I awoke today to the news in catholic circles of a resignation. Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, who until today was the General Secretary of the US Conference of (Roman) Catholic Bishops. Generally considered the highest ranking Roman Catholic cleric (who isn’t a Bishop) in the country. The position he vacated coordinated the Roman Catholic message and mission of all the bishops serving in the US.
He was forced to resign today due to a blog post on an ultra-conservative catholic website that, somehow, obtained access to data from a gay dating / “hook up” application called Grindr.
They purport that they were able to track him via this data to frequenting a gay bar in DC; that he was on the app daily; and even tracked him to a gay “bath-house” in Las Vegas, NV.
The website, and accompanying webpage (which I will not link here) seems to be on the fringe of what most would consider “responsible journalism,” so many in Catholic circles find it to be dubious at best.
If these accusations are true, that is sad. However, it is far from what many consider “scandalous.”
He allegedly frequented a gay bar: Does that mean he engaged in activity that was against the Roman Church’s teaching? No, it does not. It’s no different than going to a sports bar to watch the game or just to socialize.
He allegedly used Grindr: Not everyone on Grindr is there for sex. Many are there to find friends and dates- there is no evidence that he had sexual relations with someone from the app.
He allegedly “frequented a bath-house” in Las Vegas: While those establishments are primarily for sexual encounters, there is no evidence he engaged in it. Maybe he didn’t know what it was. Bath Houses are common in many parts of the world and have nothing to do with sex.
In at statement from the Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Steven Miles said “I am a sinner. So are you. So is Msgr. Burrill. Not one of us has a personal life that would withstand the sort of scrutiny the Pillar has applied to Burrill.”
The owners of Grindr stated that their data “… is not for sale and infeasible from a technology standpoint.”
In the end, and here is what is important, this priests life is over. Regardless of his true sexual orientation, and whether this is all true or not, he most likely will never be a pastor again. He may end up tucked in some office in the diocese that has little to do with and minimal contact with the faithful. They may also ask him to retire, resign, or laicize him, leaving him without any identity at all.
All of this information is not a matter for the court of public opinion. If Monsignor Burrill broke his vow of celibacy, its a matter between him, his confessor, and God.
Frankly, it’s none of our business.