The accountant who became a bishop

The accountant who became a bishop July 10, 2011

The Cincinnati Enquirer (via USA TODAY) has an interesting look at Ohio’s new auxiliary, and his unusual journey into the priesthood.


Bishop Joe Binzer worked in the business world for a decade before entering the seminary and in June became the region’s highest-ranking Catholic leader behind Archbishop Dennis Schnurr.

The former accountant, whose style is a combination of good-natured priest and meticulous organizer, has for years relied on his analytical skills, as well as his faith, to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the church.

His business now is saving souls, but Binzer remains a clear-eyed pragmatist when it comes to doing his job and solving tough problems.

He has helped the church balance budgets, reached out to clergy abuse victims and organized a range of events, from major public ceremonies to small wedding rehearsals .

His attention to detail is legendary — even his 81-year-old mother teases him about it — and it has made him a go-to guy at the archdiocese.

“He’s willing to face problems and deal with them,” says retired Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk, who gave Binzer one of the top jobs in the archdiocese eight years ago when he named him chancellor. “I knew that whatever it was, he was going to get the job done.”

Binzer’s new job as Schnurr’s auxiliary bishop is still taking shape, but he expects church finances, public outreach and priest personnel matters to be at the top of his to-do list.

Whatever the task, his approach will likely be the same: Identify the problem, gather information and come up with a solution.

Binzer might still be an accountant if a friend hadn’t asked him a tough question over lunch 25 years ago.

“What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” his friend asked.

Binzer shrugged. He was in his early 30s and had been an accountant for a big Cincinnati firm for 10 years. As far as he knew, he already was doing what he was going to do with the rest of his life.

“You know what you should do?” said his friend, a fellow Catholic who knew Binzer was serious about his faith. “You should become a priest.”

Binzer was stunned. He was a devout Catholic, but he also was a practical, cautious guy — a number cruncher — and the idea of giving up a job that suited him so well for one so different seemed a little crazy.

Yet the thought nagged at him.

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One response to “The accountant who became a bishop”

  1. Bishop Binzer is a terrific blessing to us in Cincinnati. In addition to the grace of God, the influence of St Francis, and the encouragement of good friends, this grateful former “formal heretic” owes her return to the Church to his kind guidance. He didn’t know me from any other stray sheep; he’s just that way with everybody.

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