U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference senior administrator resigned after cell phone data revealed he was a frequent user of Grindr, the queer dating app, and regularly visited bars gays.
In one declaration Published Tuesday, the organization announced that Monsignor Jeffrey Burill had resigned his post as secretary general after the group learned of “imminent media reports alleging possible inappropriate behavior.”
Since last November, Burill has been the organization’s first administrator. As Secretary General, he was in charge of coordinating all the administrative work and planning of the conference, which is the network of Catholic bishops in the country.
Catholic media outlet The Pillar first detected Burill’s activities by obtaining the device’s location data from a data provider before hiring a consulting firm to analyze the cases.
According to the commercially available recordings of application signal data obtained by The Pillar, a mobile device correlated to Burill transmitted application data signals from the location-based connection application Grindr to a almost daily basis for parts of 2018, 2019 and 2020, ”the Pillar reported. “The signals from the data apps suggest that he was simultaneously engaged in serial and illicit sexual activity,” he added.
In addition, data obtained by the Pillar revealed that in June 2018, “the mobile device correlated to Burill emitted signals from Entourage, which bills itself as the ‘gay bath’ of Las Vegas.”
As a priest, Burill is required to take a vow of celibacy. In addition, many Catholic teachings consider sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage to be a sin.
There is currently no federal law prohibiting the purchase of “anonymized” data. Nonetheless, privacy experts have repeatedly expressed concerns about this data collected by apps and then shared with advertising companies.
Even though obvious information such as name and phone numbers can be omitted, anonymized data can still include other crucial information such as gender, age, and device ID. As a result, some researchers argue that anonymizing data is virtually impossible.
Grindr called Pillar’s reporting “homophobic” and denied that his data could be publicly available. “The alleged activities listed in this unattributed blog post are technically infeasible and incredibly unlikely to occur,” a Grindr spokesperson said.
The Reverend James Martin, a Jesuit priest and prominent advocate for LGBTQ inclusion in the Catholic Church, also criticized Pillar’s investigation.
In a statement on Facebook, Martin wrote: “The article … has repeatedly confused homosexuality with pedophilia … These witch hunts, usually aimed at vulnerable people working for the church, or targeting people with whom the authors do not agree or just do not like, must end.