The outing of a hypocritical priest is actually cause for alarm. Anyone could be next.

A right-wing outlet weaponized Grindr data it obtained to target a prominent, hypocritical priest. It’s a disturbing extension of the religious right’s attack on any LGBTQ people in the Church.

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When the news broke that Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill had been caught trawling for hookups on Grindr, the immediate reaction for many was one of disgust at his hypocrisy. Burrill, who had served as secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) before resigning, was right in the thick of all the Church’s attacks on LGBTQ rights. At the same time that he was promoting anti-LGBTQ attacks, he was also having apparently sex with other men.

But the story is a lot more complicated than just outing a hypocrite. It’s also a lot more frightening.

Related: Anti-gay priest on trial for allegedly having sex with men to help “heal” their homosexual desires

Burrill was outed by The Pillar, a right-wing Catholic outlet that says it obtained anonymous Grindr data legally, and then reconstructed it to identify signals coming from Burrill’s phone.

Grindr denies that this is possible, but the app has been criticized for years for its security practices, and they were fined $11 million by a Norwegian agency last January for privacy violations.

For its part, The Pillar was vague about how it got the data, other than to say it was “commercially available,” suggesting that they paid for it. It also didn’t say who conducted the analysis of the data.

Presumably, it wasn’t done by the site’s founders, JD Flynn and Ed Condon, but both of them previously worked at the Catholic News Agency, a conservative outlet, where they developed a reputation for taking aim at the hierarchy.

“Both regularly sprinkle their tweets with references to church law and confidently — some say cockily — tout their own interpretations as the most pure and accurate,” the Washington Post reported.

That sense of moral superiority permeates the reporting on Burrill. The Pillar didn’t target Burrill just for being a hypocrite. They targeted him for (presumably) being gay.

The column outing Burrill — which carries no bylines — is riddled with the language of high moral dudgeon. Burrill engaged in “serial and illicit sexual activity” and “serial sexual misconduct,” it reads.

The column even goes so far as to link Burrill hooking up with men with pedophilia.

“There is no evidence to suggest that Burrill was in contact with minors through his use of Grindr,” the article stated, “but any use of the app by the priest could be seen to present a conflict with his role in developing and overseeing national child protection policies, as Church leaders have called in recent months for a greater emphasis on technology accountability in Church policies.”

The article then went on to cite instances of other priests using hookup sites to solicit sex with minors.

Fr. James Martin, the Jesuit priest who has been advocating for the Church to adopt a more compassionate approach to LGBTQ people, noted the article “repeatedly conflated homosexuality with pedophilia, all under the guise of a journalistic ‘investigation.’”

The Pillar article raises two important issues in its fallout. The first is the weaponization of data to target individuals on ideological grounds. Fr. Martin has been the focus of conservative ire for his pastoral work, for which he was recently commended for by Pope Francis. It’s virtually a sure thing that The Pillar writers are working feverishly to find data that they can tie to Martin and others.

The second is the ongoing attempt by the Catholic right to rid the Church of even celibate gay priests, and thus try to pin the blame for the Church’s ongoing pedophilia scandal — enabled by many of the figures that the right admires —on gay priests.

The Church says celibate gay people are fine. It’s gay sex that’s the sin. The right doesn’t care about such distinctions. They want all LGBTQ people, priests or laity, gone. They’d also like to oust any of their allies or supporters, including Pope Francis, whom they view as a fellow traveler.

Fr. Martin rightly points out that data mining could be used to target virtually anyone the right disagrees with.

“Why stop at priests?” he asks. “Why not spy on unmarried lay teachers at Catholic schools? Perhaps they’re sexually active.”

But the right has shown no inclination to go after anyone other than LGBTQ people. The dozens of teachers and choir directors fired has no parallel among any other group.

Flynn and Condon are promising that more revelations will come from the mining data they obtained. They have turned it over to the Archdiocese of Newark citing “patterns of location-based hookup app use at more than 10 archdiocesan rectories and clerical residences.”

The witch hunt is already well underway.

Complete Article HERE!

A Catholic newsletter promised investigative journalism. Then it outed a priest using Grindr data.

By Michelle Boorstein, Marisa Iati & Elahe Izadi

In January, when Ed Condon and JD Flynn broke off from their jobs at a long-standing Catholic news agency, they promised readers of their new newsletter that they would deliver reporting without an agenda, or a foregone conclusion. “We aim to do serious, responsible, sober journalism about the Church, from the Church and for the Church. . . . We want The Pillar to be a different kind of journalism.”

Six months later the Pillar broke the kind of story mainstream news organizations would be unlikely to touch: They said they had obtained commercially available data that included location history from the hookup app Grindr, and used it to track a high-ranking priest from his offices and family lake house to gay nightclubs.

Now Condon and Flynn, two 38-year-old canon lawyers-turned-muckrakers, are at the center of both a global surveillance-ethics story as well as a mud fight among their fellow Catholics over whether last week they served or disgraced the church. One Catholic writer described it as “a witch hunt aimed at gay Catholic priests.”

In some ways the Pillar story and reaction to it feels almost like a throwback: Conservative Catholics who point to the 1960s and liberalizing sexual mores for society’s troubles and focus on gay priests. But in 2021 the availability of personal digital data and the use of smartphones for surveillance are far bigger fears for the vast majority of Americans than is news about a member of the clergy possibly using a hookup app.

Flynn and Condon’s story also punctuates how America’s religious and journalistic landscapes have changed. Institutions and hierarchies now have to contend with scrappy start-ups taking matters into their own hands.

And in the growing conservative Catholic media scene, their newsletter and its takedown of Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill represents a new power and boldness of those demanding their church be purged of leaders who they see as too permissive on issues like abortion, gender norms and sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

On Friday, the pair answered the question of whether there would be more sex-data stories following the Tuesday announcement of Burrill’s resignation as chief administrator of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Pillar reported it had brought some of its findings from the data to the Archdiocese of Newark to say there were “patterns of location-based hookup apps” at various clerical residences there. In a statement to The Post, the archdiocese said the Pillar provided no actual data or evidence of misconduct and that the matter is being reviewed.

Flynn and Condon initially said they were not interested in participating in an interview for this article, then agreed to consider questions by email, and later said they didn’t have sufficient time and declined. But in comments they’ve tweeted since Tuesday and a podcast they posted Friday, they explained a bit of their thinking.

“There’s nothing to recommend the indiscriminate naming and shaming of people for moral failures just because you can. That is unethical. And that is not something I believe we’ve done,” Condon said on the podcast.

“People are entitled to moral failures and repentance and reconciliation and to a legitimate good reputation. There’s a difference between that and serial and consistent, immoral behavior on the part of a public figure charged with addressing public morality, isn’t there?” Flynn said.

Catholicism opposes sexual relations outside heterosexual marriage and teaches that homosexuality is disordered. Priests may be gay — and many are — but must be celibate, according to Catholic teaching.

They also compared their Burrill piece to one done by the New York Times’ Opinion section, which explored the dangers of leaked smartphone data and used such data to identify a person who was near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The New York Times piece quoted one man who was interviewed and agreed to his name being used.

One of the writers of the Times’ piece Friday said the whole point of the reporting was to expose the vulnerability of such data, and that they didn’t name anyone without consent.

“This was the nightmare scenario that we were talking about to some degree. . . . To see it happen is just confirmation of just how dangerous this type of information is,” said Charlie Warzel, who has since left the Times and now is also publishing on Substack, the same online newsletter platform the Pillar uses. “Despite the fact that I don’t think there are any ethical similarities with what we did and this, it obviously makes me feel terrible that our work was used as a justification in this.”

Condon and Flynn were willing to go where Catholic media in the past apparently have not.

Specifically, in 2018, when an anonymous tipster offered an explosive scoop to Alejandro Bermudez, executive editor of the Catholic News Agency, the Colorado-based outlet owned by EWTN, a multimillion dollar nonprofit Catholic media company.

The data hawker, who, Bermudez said, agreed to meet at a Denver coffee shop, claimed to have a trove of information showing priests using dating apps. The person came from a technology background but was interested in “reforming” the church and wanted the material that allegedly could expose priests’ double lives to be in Catholic hands, he told The Post.

Bermudez said he doesn’t recall the tipster’s name but that he was dubious about the data’s credibility and its news value, and he passed for those reasons.

Flynn and Condon were at CNA when Bermudez got that tip, but neither knew about it, Bermudez said. He also doesn’t know whether the data in the Pillar story is the same information once presented to him but said there are parallels.

Bermudez said CNA gets a few pitches each year from people who allege they can reveal priests’ indiscretions. But he said he would not have published the story about Burrill and was concerned about the other ways similar data could be weaponized within the church.

“Once this cat is out of the bag, what is the limit?” Bermudez said. “If we say, ‘Listen, that was completely legitimate, that was completely moral,’ then any kind of tracking by any authority in the Catholic Church is fair game.”

Now it appears similar information did end up in Catholic hands — just not those of a legacy Catholic media organization, instead in those of two men running an upstart newsletter who say their journalism is in the service of Jesus Christ. Some Catholics agree; others, even fellow conservative Catholic journalists, worry the pair also see themselves as a kind of prophet, judge, jury and executioner.

Flynn grew up in a Protestant family in New Jersey and converted to Catholicism. He worked for the Archdiocese of Denver from 2007 to 2013 under leading conservative Archbishop Charles Chaput. Flynn was chancellor there for the last two of those years. He was also spokesman for the diocese of Lincoln, Neb., the lone holdout in the American Catholic Church where girls may not be altar servers. He is a canon lawyer, an expert on church laws, such as those guiding Catholic annulments or disputes.

Condon, nephew of Catholic University President John Garvey, grew up in New Jersey and England, and worked in British politics for years before serving as a canon lawyer in U.S. dioceses.

At the Catholic News Agency, the pair quickly stood out for being the rare right-leaning Catholic journalists aimed squarely at the hierarchy and holding it accountable. Both regularly sprinkle their tweets with references to church law and confidently — some say cockily — tout their own interpretations as the most pure and accurate.

They also draw readers with their personal tweets, more casual than Vatican-stuffy, with Flynn as the wholesome dad of three sharing photos of his family and preaching about traditional values, while Condon plays the cynical grump who pines for the old days when men wore suits and elegant watches.

Flynn was interviewed for a 2018 master’s project at the University of Missouri about ethics in Catholic journalism.

In that paper, he said he thought all journalists are the same in that they all have a “guiding set of assumptions. . . . The concept of objective journalism is a myth.”

However, the paper described Flynn as saying that Catholic journalism has a different set of ends in mind than simply to inform and educate. The difference, he argued, is that “the Catholic perception of the common good is, ultimately, the salvation of souls, and more generally the Church’s ideas, developed over the centuries, about what constitutes human flourishing.”

Flynn and Condon resigned from CNA late last year to launch the Pillar, mirroring a broader media narrative in which journalists have left established media companies to strike out on their own. The publishing platform allows them editorial freedom, but not always a guaranteed paycheck: Writers can collect subscription money from newsletters, with Substack taking a 10 percent cut. Some writers get an advance.

As of last week, the Pillar ranked as the third-highest-grossing Substack in the “faith” category, and it has thousands of subscribers.

“The trends in Catholic media are not that different from secular media,” said the Rev. Matt Malone, editor in chief of America, a Jesuit magazine. Some writers are going independent with Substacks while legacy outlets, he said, are trying to “amass this sizable digital audience and to navigate editorially in a polarized world.”

But while competition among secular media for eyeballs and clicks is about financial survival, for Catholic media, there’s another underlying struggle: for the right to say who is on the side of God and the true church.

There are left-leaning sites that focus on social justice aspects of church teachings such as the rights and needs of the poor and immigrants, while others focus heavily on teachings around abortion and sexual orientation.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, a Catholic writer who works for the conservative National Review, said last week she was torn about the ethics of the Pillar’s methods. However, she said she understood the men’s motivation.

Lopez said the Pillar is a product of “this frustration that men aren’t living the lives they stepped up to live” — namely priests who violate their promises to be chaste, and concerns that teachings about things like contraception and homosexuality are being ignored.

“They’re concerned about the rot in the church. There’s clearly been a nodding and winking and looking away. The church is not immune from the fallout of the sexual revolution — that’s gotten as extreme as putting children on puberty blockers,” she said. “Someone has to clean up the church for the sake of the world. . . . I think this is why the Pillar exists.”

>Condon and Flynn were vague about why they left CNA.

In their podcast episode Friday, they said a source approached them a few months ago with a broad data set that supposedly let them link dating-app use to priests’ phones. The data did not contain names and phone numbers but did have the phones’ unique identifying numbers and information about their locations. Using additional information, like the priest’s known locations and travel, it was possible to identify who some of the data belonged to, the writers said.

Flynn and Condon said they verified the data’s legitimacy but did not say how or with whom. They said the data had been bought legally but didn’t say whether they paid for it.

They argued that Burrill was a legitimate target because he was a CEO-like figure at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which develops policies such as those protecting children from sexual abuse. Getting pushback for linking being gay and child abuse, the men said they were calling out Grindr itself as dangerous for children, not gay people. In its original story on Burrill, the Pillar wrote, “There is no evidence to suggest that Burrill was in contact with minors through his use of Grindr.”

Michael Brendan Dougherty, a senior writer at the National Review, said he has been impressed by the outlet’s reporting on Vatican finances.

“(The church) doesn’t need more volunteer interpreters of the pope’s ‘true intentions’ or whatever it is other outlets speculate about. It needs journalism about corruption, management and policy. That’s what the Pillar does,” Dougherty said.

But media ethics watchers were unnerved by their tactics, even if the data was legally obtained.

“I worry very much about creating — through some of these precedents — a permissibility of journalists to basically publish whatever they can get their hands on,” said Edward Wasserman, media ethics professor and dean emeritus of University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Many other prominent Catholics were similarly disturbed by the Pillar’s methods

Michael O’Loughlin, a national correspondent for America magazine, called it “a witch hunt aimed at gay Catholic priests” on Twitter.

Monsignor Richard Antall, a pastor in Cleveland and author, wrote in a Catholic digital magazine focused on the L.A. area that the Pillar’s story took an “inquisitorial approach.” David Scott, the spokesman for the USCCB President Archbishop Jose Gomez, shared Antall’s essay in a tweet:

“Serious ethical questions about this ‘investigation.’ Must reading,” Scott tweeted.

Toward the end of Friday’s podcast, Flynn and Condon bemoaned the public debate about their recent work.

“I hate being the center of attention like this,” Flynn said

Complete Article HERE!

That a Catholic Priest May Be Gay Isn’t Cause for Sadness

What’s sad about the case of Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill, who resigned his post after allegations of using a gay dating app, is that clergy can’t come out as gay and stay in the church.

By Benjamin Brenkert

“It is with sadness that I inform you that Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill has resigned as General Secretary of the Conference. … I ask for your prayers for Monsignor … during this difficult time” are the words of Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Archbishop Gomez is referring to the resignation of Monsignor Burrill following an exposé about the priest’s use of the gay dating app Grindr. While I can’t read the heart or know the mind of Archbishop Gomez, I do want to reflect on his choice of words, noting a grievance with the word “sadness” and the phrase “difficult time.”

Notwithstanding the media rush to condemn the journalistic methods of the staff at The Pillar, who first reported about Monsignor Burrill’s alleged improper behaviors, journalists have once again boxed themselves in to the same old trope: shock and awe that a closeted gay priest might be investigated by conservative journalists hoping to make even more narrow the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Who can fault the team at The Pillar for seeking to remove from office those who do not adhere to the written catechism? Of course, their level of orthodoxy is repugnant, after all while closeted and safe hiding his sexuality, Monsignor Burrill sought to weaponize Communion and deny President Joe Biden the Eucharist at Mass. Even gay and conservative has no place in the Roman Catholic Church.

The public relations team at Grindr quickly dismissed the notion that any journalist or media company could hack into their software and conduct a witch hunt of gay people. I daresay that such innuendo by more gay-friendly journalists is hearsay, misdirection, and in part ironic. There are times to report on the issue of data privacy, but is that the news here? The Catholic Church is certainly guilty of its own homophobic innuendo, and its methods of denying the sacrament of Communion to the LGBTQ+ community are unethical. (Consider the tactics of the investigators tied to the Newport sex scandal — the 1919-1921 investigation into gay sex in the U.S. Navy; certainly journalists from The Washington Post, America, and the National Catholic Reporter are not suggesting that this case of a resignation rises to that level of character assassination or cancellation.)

Of course, once a person settles down to reflect on this story the more pressing news surfaces. Which brings me back to my earlier point, the grievance with the word “sadness” and the phrase “difficult time.”

First, the resignation of Monsignor Burrill demonstrates the Roman Catholic Church’s continued lack of comfort with gays, gay sex, same-sex sexual attraction, and homosociality. While Monsignor Burrill has not disclosed his sexuality publicly, he is accused of using a gay dating app to meet men, not a straight dating app to meet women. It is therefore feasible to believe that at the very least, if he did not break with the clerical rule of celibacy, he did accompany other gay men to gay bars or meet with gay men socially.

Second, the bishops conference’s statement quickly assuages concerns about the possibility that Monsignor Burrill’s improper behavior involved minors. This is alarming, because to deal with gays and with what would normally be healthy, generative adult behavior between consenting adults, the archbishop must first assureCatholics that Monsignor Burrill is not a pedophile despite possibly being a homosexual.

Third, there is a sense that by acting on same-sex sexual desires, Monsignor Burrill is no less a sinner than the rest of us, that he may feel shame or far worse, ashamed. To me this argument does not pass the litmus test, because by suggesting that by acting on one’s same-sex sexual desire that gays or lesbians feel shame or should be ashamed suggests discomfort with the private acts of consenting adults. This is why conversion therapy needs to be banned globally and quickly.

Finally, Monsignor Burrill’s personal life was not scrutinized unfairly, as he is a public person, with a very public role in protecting minors from sexual abuse at the hands of an all-male and mostly white celibate clergy. Priests have every right to a private life, but if their actions do match their words, it is fair and ethical to speak truth to power and to expose them as being hypocrites. In this case, unless you are a Roman Catholic, it is not a sin that he acted on his same-sex sexual desire, so the question is not whether he acted on his natural sexual urges but rather that he did not follow the rule of clerical celibacy mandated his church and possibly contradicted his public role of priest for the bishops conference, in whose mission he served to protect others from sexual abuse by clergy. This is why the protection of minors should be the responsibility solely of law enforcement and not dealt with by a church that is historically known for allowing decades of abuse of minors by unhealthy, disintegrated men (men who are not gay!).

In the end, it is confusing that Archbishop Gomez writes about and asks Catholics to pray about the “sadness” and “difficult time.” We are not sad that Monsignor Burrill may be gay; if he is, we should celebrate it, and he should come out and be a role model for LGBTQ+ youth. Certainly it must be difficult for the bishops conference to lose a colleague or a staff member with whom many must have shared a laugh or had a good conversation. However, in most jobs in most companies, when people do not meet the standards of ethics, the mission, or vision of the company, they are investigated and usually fired. To be clear, Monsignor Burrill is a priest in a faith system that mandates clerical celibacy, enforces antigay theology in its catechism, and lacks full acceptance or welcome for LGBTQ+ people. All this despite the warmth of Pope Francis.

We must believe, unless told otherwise, that Monsignor Burrill freely and voluntarily became a priest and for however long has served his community with love. It is not shocking that he may have slipped and broken celibacy; what is shocking is that he could never come out publicly as a gay priest and be the man God created him to be, in God’s image and likeness. Unfortunately for the Roman Catholic Church, as its narrowing only makes clear, she upholds her catechism; the sadness associated with this difficult time is that too many progressive Catholics desire this church to be something she surely cannot be. Yes, sinners are welcome, but staying is voluntary.

Complete Article HERE!

Austrian Catholics fly rainbow flag after same-sex blessing ban

This church in Vienna’s Breitenfeld neighbourhood is among those flying the rainbow flag

By Jastinder KHERA

The Catholic church of the parish of Hard is one of many in Austria which decided to fly the rainbow flag in solidarity with the LGBT community after the Vatican ruled last month that the Church couldn’t bless same-sex partnerships.

The powerful Vatican office responsible for defending church doctrine, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), handed down a ruling that same-sex unions could not be blessed despite their “positive elements”.

The office wrote that while God “never ceases to bless each of His pilgrim children in this world… he does not and cannot bless sin”.

Hard’s parish priest Erich Baldauf says he and the hundreds of other clergy who belong to the reform-oriented “Priests’ Initiative” movement decided to fly the flag to show “that we do not agree with this outdated position”, with many other churches also making the gesture.

Soon after the rainbow flag in Hard was put up, there was an attempt to damage it, and last Tuesday Baldauf was saddened to discover that it had been burnt.

“We were shocked… it pains us,” Baldauf said.

While the perpetrator has not been caught and there is no proven motive, Baldauf notes that other flags that have flown in the same place were never subject to attack.

In the following days, another rainbow flag outside a church, also in the far western state of Vorarlberg, was burnt, while a third was stolen.

In the following days, two other rainbow flags hanging outside churches, also in the far western state of Vorarlberg, were also burnt.

Contrary to the impression that these incidents may give, surveys show that Austrian public opinion is firmly on the side of equal treatment for same-sex couples.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Austria since 2019 and a survey last week found that a full 64 percent of Austrians opposed the Vatican’s recent decision.

A mere 13 percent said they could understand the Vatican’s stance.

Austria is still a majority Catholic country, with the Church counting just under five million adherents in a country of 8.8 million.

But this represents a steep decline from the decades after the war, in which almost 90 percent of Austrians belonged to the Church.

Experts say differences between Austrian social attitudes and Church teaching on issues such as homosexuality and abortion contribute to tens of thousands choosing to leave the Church each year.

– ‘Hurts to the core’ –

It’s not just the explicitly reform-oriented Priests’ Initiative who have spoken out on the CDF ruling.

No less a figure than the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, said he was “not happy” with the Vatican’s pronouncement.

“The message that went out via the media to the whole world was a simple ‘no’ and in fact a ‘no’ to blessing, which is something that hurts many people to their core,” he explained to the Catholic newspaper Der Sonntag.

Toni Faber, the priest of Vienna’s iconic St Stephen’s Cathedral, was even more forthright.

“If I had the job of causing the most damage possible to the Church with two pages of text, I would write exactly the sort of letter that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has written,” he told the Profil news magazine.

The CDF’s statement “totally misfired” in the aim of “upholding the sacrament of marriage”, Faber said, adding that none of the heterosexual couples he marries “feel diminished by the fact that I give blessings to same-sex couples”.

The unhappiness has found an echo among Germany’s Catholics, with priests using a hashtag calling for “disobedience” online.

While some prominent German bishops have supported the Vatican’s stance, others accused the CDF of seeking to stifle theological debates which have been active among German Catholics in recent years.

A German petition calling for the CDF’s ruling to be ignored has been signed by 2,600 priests and deacons, as well as 277 theologians.

The reaction in Germany and Austria speaks to broader global fault lines on social issues between socially conservative and liberal congregations.

However, according to Jesuit priest and former head of Vatican Radio’s German section Bernd Hagenkord, German-speaking countries also have “a very particular tradition of theology which acts very independently” and is less amenable to being overruled by Church hierarchy.

Back in Hard, the parish church decided to leave the remnants of the burnt flag in place for several days after the attack.

“It had the effect of a cross,” says Baldauf.

But in time for Good Friday, a new rainbow flag once again flew proudly outside the church, a sign of welcome for all parishioners at Easter.

Complete Article HERE!

Gay priests: Breaking the silence

Father Greg Greiten is one of a very few openly gay priests in America.

by Sari Aviv and Anna Matranga

The setting, with its soaring cathedral ceiling and sacraments, is typical of any Catholic service, but the similarities stopped with this sermon: “Because if there’s anything that an LGBTQ person will know, it is that we’re going to face opposition,” said Father Greg Greiten.

Yes, Father Greiten said “we” members of the LGBTQ community. He is one of very few openly gay priests.

When asked how many there are, he said, “I’ve always heard the number thrown out, like, ten of us, that are really out there.”

There are roughly 38,000 priests in America.

Correspondent Seth Doane Asked, “What are you risking by being out?”

“Sometimes it feels like I have to walk on a tightrope,” he replied.

Father Greiten “came out” to his congregation in this Milwaukee suburb about three years ago, at age 51, when he announced, “I am a gay priest, and a celibate priest.” This moment came after a lifetime of struggle, serving a church that teaches that “acting on” homosexual feelings is a sin.

“I just want to break the silence,” he told Doane. “We’re here. And for me, Seth, that was part of the hypocrisy that I was watching happen.”

“Did you feel like a hypocrite when you were up here at the pulpit, and not out?”

“I personally did. It’s like wearing a mask. Every day I have to go up there and pretend I’m something I’m not.”

He pledged, as all priests do, to live a celibate life. For him, this was not about sexual activity, but identity. He found folks in his congregation were overwhelmingly supportive.

Doane asked Carol Webber, “Does it matter to you that the priest here is gay?”

“No, it’s a positive thing,” she replied.

Carol and Fred Webber’s son had come out to them years earlier. “We went into the closet for a while, until we were able to accept it,” she said. “Of course, we loved our son.” Later, they say having an openly-gay priest helped.

But the church itself has not been so pleased.

Father Greiten said, “The unwritten comment is, ‘Don’t talk about it. We know you’re there, but be silent.'”

“Father Frederick,” as we’ll call him, feared losing his salary, healthcare, church housing, pension, and the authority to minister. During his interview, “Sunday Morning” hid his identity. “I’m not courageous enough yet,” he said.

Doane asked, “What does it say that you need to do this interview in shadow?”

“It says that it’s not cool to be gay if you’re a priest. And if you are gay and a priest both at the same time, you’ve gotta hide one or the other.”

He likened that secrecy to the “double-life” of spies.

When asked if he has remained celibate as a priest,” Father Frederick replied, “No, I did not. I experimented. I struggled. There were liaisons, there were relationships. And there was love several times.”

Love and sexual intimacy with another man? “Yes.”

With other priests? “Once or twice.”

He said his seminary where he trained to be a priest was a “warehouse” of young men struggling with their sexuality. They were encouraged from the top, and the beginning, to keep quiet.

Doane asked, “What’s the effect of this culture of silence on the church?”

“It is a slow-moving cancer,” Father Frederick said.

While Pope Francis famously responded “Who am I to judge” when asked about gay priests during a papal press conference, he has also said that anyone with “deep seated” homosexual tendencies shouldn’t be a priest. “Their place is not in ministry or in consecrated life,” he said.

Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, and the most high-profile advocate for LGBTQ Catholics, said, “I think that if you had suddenly all the gay priests in the United States come out, I think the Church would be forced to look at the question of homosexuality in a very different light.”

In 2019 Pope Francis requested a meeting with Father Martin: “The Vatican put our audience on the Pope’s official schedule. They sent out a picture. I met with him in the Apostolic Palace, which is where he meets with presidents and diplomats. It was a pretty strong sign of his support.”

“The tone is new; the teachings haven’t changed?” asked Doane.

“The teachings haven’t changed, but the tone is very important.”

And, Father Martin says, ultimately Catholic leaders need to shift their thinking: “It’s a life issue. We have high suicide rates among LGBT youth, and we also have places in the world where gay people can be arrested and executed for being gay.”

He calls Pope Francis (the first pope to use the word “gay” publicly) the most pro-LGBTQ pope ever, though acknowledging that’s “not a high bar.”

“One of the things I lament is, if there were a case of, say, bullying in a parish or in a school, it would be wonderful for the gay priest to get up and say, ‘Look, I was bullied as a boy,'” Father Martin said. “So, there are these life experiences that I think people are missing in the church.”

Doane asked. “How many gay priests do you think there are?”

“I’m guessing maybe 40 percent. Who knows?” he replied. “If it was 40%, I wouldn’t be surprised; if it was 80%, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“It is a large, silent community, a vast silent majority,” said Frédéric Martel, a French author who spent four years researching his book, “In the Closet of the Vatican,” about the gay underworld there.

He said he interviewed hundreds of priests, even cardinals: “It’s ‘Fifty Shades of Gay.’ I mean, a lot of different kind of gay.”

He suggests the largest group of men in the Vatican may be gay, but do not practice, and can actually be the most homophobic – and in interviews discovered a real range of sexual identities. “Each of them, each of them is totally singular in his little closet,” Martel said.

Francesco Mangiacapra is a sex worker with a law degree who found one priest client led to another, and another. When Doane asked how many priests he had slept with, Mangiacapra replied, “I think about 100. We have in Italy many, many thousands of priests, so 100 is not so much.”

Over roughly five years, Mangiacapra compiled a 1,200-page “dossier” of personal profiles, graphic photos and text-message exchanges with roughly 50 of the priests who were his clients. He submitted it to his local archdiocese of Naples – he says – as a political act.

“This demonstrates that there’s a flaw in the system – a system which tolerates certain behavior but makes it so these behaviors are hidden,” he said.

Mangiacapra admitted the dossier had scared off some priest-clients, but not all, adding: “The libido is higher than the fear.”

It’s important to note: the priests “Sunday Morning” spoke with, as well as the Vatican itself, see no connection between homosexuality and the clerical sexual abuse crisis. A five-year study by New York’s John Jay College, commissioned by bishops, found “the data do not support a finding that homosexual identity is a risk factor for the sexual abuse of minors.”

Doane spoke with about two dozen priests, who told us they were gay, but few would share their stories publicly.

Father Frederick said, “I admire priests who are willing to stand up, come out of the closet. That’s courage.”

Most told Doane they felt forced into the closet. It’s a painful, confining place, particularly in a church community where they’re expected to be role models.

Father Greg Greiten, faithfully serving his parish in Wisconsin, said secrecy is a scourge in the church, so the first step for him is being open and honest.

Doane asked, “You signed up to work for an institution that thinks being gay, acting out on that, is a sin.”

“Correct. But the difference is, this is my spiritual home. This is where I was baptized. This is where I received my first communion. And so, this is my home. And I don’t believe that the home should be throwing out its children.”

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