.
This post has been updated to reflect that Bishop Binzer has resigned from the USCCB’s child and youth protection committee.