Washington Post rips lay Catholic group for divulging priests’ online habits

Catholic Culture - Trinity Communications [San Diego CA]

March 9, 2023

By Catholic World News

A non-profit foundation established by lay Catholics has furnished US bishops with data linking priests with online gay dating services, the Washington Post reports.

The Post, in a critical investigative story, reports that the Colorado-based group, Catholic Laity and Clergy for Renewal (CLCR) “has spent millions of dollars to buy mobile app tracking data that identified priests who used gay dating and hookup apps and then shared it with bishops around the country.”

But the president of the foundation, Jayd Henricks, a former official of the US bishops’ conference, explains that CLCR has much broader purposes and programs, and the delivery of data from services such as Grindr was only a part of its services. His explanation, in an article for First Things, provides a very different picture of the group’s activities.

CLCR was founded in 2019, by lay Catholics who were appalled by the scandal centered on former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The founders of CLCR, Henricks says, “explored ways in which the laity might better assist bishops to identify healthy environments for priests and models to allow parishes and dioceses to flourish, while helping to spot dangers that could lead to more scandal and heartache for the Church down the line.”

The founders quickly settled on a data-driven approach. “After all,” Henricks reasons, “data is used by all major corporations, so why not the Church?” The group began to analyze the available data on the reasons why young Catholics leave the Church, the spiritual formation of young seminarians, and the liturgical experiences of Catholic parishes.

In collecting this data, however, the CLCR also discovered and studied how clerics were involved in “hookup apps,” and made their conclusions available to bishops. That study, which the group shared with bishops, came to public attention in 2021 when Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill, the general secretary of the US bishops’ conference, resigned following the publication of a report that he had been a regular user of the Grindr app. The Post, with its focus exclusively on this aspect of the group’s work, has portrayed the group as an initiative targeted against homosexual priests.

Henricks insists that CLCR exists solely to support and advance the mission of the Catholic Church, and remarks that the Post is “not traditionally an outlet with much regard for the Church.” He concludes that from the Post’s perspective, “lay Catholics working with clergy, one at the service of the other, is something sinister, and only understandable through a secular political lens and the narrative of a culture war.”