The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has placed two priests on administrative leave, which church officials say is the "strongest action" a local bishop can take on his own against a priest.
Parents learned this week of Rev. Geoffrey Drew’s suspension from St. Ignatius School in Green Township, but the WCPO I-Team discovered the existence of a second priest that the Archdiocese had placed on administrative leave by searching the ‘Protecting Our Children’ page on the Archdiocese’s website.
The Archdiocese declined to answer WCPO's questions about the allegations against Father Clarence Heis. The Archdiocese website only refers to a "pending investigation" of Heis. It also does not indicate when the Archdiocese placed Heis on administrative leave.
"Anytime they go to the extraordinary action of suspending or removing a priest - or anybody in their employment - it means there's a serious concern," said Dan Frondorf, the leader of the Cincinnati chapter of the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests, also known as SNAP.
This is the second time the Archdiocese has suspended Father Heis.
It also placed him on leave in 2006 after Heis pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct and resisting. A police officer arrested Heis in 2005 for allegedly having sex with two adult men in a public park in Fairborn, near Dayton. The Archdiocese reinstated Heis in 2009, according to The Catholic Telegraph, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Since his reinstatement, Heis has worked out of the main office of the Archdiocese, according to his LinkedIn account and issues of the Official Catholic Directory.
Parishioners learned this week that Father Drew, the pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish, is accused of behavior that violates the Archdiocese 'Decree on Child Protection,' according to a letter to the parish written by Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr.
The Archdiocese put Drew on administrative leave last week after he was accused of inappropriately text messaging at least one boy at the school. The school principal says school officials were never told that Drew, the parish priest, was supposed to be monitored and kept away from children.
Drew was an influential voice in the Archdiocese. The Catholic Directory shows he served as a Consultor in 2006 and as a member of the Presbyteral Council in 2007, positions that advise the bishop in matters relating to the administration of the diocese.
The suspension of Father Geoffrey Drew, the pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish, began on July 23, one year after he transferred from St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Liberty Township.
In an email to St. Ignatius parents Tuesday, Kevin Vance, the principal of the parish school, said he had not been informed that Father Drew had been 'under monitoring' based on his behavior at St. Maximilian.
“I can state unequivocally that no administrator or school staff member was informed that Fr. Geoff should have limited contact with students, before our meeting this morning,” Vance said in the email.
Peggy Sullivan, a mother of three, described her reaction after a meeting with archdiocese officials Monday night at the Monfort Heights church.
“Number one was shock … then that immediately turned to anger and rage,” Sullivan said.
The Archdiocese has not provided details on the allegations against Father Drew.
There is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing against Drew, Archbishop Schnurr said, but the diocese is “committed to investigating fully any allegations, criminal or otherwise, that we receive.”
Schnurr announced Wednesday that Drew will not return to St. Ignatius.
Drew will soon undergo a physical, psychological and spiritual assessment at an independent in-patient treatment facility, according to the archbishop's letter to the parish. Schnurr said he will consider the assessment and recommendations from professionals in determining the next step in the investigation.
Although Drew has not been charged with a crime, the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office released this statement Tuesday asking people with information about Drew’s case to come forward:
“Father Steve Angi, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, invited Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier to attend a meeting at the parish last night to answer any questions about possible criminal prosecutions. As a result of that meeting, the parish is going to send out a letter to the parishioners to see if there is any information of which Green Township Police should be aware. The police welcome any information.”
Father Drew became the pastor of St. Ignatius in July 2018. He had previously served as pastor of St. Maximilian for nine years.
Drew transferred to St. Maximilian after leading the St. Rita of Cascia Parish in Dayton from 2006-2009. He served as Parochial Vicar at St. Luke The Evangelist Church in Beavercreek from July 2004-June 2005, his first full-time ministry position after being ordained in 2004.
Prior to becoming a Catholic priest, Drew had served fifteen years as director of liturgy and music at St. Jude The Apostle Church.
Drew was also the assistant band director and a music teacher at Elder High School from 1983-1990, according to his LinkedIn page.
Archbishop Schnurr has asked St. Ignatius community members to contact Mark Piepmeier at the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office to report anything “suspicious or criminal” regarding Drew.
Contact Piepmeier by calling 513-946-3078 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schnurr appointed Deacon Tim Helmick as temporary administrator of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish until a permanent pastor is appointed.