USCCB general secretary resigns amid allegations of improper behavior

Msgr Burrill Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill | U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill, the general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, resigned from his post on Tuesday ahead of a media report alleging that he frequented gay bars and private residences while using a popular “hookup” app on his mobile device.

The report, published Tuesday afternoon by The Pillar, a Catholic news site, is based on what it described as an analysis of commercially available app data correlated to Burrill’s mobile device. The analysis shows that Burrill used the app Grindr on a near-daily basis during parts of 2018, 2019 and 2020, according to the report.

CNA reported Monday that church officials were bracing for information derived from this type of digital technology to become public.

Grindr is an app that describes itself as “the largest app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people.” Grindr users download the app and create a profile where they can post pictures, partner preferences, and other personal information. Grindr users are then notified when another user of Grindr is nearby. 

A person can opt to view the profile of the nearby Grindr user, and, if they wish, begin a chat with the user. The app is one of the most popular apps among gay men, and was one of the first large dating apps specifically aimed at men looking to meet other men. 

USCCB President Archbishop Jose Gomez announced Burrill’s resignation in a memo sent to all U.S. bishops Tuesday. The existence of the memo was first reported by the National Catholic Reporter Tuesday shortly after 10 a.m. EST, roughly two hours before The Pillar published its investigation.

According to Gomez, Burrill was not accused of misconduct with minors, but resigned immediately “to avoid becoming a distraction to the operations and ongoing work of the Conference.”

“The Conference takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and will pursue all appropriate steps to address them,” said Gomez.

Burrill was elected to the post of general secretary at the November 2020 assembly of the USCCB, replacing Msgr. Brian Bransfield, whose term had ended. Burrill was due to serve a five-year term as the USCCB’s general secretary.

Prior to his term as general secretary, Burrill had served as Associate General Secretary for the USCCB since 2016. He is a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse and had previously served as a formator at the Pontifical North American College.​​

Gomez announced that Fr. Michael Fuller has been appointed as interim general secretary, and said that there will be a new election in the future to fill the position.

“I ask for your prayers for Monsignor, and for the Conference staff during this difficult time,” said Gomez. “I pray that all those affected might find strength and comfort in our merciful Lord.” 

The conference general secretary oversees USCCB staff, projects, and committees, and facilitates dialogue between U.S. bishops and offices of the Vatican Curia.

In 2021, Grindr was fined about $11.7 million by the Norwegian Data Protection Authority, after the organization said the app “transmitted users’ precise locations, user-tracking codes and the app’s name to at least five advertising companies” without the consent of the users. 

This story was updated on July 20 with new information.


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