US Catholic Church leader resigns over report linking him to gay community

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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday announced the resignation of its top administrator over “possible inappropriate behaviorafter an outlet linked Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill’s phone activity to gay bars and the LGBTQ dating app Grindr.

Why is this important: The small catholic point of sale, The pillarwas able to achieve this by obtaining ‘anonymised’ data from a broker, and having it analyzed by a consulting firm and linking it to the church official – showing how easily and legally this can now be done .

Driving the news: The USCCB released a statement confirming Burrill’s resignation to the National Catholic Journalist just before The Pillar published its report on Burrill, a priest affiliated with the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin.

  • “A mobile device correlated to Burrill emitted application data signals from location-based hook-up app Grindr on a near-daily basis for parts of 2018, 2019, and 2020 – both in his office in the ‘USCCB and at its USCCB-owned residence, as well as at USCCB meetings and events in other cities,’ reported The Pillar.
  • “The data obtained and analyzed by The Pillar transmits mobile app date signals for two 26-week periods, the first in 2018 and the second in 2019 and 2020. The data was obtained from a data provider and authenticated by an independent data consultancy contracted by The Pillar.”

The context: Catholic doctrine considers sexual activity heterosexual out of wedlock a sin.

The big picture: Going through the washington post“Privacy experts have long been concerned about ‘anonymized’ data collected by apps and sold or shared with aggregators and marketing companies.

“While the information is generally devoid of obvious identifying fields, such as a user’s name or phone number, it can contain everything from age and gender to a device identifier. It is possible for experts to anonymize some of this data and connect it to real people.”

What they say : USCCB spokesperson Chieko Noguchi told WashPost that Burrill decided to resign, “effective immediately,” before the report was released “to avoid becoming a distraction to the operations and ongoing work of the conference”.

  • Reverend James Martin, a Jesuit priest and leading advocate for LGBTQ inclusion in the Catholic Church, released a statement to facebook criticizing the pillar report:
  • Burrill and The Pillar could not immediately be reached for comment.

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