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Archdiocese admits to failures in investigation of Rev. Geoff Drew

Years of complaints, no evidence of criminal behavior
Posted: 2:18 PM, Aug 05, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-06 07:29:19-04
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CINCINNATI — Officials with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati say they made “serious mistakes” in responding to parishioners’ concerns about the behavior of Rev. Geoff Drew dating back at least six years.

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr provided new information Monday about what led to Drew’s leave of absence from St. Ignatius of Loyola, which began July 23.

Timeline

Parishioners of St. Maximilian Kolbe, where Drew was pastor from July 2009 to June 2018, expressed concerns to the central office of the archdiocese in 2013 and again in 2015, according to a news release from the archdiocese.

Drew's concerning behavior included “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,” the release said.

The complaints were forwarded to the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office and Butler County Children’s Services. The prosecutor’s investigation found no evidence of criminal behavior.

According to Schnurr, Bishop Joseph Binzer addressed the issue with Drew, who said he would change his behavior.

The archdiocese’s central office did not receive another complaint about Drew until August 2018, a month after he had been assigned as pastor of St. Ignatius. His departure from Maximilian was not related to parishioners' prior complaints, according to the archdiocese; he had requested the switch himself so he could live closer to his mother.

Drew's complete career history is as follows, per the archdiocese. Some assignments overlap.

  • Music teacher at Elder High School — 1983-1990
  • Music minister at St. Jude Parish — 1984-1999
  • Mount St. Mary's Seminar of the West — 1999-2004
  • Internship year at St. Anthony Madisonville — 2001-2002
  • Ordained a priest of the archdiocese — 2004
  • Parochial vicar at St. Luke Beavercreek — July 1, 2004-June 30, 2005
  • Pastor of St. Rita Dayton — July 1, 2005-June 30, 2009
  • Pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe — July 1, 2009-June 30, 2018
  • Pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola — July 1, 2018-July 23, 2019

The 2018 complaint reiterated the “2015 and earlier concerns” from St. Maximilian Kolbe. Again, the information was turned over to the Butler County Prosecutor for investigation.

In September 2018, at the recommendation of the prosecutor’s office, “Fr. Drew was asked to restrict his involvement with the school during the investigation and was assigned a ‘monitor,’” the release said.

Binzer received a letter in October 2018 from a St. Ignatius parishioner describing an encounter between Drew and a boy at Elder High School, where Drew had been a music teacher from 1988-1991.

By February 2019, the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office had found no evidence of criminal behavior. However, Father Steve Angi commissioned an independent firm — Strategic HR — to conduct an independent investigation “since the allegations involved possible violations of the Decree on Child Protection.”

The Strategic HR report uncovered no criminal behavior but recommended Drew begin counseling sessions starting in June of this year.

It was in June that the central office received a complaint from a St. Ignatius family that Drew had texted their teenage son. That complaint was turned over to the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office.

“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,” Schnurr said in a statement. “I’m deeply sorry. I’m sorry for the pain that this has caused so many people.”

What's next?

Drew will not be returning to St. Ignatius, the archdiocese announced on July 31.

He will undergo a physical, psychological and spiritual assessment at an independent in-patient treatment facility. Schnurr said he will consider the assessment and recommendations from professionals in determining the next step in the investigation.

Schnurr on Monday identified two major flaws in the archdiocese's handling of the case:

  • Not launching an independent third-party investigation in 2013 and 2015, and relying solely on the criminal investigations.
  • Putting restrictions on Drew and his interactions with children in 2018 (as opposed to stronger or more serious measures), and not communicating his history fully with some St. Ignatius parish and school leaders.

Moving forward, Schnurr said there will no longer be monitored or restricted priests — instead, priests facing serious accusations will be put on leave pending investigation.

The archdiocese will also work on personnel and procedural changes to be announced in the near future.

Schnurr said Strategic HR has been asked to conduct an investigation of Drew's behavior spanning back to his employment as a music teacher at St. Jude Parish from 1984-1999.

“I want to ensure 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,” the archbishop said.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters also reiterated his request for anyone with information about Drew's behavior contact law enforcement.

“The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office attended the meeting with concerned parishioners from St Ignatius," he said in a statement to WCPO. "We asked if anyone had information concerning criminal conduct to call our office or Green Township Police. The matter is under investigation.”