Some ethical questions about The Pillar’s Grindr exposé

Yesterday, The Pillar reported that Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill was using Grindr to meet gay sex partners while he was general secretary for the USCCB.

The Pillar reports:

“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.”

The smartest response I saw to the article was a priest reminding Twitter that it’s okay to not be sure what to think about it all. That’s where I still land: I’m not quite sure. But I have a lot of questions.

People are alarmed and disgusted that someone’s phone data would be tracked and used against them. I don’t like it either, but I’m not prepared to say it’s unethical to use it, if you have a good reason, and if you’re sure you understand what the data signifies. At very least, it’s a great reminder that the best way to defend yourself against this kind of thing is, you know, don’t be gross.

Here are the questions I do have (and Damien doesn’t agree with me on all counts):

Was it necessary to make this public?

Something people ask me every single time I write about ugly stuff. There are a few reasons to make wrongdoing public: One is if the person is prominent enough and the wrongdoing is significant enough; and two is if it’s the only way to protect vulnerable people.

It was right for Burrill to lose his job. Any priest who’s soliciting sex with strangers, whether he’s a sinner struggling with a compulsion or a hypocrite unrepentantly pursing gratification, has grievously betrayed his vows. He is supposed to be a spiritual guide, and he is unfit for his office. Yes, we do hold priests to higher standards, and he held a fairly high office. (The Pillar says he “was charged with helping to coordinate the U.S. bishops’ response to the Church’s 2018 sexual abuse and coercion scandals,” but it’s not clear what that entails.)

I also believe that the fact that he was using Grindr is a problem in itself because of what Grindr is. As I understand it, the app wouldn’t be profitable if it excluded predatory relationships. This isn’t like drinking a can of Pepsi even though Pepsi is Frito and Frito in Kansas has bad labor practices; it’s more like subscribing to Playboy, but just for the articles. There are some things you just can’t separate.

At the same time, I am uncomfortable with the way the Pillar heavily implied that there was a good chance he’s a pedophile, because it’s likely that pedophiles use the app. So this is an “everyone sucks here” situation: Burrill was sleazy for using a site that facilitates predation, and The Pillar is sleazy for helping people assume, without evidence, that he’s probably a predator. 

So those are reasons that it makes sense for Burrill to lose his job. But was he prominent enough for it to be important to expose his sins? I mean … I’ve never heard of the guy before, have you? This part is iffy. 

As for protecting the vulnerable, this is not a clear cut “stop the bad man to protect the vulnerable” situation, as it would be if he had been meeting people in confession, or using the power of his office to prey on people (quite the opposite: He apparently though he could remain anonymous). So I don’t think it was necessary to make this story public to protect anyone Burrill was directly in contact with. 

What about the power of the press to exert pressure on institutions to do the right thing? 

I know very well that the Church will often not act unless it’s forced into it, and public exposure is an effective tool. Apparently, The Pillar approached the USCCB and let them know the story was in the works. The USCCB agreed to meet, got rid of the guy, and then told the Pillar, “You know what, we’ll talk some other time.” The Pillar then published the story. So in effect, this is a story about someone making a report of wrongdoing, and the USCCB responding appropriately. If the goal was to remove an unfit cleric from office (either for the sake of justice, or to protect themselves from blackmail), I’m hard pressed to say why it was necessary to go ahead with publishing, since they already accomplished what was presumably their goal. 

Or, if that wasn’t their goal, what was it? Are they going to publish stories every time someone who works for the church is caught in sin? Where is the line? I am not sure myself, and I am very curious about what the Pillar’s line is. 

And this leads us to the second main question I have: 

Did the USCCB know? The sex abuse scandal in the Church has two main components: The abuse itself, and the institutional cover-up of abuse. If it weren’t for the cover-up, the abuse wouldn’t be able to flourish. That’s why the McCarrick exposé was so especially crushing: Not only did he prey on so many people, but so many people knew he was doing it, and didn’t do anything. 

Experience tells us that someone, maybe lots of people, probably knew what Burrill was up to. If so, that was wrong, and possibly-to-probably worth writing about. But The Pillar presents no evidence that anyone at the USCCB was aware that this was happening. As they reported it, there was a sinful man doing sinful things while he was at work. The story, as reported, does not actually reveal or demonstrate any malfeasance on the part of the Church. That’s significant. It changes what kind of story it is, and it vastly changes how newsworthy it is.  

My third question is about journalistic ethics more generally, and doesn’t have to do with the nature of the sin or even the content of the story:

Who paid for it, and why does that matter?

The Pillar says “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.” It says “The data was obtained from a data vendor and authenticated by an independent data consulting firm contracted by The Pillar.”

Our first impression upon reading the article was that someone bought the incriminating data and offered it to The Pillar. This assessment was shored up by an article we read later, which says that CNA, former employer of The Pillar’s JD Flynn, had been approached starting in 2018 by someone who had been shopping around incriminating data about clerics. CNA cited ethical concerns in the story, and didn’t accept the data. It clearly knew by some means that The Pillar intended to publish its exposé, and published its own story a few days before. 

It is possible that The Pillar wasn’t working with this same individual (and it’s possible CNA was trying to erroneously create the impression that they were), and it’s possible The Pillar independently purchased and analyzed the data. But if that were the case, why it would say it “obtained” the “commercially available” data, rather than clarifying that it bought it itself? 

Why does it matter? Reporters get tips all the time, right? Well, if The Pillar got a tip that Msgr. Burrill was up to no good, and decided to narrow in on him and buy some data to verify it, that would be slightly sketchy but possibly legitimate, depending on the significance of what they found (see my questions, above, about their goal and their mission).

But if, as seems likely, someone came to them with an already-purchased bundle of red hot data about how Burrill spent his weekend, and The Pillar simply verified it and wrote it up, that’s not actual investigative journalism. That’s performing a service for the person who spent the money to make the story happen. This is a huge ethical problem, and I’m alarmed that more people don’t realize it.

The Pillar has been presenting itself as a watchdog journalism site. But if someone else is buying information and feeding it to them, they cannot be considered objective journalists, but instead something more like partners with their source. 

Is this what happened? We don’t know, because they don’t say! Which is a problem in itself! They do not name their source, and that’s reasonable. But they don’t make it clear whether they actually even have a source, and if so, what kind of relationship the source has with the story. This is very shaky ethical ground. 

We recall that, when he was editor at CNA, JD Flynn defended running a story that devoted an astonishing eight paragraphs to the funding allegedly behind a story in The National Catholic Reporter, creating out of whole cloth the impression that journalist Jenn Morson was attacking Franciscan University at the behest of George Soros. It was complete garbage journalism, but at the time, Flynn thought it was important. So you tell me. Does funding matter? Does it affect which stories are covered and how? Perhaps Flynn’s perspective has evolved now that his work is subscriber-based. 

None of this is black and white. Despite all the hot takes on social media, it’s not a clear case of either “hooray for The Pillar for uncovering this important story” or “shame on The Pillar for engaging in this obvious sleaze.” Nothing I’ve mentioned above is a clear reason why they should or shouldn’t have written it.

But I will say this: When Damien and I are working on a story and we keep bumping up against more and more and more questions about the ethical way to approach it, we look at each other, sigh, and just walk away. A high number of questions around a story is a red flag in itself, and this story has an awful lot of questions.

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39 thoughts on “Some ethical questions about The Pillar’s Grindr exposé”

  1. Back for the 4th time. Yeah a lot to process. I was all for exposing every last dirty secret. Then I remembered my parish priests from my childhood who left (were asked to leave?) the priesthood. (By now if they had committed a crime they would be exposed.) I’m glad I’m able to remember their good moments, and not know any torrid details, if there are any. As it stands, I’d be able to go up to them and give them a big hug. I pray for Msgr. Burrell. I understand everyone’s anger and logic, but this is undeniably problematic. We live in an age where we can ruin someone so quickly. It’s not good for anyone.
    This is so hard.

  2. Well… I’m sitting here in Australia waiting for this to “come out” here as a major problem publically.

    I’m 30 and my misspent youth full well knows the dangers that Grindr poses to young teenagers. A good friend of mine came out as gay at age 15. Almost all the men he met on Grindr were at least 30 and the had sex with him even after he told them he was under age. Some he didn’t tell, but it was pretty freaking obvious he was underage. He’d been doing that for over a year. I got mad at him because of the risk he was putting himself in and told him how unfair he was behaving towards these people. His response was “well it won’t matter in a years time” was heartbreaking and well, the damage done is manifesting now. Please pray for him.

    I did not read the article as implying that Mons Burill was one of those men. But he could be purely out of naïve trust with partners. We are rightly disgusted when married men and women actively and wilfully conduct affairs with seemingly little regard for the harm they do directly to their personal integrity and the dignity of their families. The sex and orientation of their adulterous partners are not the issue. The broken vow, the lies and the sin is. Priests married to the bride of Christ are no different.

    If we’ve learned anything from McCarrick, that people who have influence over agendas of moral and policy reform who happen to have a bad habit of engaging in the sin are not going to hold us back from preempting where new trip hazards are for our clergy and leaders.

    Ps. I’m a fallen Catholic too. I fought tooth and nail to take the church’s teaching on chastity seriously. I spent a lot of time in confession when I was engaged. I am so sick of hearing how important chastity is when we have clerics WHO DON’T APPEAR TO BE EVEN TRYING telling me so. I can live with other fallen men trying hard and stumbling. If you’ve got Grindr or any other hook up apps on your phone, you’re not really trying and someone should confiscate your smartphone.

    1. PPS. If anyone is interested in the very serious issue of privacy, apps, data collection and selling I highly recommend a book called Surveillence Captialism. It radically changed the way I use my devices and the internet to minimise this kind of thing.

    2. Well said.

      The Church’s moral code on sexuality is difficult to live by…especially in an age of sexual saturation and self-indulgence. But we’re called to make the attempt. If you’ve got Grindr installed on your phone, you’re not making the attempt. If you’re a priest who’s got Grindr installed on your phone, you need to discern a different vocation. And if you’re a priest in a position of influence responsible for helping coordinate policy on sexual abuse while having Grindr installed on your phone, you need to resign your post and depart the scene forthwith.

      Burrill’s resignation in the face of compelling and damning evidence is a de facto admission of guilt. In fact, the notion that a man entirely innocent of such serious charges would step down, thereby short-circuiting his future in the Church, solely to avoid the “distraction” of the accusation is an insult to our intelligence.

      The frantic attempts by some inside and outside the Church to muddy the waters by making this an issue about the ethics of the reporting rather than the reality and gravity of the alleged offense says a lot about where the Church is today…how She got there…and how far She has to go to get to the other side of the historic crisis of corruption that has crippled Her in our time.

      1. I don’t know Jerry. It’s also possible Msgr. Burrill quit because he thought, “I don’t need this aggravation. I’d rather be out of the spotlight and a regular old parish priest. I quit.” Either way, it just doesn’t feel right to focus on him or his alleged sins. He’s gone. If the facts are as we suspect, leave him be to seek intensive therapy and repentance.

        I agree with you that so long as the tactics used were legal, then what we’ve read is worthwhile, solid, investigative journalism. How could it not be? And I’m jaded enough to think it possible (probable)? that nothing would have changed if the article weren’t written. To me, the uproar surrounding this whole mess sounds a lot like a teenager screaming at her parents, “You want to talk to me about having sex and doing drugs? How dare you read my diary!!!!”

        1. I love the teen diary analogy. Very much on target.

          I totally agree with you about not hounding or pursuing Burrill. We should pray for him…ever painfully conscious of the weakness of human nature…and of our own weakness. Believe me, I have no illusions about my own.

          Unfortunately, however, the effect of smearing The Pillar for the sake of an ideological agenda that seeks to keep the focus off Burrill’s alleged behavior is to, well, keep the focus on Burrill’s alleged behavior.

          The man’s struggle with his personal demons should be private…between him and God. But the other side should not insult our intelligence by maintaining those demons are neither real nor disqualifying for the post that he held.

  3. Reading your site has the feel sometimes of watching a Joshua Harrisesque deconversion sometimes.

    You started out by writing for the NC Register and wrote a popular book on NFP. Now, you as a hatchet man for America Magazine, regularly attacking their enemies on the right while remaining silent about the corruption at America Magazine itself.

    The editors at America Magazine admitted that they knew about the “rumors” about McCarrick and didn’t investigate him. Not only did they not investigate him, they gave him numerous honors and presented him to the public as a good and holy man. America Magazine called in the same article for accountability, but apparently, that doesn’t apply to them. Who among the editors at America knew about McCarrick? Why wasn’t he investigated? Why was he honored by America in spite of what they knew. Instead of investigating the halls of power as to why something like this happened, Fischer is out there throwing shade on an investigation into one of the most powerful members of the USCCB, and one who was clearly an out-of-control sex addict who was in charge ensuring sex abuse investigations were conducted properly. Not only was the most powerful non-bishop member of the USCCB in charge of investigations, he was a protoge of Dan Ryan, the Wisconsin bishop who was removed from office because he was a confirmed serial predator and a child molester. Does anybody really think that Burril had no idea that Dan Ryan was a corrupt hypocrite? If someone is that naive, do you really want them investigating sex abuse?

    The problem with thoroughly corrupt organizations and people is that they never want to answer questions about who knew what and when when their compatriots are exposed. Instead, they put wolves in charge of investigations whose primary purpose is to protect the powerful from scrutiny. Everybody in power knew that McCarrick was a serial sex abuser, but he was sent out to all the Sunday Morning talk shows to explain to the American public that the US bishops cared about sex abuse and were going to hold people accountable for the decades of coverup. When Pope Francis released the report about McCarrick, it was a total whitewash that attacked whistleblowers like Vigano and held practically nobody to account who aided and abetted in his rise to power.

    This article looks like just one more hatchet job whose purpose is to protect all those at the USCCB and America Magazine who knew that the general secretary was unbelievably corrupt and hypocritical and did nothing. Distraction is often an effective tool. I hope it fails miserably this time.

  4. Not really. He was on a work trip, went to the work thing and then did whatever with his free time.

    I’ve shopped and seen movies while on work trips. Is that a misuse of my position or the money my company paid for the trip?

    1. If you’re working for the “Society Against Cinema” then yes it’s a problem. Do you know if you work for a company that prohibits its employees from using recreational drugs and you take a business trip to Colorado and buy edibles you can be constructively discharged?

      But none of that’s the point and why are you bent on minimizing sad, sinful, unhealthy behavior? The behavior in which the Monsignor was engaging wasn’t benign. If we learned anything from that Pillar article, it’s that Grindr is a disgusting, often predatory app.

  5. One of Rod Dreher’s readers had some insightful commentary on this story and the larger picture of sexual corruption in the Catholic Church:


    “As someone with a healthy awareness of surveillance capabilities and their capacity for abuse I would obviously prefer that cyber vigilantism not occur. That said, it is abundantly clear in 2021 that the Catholic hierarchy can’t or won’t take meaningful action because of the extent of the corruption, the pervasive nature of either corrupted or compromised figures at the highest levels, and the unwillingness to absorb the pain that meaningful action would require. In the absence of another Julius II to crush these modern Borgias, that leaves the faithful with either accepting the corruption of their faith, supporting select actors that they have vetted, or taking vigilante actions.

    Any meaningful action against the rot is going to uncover a massive amount of corrupt and overlapping networks of both homosexuals and pedophiles as well as their enablers and enough conspiracy and cover-up to satisfy any QAnon adherent. No doubt doing so would involve no small amount of damage to the credibility and integrity of the Church, though that would have to start by acknowledging homosexual networks and undercurrents that are currently considered unspeakable due to modern political correctness.

    So when a modern Julius II arises to crush this group I am definitely behind him, but until then why should I get exercised about vigilantism? Again, vigilantism is something that occurs when there is a loss of legitimacy and credibility within formal structures that leaves angry and desperate people inclined towards alternative measures. It is a very ugly and very punitive and brutal thing, which is why you associate such actions with things like posses, lynch mobs, and communal violence seen in the uglier parts of the Third World. But if you don’t want to see it happen, then you develop actual and formal structures rather than polite window dressing to act on it…”


      1. He’d go scorched earth on people misusing positions inside His church?

        “He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables” John 2: 15

            1. Not really. He was on a work trip, went to the work thing and then did whatever with his free time.

              I’ve shopped and seen movies while on work trips. Is that a misuse of my position or the money my company paid for the trip?

      2. Andrea, I’m not going to dignify this with a response since it gives you away as a troll.

        And if you’re not a troll, then you’re…oh never mind.

  6. I surmise that The Pillar is trying to be the new, improved, and not-so-scuzzy Lifesite.

    I’m still completely onboard with exposing prelates who hook up on the company dime while “exposing corruption” & the rampant financial corruption.

  7. I have never heard of any of these men who’ve been highlighted in recent stories here, but this man is (or was) certainly the most powerful among them. It’s also the only story where I sought more info (other than clicking on Claire’s link in the comments to Fr. Altman’s bulletin pronouncement – and yikes! on that one). I see this story as more newsworthy than the others because Msgr. Burrill was among the delegation that met with Pope Francis specifically to discuss ” sexual misconduct, duplicity, and clerical cover-ups” (according to the Pillar, anyway), and that potentially affects every American Catholic, not just a particular parish or audience.

    I’m never comfortable with outing people for the sake of outing them but it seems relevant in this case. If this were a story about a priest hooking up with women the article would still be newsworthy, though I suspect the outrage to the journalistic ethics used in this case would not be as loud.

    If Msgr. Burrill wanted to meet men, couldn’t he have used a less disgusting app? I don’t see the article implying that he solicited under age boys. I see it more as detailing what a sleazy app Grindr is. Full disclosure: I got tired of reading the blah, blah, blah Grindr bad and sexual integrity good so I started skipping around – maybe I’d have gotten a different sense if I’d read more carefully.

    I’m not inclined to give the USCCB any credit here. They were approached with a story that was going to be to told. No way they could’ve kept Burrill safe from the fallout. Asking for more time to respond shows they were still bent on minimizing the scandal.

    I’m one to always question the funding. Hello low fat studies and Coca-Cola. That said, you can question the funding on the Burrill story all you want (and my guess is you’d find the people holding the dollars are the same people that Fr. Martin et al detest and vice versa) but if the story is true, it’s true and Burrill needed to step down.

  8. I was pretty horrified and torn as you are, Simcha, but then Archbishop Gomez’s response made me so glad it came out. ‘We are saddened about his resignation” – “no abuse of minors, but this would have been a dIsTRacTIon from our *very important business*”… no mention of the sin and scandal it has caused.
    Bleh get the rot out. This man was working for the Church and I think his “side jobs” cost the Church enough- and time will tell if his face doesn’t ring a few bells and cost us more in terms of money and scandal. Time’s up, Bishops.

    1. I agree with your comments on Archbishop Gomez’s statement — incredibly weak and shows that the bishops/the USCCB is still most concerned about covering their asses. I think it’s very possible that without the story hanging over their heads, they would have just pushed Msgr. Burrill off into another office, without addressing the root issue.

      This is a really helpful framework for thinking through the ethical aspects; thank you for that, Simcha. I think in the end I also come down in favor of the story being published. At this point, I have lost all faith in the bishops’ ability to do the right thing — even to have the right priority — and I think that needed to be exposed. I do agree that the piece spent way too much time on Grindr; they tried to put together too much in one piece and ended up making everything messy. I don’t think they insinuated that he’s a pedophile but that he may have had sexual encounters unknowingly with minors — which is definitely not pedophilia.

  9. I think it is worth noting that Ed Condon (co-author of the article, editor and co-author of The Pillar) posted a response to concerns raised about this article on Twitter. (The concerns and response were both posted on Twitter.) I didn’t get the sense from the original article that The Pillar was trying to imply that Burrill was a pedophile (they specifically say that there is no evidence of that kind). The Twitter post confirms that this was not their intent. The post also discusses the purpose of having the data, etc. I do think that it would have been better to post (or at least link) that information on the website.

    1. Yes, absolutely, that clarification should be an addendum to the original piece. They also should say who paid for the data.

  10. I don’t think the Pillar implied Burrill was a pedophile–just that Grindr is a bit of a “Wild West” situation as far as age verification goes, so Burrill could accidently end up in an encounter with someone lying about their age, or obviously be compromised if dealing with a priest who was using Grindr to find very young/underage men/boys. It certainly seems to be a major stretch to say they “heavily” implied he is a pedophile.

    1. The July 20 Pillar article is 66 paragraphs long, 22 are about how Grindr can be used by minors.

      The article is trying to state that the real issue may be that Burrill could hook up with a minor by using an app.

      Today the Pillar leads put out tweets stating that the real Real issue is that Burrill formulates policy on tech use indiscretions.

      For all the money they and perhaps a third party used to isolate Burrill’s data, you would think two canon lawyers could write a more cogent case about why they are publicizing this information.

      The Pillar article is like reading a sixth grader’s research paper that has no conclusion and faulty logic.

      1. I would have thought the “real issue” was the preponderance of evidence, apparently confirmed by Burrill’s resignation, that a Monsignor in a position of power and influence engaged in compulsive, serial, homosexual liaisons in contravention of his vows, violation of Church teaching, and contradiction of his job duties, one of which, by the way, was helping coordinate the Bishops’ response to sexual scandals.

        For me, that real issue is more than enough to justify publishing the story.

        Beyond that, there’s something that can’t emphasized enough, and it was a point made by Richard Sipe, the noted sociologist, author, one-time priest, and authority on the issue of sexual abuse in the Church: abuse thrives in a broad culture of misconduct that is enabled by networks of sexually corrupt priests. Sipe said this: “When men in authority—cardinals, bishops, rectors, abbots, confessors, professors—are having or have had an unacknowledged-secret-active-sex-life under the guise of celibacy an atmosphere of tolerance of behaviors within the system is made operative.”

        This is the real issue with Burrill…with all the Burrills. But James Martin and his friends prefer to blow smoke in order to obscure the real issue. You have to wonder why.

        1. Jerry the Church suffers because there is no real governance structure and no actual oversight. Do bishops watch their priests? Not in any real way that I can see. The priests mainly act as independent contractors and bishops pray that none of them get caught with a live boy or a dead girl.

          Are priests or bishops accountable to the faithful? Not really. They can do whatever they want without having to really consult parishioners. Our parish has acted without a council or real finance council for years. Does Cardinal Dolan know or care?

          The faithful just walk away. If the church leadership isn’t scandalized by scandal and don’t move to change oversight, then people will continue to stream out the door.

          Why can priests break vows of chastity and poverty and obedience in an open but not talked about manner? Because they are such precious commodities that we can’t throw them out.

          If you are a faithful man who wants to serve God, you may become a priest. If you want status and access to money you may also become a priest. If your family would be scandalized by your homosexuality you may also become a priest. That’s where we are. Why not talk about how the oversight of church resources is missing? It’s the truth and it might set us free.

          1. Andrea, for the most part I agree with your points, but none of them contradict my own.

            Monsignor Burrill has learned the hard way about a different kind of “oversight.” And if that’s the most effective available to us, then I’m all for it. Hopefully, it sends a message.

            I wouldn’t presume to judge the man’s soul. That’s the province of God. But meanwhile, I’m sure glad he’s no longer the senior administrator for the U.S. bishops.

  11. Hi Simcha,

    I agree with those here who are saying the article was necessary. The authors approached the USCCB for their own input, gave them time to act and then published it. True, the sleaze and implications needed to be left out. They should have stuck to the facts. The bare facts alone were enough to sell the story.

    However, I think this story really is a good news story for the USCCB- they were informed, they acted decisively and appropriately by terminating the priest from his office.

    As for Fr. Burrill, we need to pray for him. I wouldn’t want to make any assumptions about the state of his soul, whether he was in regular counseling or confession to deal with this sin in his life, WE DON’T KNOW. I think the worst thing that can come from this story is, as you mentioned, it doesn’t give space for the redemption of his soul. If all we are known for and judged by are our sins, then there’s no room for Jesus’s saving grace and THAT would be the greatest failure of us as the Church.

    So yeah, it needed to come out, could have done with out all the sleazy implications, the USCCB did the right thing and Fr. Burrill needs our prayers and the salvation that comes with Jesus’s saving grace.

  12. I think the concerns Simcha raises are valid but I come down on the side of The Pillar. This is an important story that needed to be told and published: another high-ranking Catholic clergyman living a lie…in the shadow of the sexual scandals that have devastated the Church, all of them rooted in lies.

    The bleating by Father Martin and his crowd about The Pillar’s ethics is a deflection from the hard reality of another actively homosexual priest in a position of power betraying his vows in serial, almost manic, fashion. Gosh, where have we heard that before.

    I’m just tired of it. Tired of the lies. Tired of the liars. Tired of the cover-ups. Tired of the smoke screens. Until the Burrills of the Church are exposed, the corruption that has crippled the Church can never be purged. Therefore: nice job, The Pillar. Keep up the good work.

  13. Its a good thing. The lavender mafia needs to be exposed and rooted out at every level. Only they should have waited until they had all the other high level deviants using grnder mapped out. Hopefully they did and will be exposing the others who have probably been frantically deleting their apps over the past two days.

  14. Yes, there was so much left out of the Pillar article and weird insinuations on the ability of minors to use the app.

    The money matters. Who knows if the Pillar is being used as a means of taking out a sexually active priest for unknown motives? If the person behind the money was worried about Burrill’s behavior, why not bring it up with him or his superior? A sexually active priest is not great, but what does canon law say about the priest’s right to try and reform and live out his vocation? Does the Pillar make that outcome impossible?

    I feel in general that we are in a don’t ask/don’t tell impasse with the church in the US. If you think your priest isn’t transparent with church money, goes on long vacations, has a parishioner living in the rectory, you have to ask if saying anything means that there is one less priest.

    The governance model of the church is still stuck in the Middle Ages—the hierarchy are the nobles and we are the peasants. It’s a huge reason people walk away. I will quote Liz Bruenig, “Only the truth will save the American Catholic Church. And the truth is going to hurt.”

  15. Half of this article is legitimate points, and the other half is just waffling.

    “They do not name their source, and that’s reasonable. But they don’t make it clear whether they actually even have a source, and if so, what kind of relationship the source has with the story. This is very shaky ethical ground”

    So it’s good that their source is anonymous, but in your opinion it’s too anonymous? Got it.

    Then your other point:

    “But if, as seems likely, someone came to them with an already-purchased bundle of red hot data about how Burrill spent his weekend, and The Pillar simply verified it and wrote it up, that’s not actual investigative journalism…… This is a huge ethical problem, and I’m alarmed that more people don’t realize it.”

    Again I’m super confused how this is unethical. Unethical isn’t verifying and publishing a story that’s been brought to you, unethical is publishing lies and slander with no proof whatsoever. If this story had been some sort of attack on the usccb by some powerful corporate entity, I could see how your point may stand, but so far it seems like you’re getting worked up over the Pillar publishing a true story that was acquired in a non-illegal way.

    As for whether the story needed to be published, my personal opinion is no, it didn’t. As long as the USCCB was made aware and terminated the priest who was on Grindr, it wasn’t really necessary. But sleaze sells and at the end of the day, the priest was in a very high and very public position so there was always a possibility of exposure.

  16. This is the first time I’ve disagreed with you on a clerical abuse case– and given the amount of them you’ve covered, I’m really surprised that we disagree on this point.

    “I don’t think it was necessary to make this story public to protect anyone Burrill was directly in contact with.”

    I really disagree with that. I’m a survivor of clerical abuse, in a support group with other survivors. A common thread in our stories is that we thought no one would believe us, that we were the only ones, that the behavior we saw/experienced was somehow an aberration. Some of us didn’t even realize that what we’d experienced was abuse– until we heard of other behavior our abuser had engaged in, and then it made sense.

    I’m not going to say this man engaged in rape because he had a Grinder account. I am willing to say that if he did rape or assault someone, the victim finding out he has a Grinder account will almost certainly put some things in focus.

    The other points you made deserve consideration. We can’t do evil for the sake of good– HOW we do things matters.

    But that one point…no, i think this is knowledge that perhaps certain people around him need to have.

  17. “But was he prominent enough for it to be important to expose his sins? I mean … I’ve never heard of the guy before, have you?”

    I’m pretty sure I’d never heard of Theodore McCarrick before he was named archbishop of Washington DC (and probably not for a bit beyond that either)? Heck, I had not even heard terribly much of him after that until the scandal began breaking?

    1. Regardless of how well known the name is, the position of USCCB General Secretary is quite powerful. It’s essentially COO for a $200 MM revenue organization. And the position had traditionally been a fast track to an episcopal appointment when finished, though that trend seems to have stalled recently. (Abp Schnurr of Cincy and Bp Malloy of Rockford, for example, are former secretaries.)

  18. This is rich coming from the woman who reported on the Christendom professor before his immediate family even knew about the charges. One of his daughters found out what happened from your article first. I’m sure that was great for her!
    Very cool.

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