Pope John XXIII would have justified the reforms of Vatican Council II by saying, “I want to open the windows of the church so that we can see outside and people can see inside. Did he think Catholics could be outraged by what they saw?
On July 20, the Pillar, an eight-month Catholic newsletter, published an investigation report that rocked the institutional church, prompted the resignation of a prominent priest from a national leadership position and sparked a fierce debate over privacy, priestly celibacy, homosexuality among the clergy and journalistic ethics .
The Pillar claims to have obtained a commercially available user data set from Grindr, a location-based gay “hookup” application. By crossing the Grindr data with other publicly available information, the pillar was able to identify a mobile device belonging to Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill. The device, according to the report, “issued ‘Grindr’ application data signals on a near-daily basis during parts of 2018, 2019, and 2020.”
Mgr. Burrill, a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, was elected general secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in November 2020. The Pillar describes him as “indeed the most senior American cleric who is not a bishop ”. The report claims that data shows he used the Grindr app “both in his USCCB office and at his USCCB-owned residence, as well as at USCCB meetings and events in other cities”.
The Pillar is the brainchild of former Catholic News Agency editor-in-chief JD Flynn and journalist Ed Condon. The two journalists say they have contacted the USCCB and Msgr. Burrill asked for comment, but a scheduled meeting was called off at the last minute. Mgr. Burrill then resigned as secretary-general a day before The Pillar published his 3,000-word article.