A series of reports from the conservative Catholic blog "The Pillar" show priests at various levels of the Catholic hierarchy in the US and the Vatican are using the gay dating app Grindr.
The Pillar released three reports over a three-day timeframe, one on July 20, the next on July 23, and the 27th.
The first report detailed Reverend Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill of the general secretary of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops resigned after "it found evidence the priest engaged in serial sexual misconduct, while he held a critical oversight role in the Catholic Church's response to the recent spate of sexual abuse and misconduct scandals."
The second report made claims "about the use of location-based hookup apps" by people in unspecified rectories in the Archdiocese of Newark. The third report said, "16 mobile devices emitted signals from the hookup app Grindr on at least four days between March to October 2018 within the non-public areas of the Vatican City State, while 16 other devices showed the use of other location-based hookup or dating apps, both heterosexual and homosexual, on four or more days in the same time period."
All of the data analyzed by The Pillar was commercially available and contained location and usage information that users agree in the terms of service to be collected and commercialized as a condition of using the app.
Extensive location-based hookup or dating app usage is evident within the walls of Vatican City, in restricted areas of St. Peter's Basilica, inside Vatican City government and Holy See's administration buildings including those used by the Vatican's diplomatic staff, in residential buildings, and in the Vatican Gardens, both during daytime hours and overnight.
Signals emitted from most of the Vatican's extraterritorial buildings, which house the offices of several key Curial departments were excluded from analysis because of the proximity of tourists, pilgrims, and the general public to those buildings on a daily basis. -The Pillar
The Pillar's reporting put church officials in an embarrassing position because priests have an obligation to be celibate as a way to remain closer to Christ with an undivided heart.
"If someone who has made a promise of celibacy or a vow of chastity has a dating app on his or her phone, that is asking for trouble," Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark said during a Zoom conference organized by Georgetown University, quoted by NYTimes.
"I would also say that I think there are very questionable ethics around the collection of this data of people who allegedly may have broken their promises," Tobin said.
The only app mentioned in the reports has been Grindr, suggesting the Catholic Church still has a homosexuality problem.
Grindr told NYTimes it was still trying to figure out how the small blog obtained large amounts of data from its userbase.
"What is clear is that this work involved much more than just a small blog," Grindr said.
Ashkan Soltani, a former technology adviser to the White House and the Federal Trade Commission, said the complexity of the reports means that The Pillar had external help and advanced analytical skills to uncover Grindr usage within the Catholic Church.