Vatican Unnerved; Fears More Priests Will be Outed with Grindr Data

A month ago, the bombshell news about Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill’s resignation over the strong allegations of same-sex sexual activities caused a sudden restructuring of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ top ranks. Msgr. Burrill’s activities related to his use of a gay dating app were documented using commercially available location-based signals from Grindr. This news was first released by The Pillar, a publication available as a newsletter subscription.

This month, the Vatican has become increasingly apprehensive over these easily accessible location-based signals from Grindr. The conservative Catholic newsletter publication, The Pillar has once again released an analysis of mobile data signals. However, they have been releasing limited information about their investigation, avoiding the possibility of implicating anyone, especially priests or clergy holding high-ranking office.

This time, in their third publication covering this evolving story, The Pillar claims that their new data contains evidence of individuals transmitting mobile signals within the Vatican itself. This data includes logs of mobile signals from 2018 up to 2020. The Pillar reported more than 30 mobile devices have been documented transmitting location-based signals for Grindr from inside the Vatican. These mobile devices regularly transmitted signals “from secured areas… ordinarily inaccessible to tourists and pilgrims.”

The Pillar’s reports came in successively after Msgr. Burril resigned last July. The first report caused the resignation. The second report, published less than a week after Msgr. Burril’s resignation claims the mobile data obtained from Grindr also showed phones transmitting signals from rectories belonging to the Archdiocese of Newark in New Jersey. With each report from The Pillar coming closer to an implication that homosexuality is rampant inside the walls of the Vatican, the Catholic church is fearing for its credibility.

The Catholic church in the US has been shaken and unnerved. The New York Times calls this trend of reports a “new weapon… in the culture war” within the Catholic church.

Joseph Tobin, a cardinal from Newark, cries foul and calls the data collection and analysis by The Pillar “very questionable.” The Pillar has repeatedly announced that their method of data collection can be reproduced by anyone claiming that the mobile data collected from Grindr is publicly accessible through commercial options. Aside from Grindr, other gay dating apps also provided publicly available location-based data.

This series of events has commanded sharp attention from the Catholic church because of the revealing implications. With the Catholic Church's notorious history of hounding those who fall outside of their supposedly holy prescriptions on "moral sex behavior," this steady trickle of shockingly hypocritical information has the potential to wreak serious havoc on the Catholic church's already fragile public image.

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