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Allegations of priests using Grindr pissed off the Catholic Church

Top line

Church officials are uncomfortable following a series of articles published by a Catholic news blog claiming cell phone data shows priests, ranging from suburban New Jersey up inside the ancient walls of Vatican City, use the Grindr gay hookup app, according to the New York Times.

Highlights

The pillar, a conservative Catholic news blog, claimed that analysis of cell phone data showed Catholic priests using Grindr, despite strict vows of celibacy when entering the priesthood and the Church’s position that homosexuality is a sin.

The pillar published only scattered information about the source of its data.

Catholic officials told the Times they worried that the priests would eventually use Grindr – but also the apparent attack on priests’ privacy.

Reports have already led to the resignation of Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, who resigned as secretary general of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last month after The pillar alleged that data from his cell phone showed he was using Grindr and frequenting gay bars.

The blog also accused anonymous individuals of using Grindr within the Archdiocese of Newark, which has a history of its priests accused of sexual misconduct, including former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was charged ago just weeks after sexually assaulting a teenager in 1974.

A third report by The pillar Last month, dozens of cellphones reportedly received dating app signals in 2018 from restricted areas of Vatican City in Rome, home to the Vatican and the Pope.

Tangent

Questions remain as to how The pillar came by the data from the cell phone of the priests, and if they were assisted by an outside source with an ulterior motive. The pillar said they obtained the information from a data provider and had it authenticated by an external consulting firm, but did not provide any further details. Another conservative religious outlet, the Catholic News Agency, said a source “concerned about the reform of the Catholic clergy” had offered him cell phone data, which the agency’s editor-in-chief, Alejandro Bermudez, ultimately decided to refuse because he believed the information had been gathered by “brutal” means, he told the New York Times. The source presented himself to Catholic News Agency in 2018, when The pillar Editors JD Flynn and Ed Condon worked at the agency, but Bermudez told the newspaper he had not informed them of the tip he received. Grindr himself released a statement last month in response to The pillarThe series of reports claiming that bloggers “brazenly” crossed a number of “ethical, moral and legal lines” and likened the investigation to a witch hunt. Grindr is still in the process of completing an investigation into how The pillar accessed the data, the app said, but noted that they did not believe it was from Grindr itself and that the review focused on possible links to network providers, data brokers of localization and ad networks. “What is clear is that this work involved more than just a little blog,” Grindr said in a statement. Grindr has come under fire in recent years for selling user data and was fined over $ 11 million earlier this year by Norway under EU privacy law for having disclosed user information to advertisers, including personal information such as sexual orientation and location. The fine is equivalent to 10% of Grindr’s annual income. In 2018, Grindr admitted to sharing users’ HIV status along with information such as location, emails, and phone numbers to two outside analytics companies, a practice it abandoned.

Key context

The Catholic Church is still steadfast in its teachings that priests should be celibate and that homosexuality is unacceptable, although the head of the Church, Pope Francis, has made comments indicating that he is more progressive than many of its predecessors. In 2016, he gave priests the power to forgive people who abort and approved legal protections for same-sex couples, although he did not support same-sex marriages.

Further reading

Catholic officials on edge after reports of priests using Grindr (New York Times)


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