The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced Tuesday the resignation of its top administrator for “possible improper behavior” after an outlet linked Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill’s phone activity to gay bars and the gay dating app Grindr.
A USCCB spokesperson, Chieko Noguchi, said it would stop the revelations “becoming a distraction to the operations and ongoing work of the Conference”, after allegations of “improper behavior” by the Catholic official, who had his phone data reported by The Pillar, a Catholic newsletter.
The newsletter wrote on Tuesday that Burrill had been on Grindr on an almost “daily basis during parts of 2018, 2019, and 2020”, despite taking a vow of celibacy.
Burrill was accused of being on Grindr “both [at] his USCCB office and his USCCB-owned residence, as well as during USCCB meetings and events in other cities”.
Although there was no proof that he “was in contact with minors through his use of Grindr”, the website went on to accuse the Catholic official of being in “conflict with his role in developing and overseeing national child protection policies”, despite no link between the two.
It added that it “obtained and analyzed” data from his phone through “a data vendor and [was] authenticated by an independent data consulting firm”, which was able to connect the location data from Grindr to a device owned by Burrill.
It is still not clear whether or not The Pillar paid for the cellphone data, or who the data vendor was, although apps frequently sell their data to aggregators and marketing firms, as The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
According to The Post, Burrill’s resignation came a day after another religious news website, The Catholic News Agency, warned of concerns of clergy members being linked to Grindr and use of other “hook up” apps through the tracking of phone data.
The news org (@PillarCatholic) is being cagey about how they got it, but seems clear its both Grindr and location data collected by a data broker. See this @eff report on how Grindr was using a Twitter tool to sell user data until Jan. 2020https://t.co/QlgFpuoCxI
— Gerrit De Vynck (@GerritD) July 20, 2021
In a statement to The Independent, Grindr says it was “aligned with” The Washington Post’s description of the story on Tuesday, “which describes the original blog post from The Pillar as homophobic and full of unsubstantiated innuendo.”
“The alleged activities listed in that unattributed blog post are infeasible from a technical standpoint and incredibly unlikely to occur,” the company added.
“There is absolutely no evidence supporting the allegations of improper data collection or usage related to the Grindr app as purported.”