Catholic Priest Steps Down After Being Found on Tinder App

Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, former general secretary of the U.S. bishops’ conference, announced his resignation Tuesday, after The Pillar found evidence the priest engaged in serial sexual misconduct, while he held a critical oversight role in the Catholic Church’s response to the recent spate of sexual abuse and misconduct scandals.

Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill. Credit: USCCB/screenshot

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“It is with sadness that I inform you that Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill has resigned as General Secretary of the Conference,” Archbishop Jose Gomez wrote July 20 in a memo to U.S. bishops.

“On Monday, we became aware of impending media reports alleging possible improper behavior by Msgr. Burrill. What was shared with us did not include allegations of misconduct with minors. However, in order to avoid becoming a distraction to the operations and ongoing work of the Conference, Monsignor has resigned effective immediately,” Gomez added.

The memo came after the USCCB and Burrill were contacted by The Pillar regarding evidence of a pattern of sexual misconduct on Burrill’s part. Burrill did not respond to questions from The Pillar before his resignation was announced to bishops. 

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Burrill was elected general secretary of the U.S. bishops’ conference in November 2020. In that role, Burrill was effectively the highest-ranking American cleric who is not a bishop. 

 A priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, he began to work at the bishops’ conference as associate general secretary in February 2016. In that capacity, the priest was charged with helping to coordinate the U.S. bishops’ response to the Church’s 2018 sexual abuse and coercion scandals.

But an analysis of app data signals correlated to Burrill’s mobile device shows the priest also visited gay bars and private residences while using a location-based hookup app in numerous cities from 2018 to 2020, even while traveling on assignment for the U.S. bishops’ conference. 

According to commercially available records of app signal data obtained by The Pillar, a mobile device correlated to Burrill emitted app data signals from the location-based hookup app Grindr on a near-daily basis during parts of 2018, 2019, and 2020 — at both his USCCB office and his USCCB-owned residence, as well as during USCCB meetings and events in other cities.

In 2018, the priest was a member of the USCCB’s executive staff and charged with oversight of the conference’s pastoral departments. He and several senior USCCB officials met with Pope Francis Oct. 8, 2018, to discuss how the conference was responding to ecclesiastical scandals related to sexual misconduct, duplicity, and clerical cover-ups. 

Burrill, then second-in-command at the conference, is widely reported to have played a central role in coordinating conference and diocesan responses to the scandals, and coordinating between the conference and the Vatican.

Data app signals suggest he was at the same time engaged in serial and illicit sexual activity.

On June 20, 2018, the day the McCarrick revelations became public, the mobile device correlated to Burrill emitted hookup app signals at the USCCB staff residence, and from a street in a residential Washington neighborhood. He traveled to Las Vegas shortly thereafter, data records show.

On June 22, the mobile device correlated to Burrill emitted signals from Entourage, which bills itself as Las Vegas’ “gay bathhouse.”

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The Grindr app and similar hookup apps use mobile device location data to allow users to see a listing of other nearby users of the app, to chat and exchange images with nearby users within the app, or to arrange a meeting for the sake of an anonymous sexual encounter.

Commercially available app signal data does not identify the names of app users, but instead correlates a unique numerical identifier to each mobile device using particular apps. Signal data, collected by apps after users consent to data collection, is aggregated and sold by data vendors. It can be analyzed to provide timestamped location data and usage information for each numbered device. 

The data obtained and analyzed by The Pillar conveys mobile app data signals during two 26-week periods, the first in 2018 and the second in 2019 and 2020. The data was obtained from a data vendor and authenticated by an independent data consulting firm contracted by The Pillar.

The Pillar correlated a unique mobile device to Burrill when it was used consistently from 2018 until at least 2020 from the USCCB staff residence and headquarters, from meetings at which Burrill was in attendance, and was also used on numerous occasions at Burrill’s family lake house, near the residences of Burrill’s family members, and at a Wisconsin apartment in Burrill’s hometown, at which Burrill himself has been listed as a resident.Subscribe

The Pillar approached USCCB officials last week, offering to present findings regarding personnel misconduct to USCCB leadership during an off-the-record meeting before publication, and then allowing the conference time to formulate its internal response. 

The conference initially scheduled a meeting with The Pillar for Monday, July 19, but on Sunday the conference cancelled the meeting, and said it would only respond to written questions, which The Pillar submitted late Sunday night, requesting a response by Monday afternoon.

The USCCB asked for additional time to respond, and The Pillar offered again a willingness to meet, while agreeing to delay publication in order for conference leaders to devise their response. The conference sent on Tuesday morning responses to questions from The Pillar and requested a meeting Tuesday afternoon for further information, in order to investigate the claims against Burrill — the same information which The Pillar had planned to convey at the initially scheduled meeting.

Bishops were notified before the USCCB’s Tuesday afternoon meeting with The Pillar that Burrill had resigned.

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Use of location-based hookup apps is inconsistent with clerical obligations to continence and chastity, according to Fr. Thomas Berg, a professor of moral theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York.

Berg told The Pillar that “according to canon law and the Church’s tradition, clerics are obliged to observe ‘perfect and perpetual continence,’ as a reflection of what should be our lived pursuit of our spousal relationship with the Church and with Christ.”

Calling it “obviously a scandal” that a cleric would use location-based hookup apps, Berg said there is “a real disconnect between the appearance of a man who presumably is earnestly striving to live the life of chastity, when it becomes glaringly evident that he is dramatically failing at that because he’s gone to hookup apps to look actively for sexual partners — that itself is an enormous scandal.”

In his experience in formation and religious life, Berg said that “when it becomes evident that a cleric is regularly and glaringly failing to live continence,” that can become “only a step away from sexual predation.”

The issue is compounded when a cleric in a position of ecclesiastical authority is found to “engage in a double life,” Berg said.

“That almost always impacts the lives of other people around them because deception breeds deception breeds deception.”   

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The use of location-based hookup apps has in recent years presented…

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Original article posted by staff at The Pillar (Catholic site). Title altered by BereanNation.com.

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