High-ranking priest put on leave for allegedly using dating app Grindr reassigned to Wisconsin parish

America [New York NY]

June 16, 2022

By Michael J. O'Loughlin

A former high-ranking official at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who resigned following allegations that he logged onto a dating app has a new assignment.

Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill will serve as administrator of St. Teresa of Kolkata Parish in West Salem, Wisc., Bishop William Callahan announced in a statement.

“Monsignor Burrill has recently come off an extended leave from active ministry,” the statement reads. “During his leave from active ministry, Monsignor Burrill engaged in a sincere and prayerful effort to strengthen his priestly vows and has favorably responded to every request made by me and by the Diocese.”

Last July, Monsignor Burrill resigned unexpectedly from his position as general secretary of the U.S.C.C.B. because of pending media reports about “inappropriate behavior.” He was elected to the position in November 2020. Shortly after, the Catholic website The Pillar published a story that claimed to have data showing Monsignor Burill had logged onto Grindr, a dating app used by gay men, during periods of several months in 2018, 2019 and 2020 from his home and office in Washington, D.C., as well as from a family lake house in Wisconsin and from other cities, including Las Vegas.

Bishop Callahan said in his statement that he has “every confidence” in returning Monsignor Burrill to ministry and noted that the priest has not been accused of breaking any laws.

“I have every confidence in returning Monsignor Burrill to active ministry and in his ability to accompany the people of God of this great parish as together you journey toward a deeper, more meaningful relationship with the Person of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Callahan wrote.

Some church observers questioned The Pillar’s decision to publish the story, in part because it did not disclose where it obtained the data, and accused the outlet of conflating homosexuality with pedophilia, a charge the editors denied. Others worried what the publication of the story meant for the future of the church and for journalism.

“What are the implications for Catholicism if the traditional surveillance of theological ideas and pastoral practice by Church authorities is replaced by the high-tech surveillance of moral failings by freelance journalists?” asked Peter Steinfels in The Atlantic shortly after the story broke. “The implications for journalism and personal privacy are serious.”

Michael J. O’Loughlin is national correspondent at America and author of Hidden Mercy: AIDS, Catholics, and the Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of Fear.