Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill’s Resignation: Reflections on Deflections

COMMENTARY: The scandal presents, in miniature, one of the time-honored tactics of the sexual revolution.

Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill speaking at the US Bishops Spring meeting in June, 2021.
Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill speaking at the US Bishops Spring meeting in June, 2021. (photo: Screenshot/USCCB)

The reaction to the “Grindr-gate” scandal has been most instructive. The Catholic website The Pillar presented evidence to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops alleging serial sexual misconduct by Msgr. Jeffery Burrill, who was at the time the general secretary of the conference. Run by canon lawyers-turned-journalists Ed Condon and JD Flynn, The Pillar reported to have used commercially available signal data from the location-based Grindr “gay hook-up” app to show that Msgr. Burrill had used this app on a regular basis. The Pillar’s report did not include accusations Msgr. Burrill engaged in sexual misconduct with minors.

Some commentators seem more concerned about possible journalistic misconduct by Flynn and Condon than the genuine sexual misconduct of Msgr. Burrill. Flynn and Condon invaded Msgr. Burrill’s privacy, they say. Flynn and Condon are guilty of a homophobic anti-gay witch hunt, they say. 

In my opinion, this controversy presents, in miniature, one of the time-honored tactics of the sexual revolution. When things go wrong for the revolution, deflect, deflect, deflect. It also shows that the sexual revolutionary ideology drains every last bit of compassion out of those who embrace it. 

Are The Pillar’s allegations true? And if so, are the allegations important? The method by which the evidence was obtained, the character and motives of the investigators, these questions may be important at some point. But whatever significance they may have, they fade in comparison to the overarching questions of the truth and importance of the allegations. 

No one, to my knowledge, has denied The Pillar’s findings. Msgr. Burrill apparently used the Grindr app on a “near daily basis.” Bishop William Callahan of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Msgr. Burrill’s bishop, stated in a letter to the priests of La Crosse, “The media reports establish no facts in truth about Jeff’s behavior either innocent or not.” Condon and Flynn admit as much in their article. 

So what? What exactly does any reasonable person think he was doing with the men he met on Grindr, which bills itself as “the world’s largest social-networking app for gay, bi, trans and queer people”? Presumably, Msgr. Burrill was performing homosexual acts with these men, acts which the Catechism describes as “acts of grave depravity. … Under no circumstances can they be approved” (2357). 

This is a logical inference from the evidence The Pillar produced. No one, including Msgr. Burrill, has denied it. 

I’ve seen this tactic before. When my friends at Mass Resistance wrote The Health Hazards of Homosexuality, no one denied the truth of the evidence presented in the 600-page book, with more than 1,800 footnotes. You might think that people who care about the young people considering homosexual activity would want them to be fully informed about these risks. You would be mistaken. 

Instead of confronting the evidence of health risks, psychological harms and domestic violence, the Revolutionaries made noise designed to change the subject: “The book is homophobic.” They invoked the crown jewel of deflection tactics, “Mass Resistance is a hate group.” 

Smear the author. But never, never engage in an honest assessment of the facts and their significance. 

On to our second question: Is it important that a high-ranking official in the Catholic Church bureaucracy was habitually using the Grindr app? Far from keeping the vow of celibacy he voluntarily took when he became a priest, allegedly he was routinely breaking it. Having sex with strangers on a “near daily basis” is not a “normal variation of healthy human sexuality.”  Such a man is not in command of himself. 

Sexual addiction is a problem for anyone, male or female, gay or straight. Sex addiction would certainly be a problem for a priest, especially a priest who “held a critical oversight role in the Catholic Church’s response to the recent spate of sexual abuse and misconduct scandals.” 

Jesuit Father James Martin claims he knows “hundreds of gay priests.” Perhaps he knows some who are living chaste and holy lives. Perhaps some are quietly “partnered.” I wonder whether he would admit to knowing any who are living desperate lives of compulsive sex with strangers. 

Some of The Pillar’s critics, including Father Martin, went so far as to claim that The Pillar engaged in a “witch hunt” against gay priests. This charge is a masterful instance of deflective propaganda. Since there really are no such thing as witches (all enlightened people agree on that), anyone who “hunts” for witches is searching for a mythical creature. The phrase suggests, without explicitly saying so, that raising questions about the conduct of homosexual men in the clergy is unjustified and irrational. Witch hunters can be safely dismissed as deranged, unhinged and certainly more dangerous than the “witches” they are hunting.

Unfortunately for the Grand Gay Narrative, there actually are homosexual men in the clergy. Some of them are compulsive and narcissistic. Some are predatory.  Each cause problems for the Church. But the label “witch hunt” deflects attention away from offenses and focuses attention instead on the people who try to stop them. 

Predators and their enablers in the Church use similar tactics to protect themselves from accusations of sexual abuse. Discredit the people calling attention to the problem, even when the predator has confessed. Claim the victim label for themselves. Show zero compassion for the actual victims. 

The Pillar’s charges are important. The privacy issue is secondary. I admit to being creeped out by the ways our cellphones can be used to spy on us. 

This profound problem cannot be solved on a case-by-case basis. The government can spy on us. Big Tech is selling our data right and left, literally. China’s “social credit” system uses cellphone technology in its surveillance of its citizens. These are much more dangerous people than investigative reporters. This situation requires far-reaching governmental policies, probably international policies. It is unseemly to single out Flynn and Condon’s important investigation.  

In the meantime, Flynn and Condon acted within the law as it exists right now. They uncovered a serious problem: a possible sex addict running the USCCB, wherein his duties included official responses to the McCarrick scandal. 

Defenders of the sexual revolution, please stop changing the subject.