A top administrator for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has resigned after an investigation claimed to have tracked him using Grindr and visiting gay bars.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced the abrupt resignation of Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill Tuesday (20 July) amid “impending media reports alleging possible improper behavior”.
The USCCB said the priest resigned to “avoid becoming a distraction to the operations and ongoing work” of the group. A spokeswoman told The Washington Post that it was Burrill’s decision to resign.
Following the USCCB’s announcement, Catholic news site The Pillar published an article based on data that was reportedly “correlated to Burrill’s mobile device”.
The Pillar alleged based on this cellphone data that Burrill “visited gay bars and private residences while using a location-based hook-up app in numerous cities from 2018 to 2020, even while traveling on assignment for the US bishops’ conference”.
Burrill had been the general secretary of the conference, a role that coordinates administrative matters and planning for the assembly, since November 2020. Before that, he served as an associate general secretary for the conference for more than four years.
The Pillar reported it had obtained information on Burrill’s alleged movements based on the “commercially available records of app data signals” that Grindr collects from users. It said the data was “authenticated by an independent data consulting firm contracted by The Pillar“.
The data, the outlet claimed, was correlated to an “unique mobile device” used by Burrill from 2018 until at least 2020. The device appeared to be tracked at meetings attended by Burrill and at several private residences linked to Burrill.
Reverend James Martin, a Jesuit priest and advocate for LGBT+ inclusion in the Catholic Church, criticised the report. Martin told the Associated Press that priests should “obviously keep their promises of celibacy”, but Catholic journalists “should not use immoral means to spy on priests”.
“Because what comes next? Spying on Catholic school teachers? Spying on parishioners?” Martin questioned.
“And where does it end – when we have a church where no one has ever sinned? The church will be empty.”
The USCCB said in its announcement of Burrill’s resignation that the conference takes “all allegations of misconduct seriously and will pursue all appropriate steps to address them”.
Using ‘surveillance technology’ to track clergy may be sign of larger problem, says Catholic news outlet
A report by the Catholic News Agency published on Monday (19 July) hinted that using “national security-style surveillance technology” to track clergy might be the hallmark of a larger scandal yet to come.
The outlet reported that it received a tip from someone claiming to have access to surveillance information about multiple priests on dating apps. The party told the Catholic News Agency that they had “access to technology capable of identifying clergy and others” who downloaded “hook-up” apps like Grindr and Tinder.
The Catholic News Agency did not mention Burrill specifically, but it said there “are reports this week that information targeting allegedly active homosexual priests may become public”.