Investigation Reveals Decades of Clergy Cover-Up in Cincinnati

News: US News
by David Nussman  •  •  November 19, 2019   

Local news exposes how Church leaders handled predator priests

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CINCINNATI ( - Local news is shedding light on how Catholic leaders in Cincinnati have mishandled clerical sex abuse scandals.

Cincinnati-area television station WCPO is putting out a series of four exposes this week on the way the Cincinnati archdiocese has handled clergy accused of abuse. Also investigated were the diocese of Covington, Kentucky — just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati — and religious orders with locations in the area.

WCPO's investigative team spent three months looking into how abuse claims were handled. The video report introducing the series stated that the WCPO I-Team used 60 years of Catholic directories to piece together accused priests' assignments over the decades.

The team compiled a list of 92 priests and religious brothers accused of sexual abuse who were stationed in the Cincinnati area.

According to the I-Team, clerical sex abuse victims in the diocese of Covington have received some of the biggest payouts in the country, but victims in Cincinnati have received some of the smallest settlements.

In the introductory segment and again on Monday, the I-Team highlighted the case of Cincinnati priest Daniel Pater, who was removed from ministry in 2014 after admitting he sexually abused a 14-year-old girl in the 1980s.

Shortly after the Vatican banned Pater from active ministry, he became an organist and music director at a local Episcopalian church. More than five years later, the pastor at that church fired Pater shortly after a call from WCPO. Now, Pater works as a bus driver.

Pater is on the archdiocese's list of clergy accused of sexual abuse.

WCPO reached out to Pater repeatedly, but received no response.

The archdiocese of Cincinnati did not answer a number of WCPO's questions about the Pater case. But an archdiocesan spokesperson did state, "Fr. Daniel Pater has been permanently removed from priestly ministry. ... He is prohibited from wearing clerical clothing and publicly presenting himself as a priest. He is leading a life of prayer and penance."

Attorney Konrad Kircher made this comment to WCPO about priests who are laicized or removed from ministry: "The Catholic Church still has not developed any mechanism for following these priests. You know, when they are laicized, dismissed from the clergy, the Catholic Church washes its hands of them."

"Laicization is a form of accountability," he remarked, "but on the other hand, it just throws these people out into the public."

Kircher continued, "They can go off and form a new life, and re-victimize."

Monday's report also shed light on accused priest Fr. Robert Poandl, who died behind bars earlier this year.

David Harper says Fr. Poandl raped him when he was 10 years old during a trip from Cincinnati to West Virginia in August 1991.

"Right after he abused me, he told me that he sinned," Harper told WCPO, "I sinned, that our sins were between us and God. And required me, made me sit down and pray for forgiveness."

Harper struggled with depression, anger and suicidal tendencies after being raped by the priest.

In 2013, Poandl was found guilty in federal court of transporting Harper across state lines to rape him. He spent the rest of his life in prison.

But the archdiocese of Cincinnati only added Poandl's name to its list of credibly accused clergy last month, WCPO reports.

Laicization is a form of accountability, but on the other hand, it just throws these people out into the public.

The written articles for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are already up on WCPO's site, but the video reports will roll out on their respective days.

Tuesday's installment in the four-day series reveals how a number of publicly accused clergy have been assigned to the same parishes and institutions in the Cincinnati area — including both the Cincinnati archdiocese and the diocese of Covington.

For instance, Elder High School — an all-boys Catholic school in Price Hill on Cincinnati's west side — had five accused priests on staff for a combined total of 62 years.

But, according to WCPO's statistics, some of the worse offenders on this front were religious orders with locations in the Cincinnati region.

The Glenmary Home Missioners Headquarters, WCPO says, had seven accused priests on staff for a combined 49 years.

Also high on the list are St. Xavier High School and Xavier University — both run by the Jesuits.

The segment slated for Wednesday discusses how the statue of limitations has stopped some clerical sex abuse victims from filing charges or suits against their alleged abusers.

Lastly, Thursday's segment will highlight credibly accused priests still living in the greater Cincinnati area.

Members of the WCPO I-Team say their investigation was prompted by the case of Fr. Geoff Drew. The archdiocese of Cincinnati put Drew on a leave of absence in late July, removing him as pastor, after he sent text messages to a 17-year-old boy. The messages were not sexual in nature, but sending them violated child protection policies.

It was soon revealed that Fr. Drew previously was accused of physical boundary violations with minors at a parish where he was previously assigned, and that Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer did not inform Abp. Dennis Schnurr of those accusations.

Seeing reports on Fr. Drew's removal, a man came forward accusing Drew of raping him repeatedly in 1988–1991, before Drew became a priest. At the time, Drew was a music minister at St. Jude the Apostle parish in Bridgetown and a teacher at Elder High School.

Due to that allegation, a Hamilton County grand jury indicted Fr. Drew on nine counts of rape in August. Drew was arrested Aug. 19, and a judge set bail at $5 million. Drew's attorney asked for a lower bail, but a judge denied the request.

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