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A Fall from Fidelity & Subsequent Exposure

Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, the secretary-general of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, resigned on July 20 after a newly founded Catholic online newsletter employed commercially available data to trace his calls, movements, and behavior since 2018 linking him to gay bars and a Las Vegas gay bathhouse:

  • Does the use of such surveillance constitute an invasion of privacy?
  • Does the publication violate basic journalistic ethics?
  • Should such information always be shared with a titillated and voyeuristic public? 
  • Cannot the priesthood of such a man be salvaged or does such exposure and scandal forever destroy his ministry?
  • Does not such high-tech spying threaten the privacy of all of us and open up the possibility of blackmail?
  • How many innocent churchmen were targeted in this probe?
  • While arguably legal should such efforts be outlawed? 
  • How should Church authorities respond or act when questionable means are used to “out” clergy and others? 
  • While we would expect a priest to remain faithful, should a priest face discipline for information gathered by unethical means? 
  • Would acting on this information make the Church an accomplice in sin? (We have never accepted the philosophical dictum that “ends justify means.”)

Many of us know priests who fell with women and later repented, were rehabilitated and gave great witness as pastors of souls.  Placing the question of ordination for homosexuals aside, should not these priests be given a second chance or does the unnatural or heinous character of their acts demand permanent removal and laicization?  I do not know.  Honest about my own bias, I would tend to be harsh against homosexuals.  I suppose much depends upon the type of ministry and the willingness of laity and bishops to forgive.  We live and work at a time when just the insinuation of wrong can destroy ministry.   

What immediately disappoints and upsets many Catholics is that we are all urged to keep our solemn promises, no matter whether to marital fidelity or priestly celibacy. There is no evidence of criminal misconduct by Monsignor Burrill with minors; however, homosexuality is often linked by conservative critics to the abuse of youth.  The condemnation of the homosexual man is frequently intensified by journalists and bloggers making this unsubstantiated association.

My thoughts go back to various men in Holy Orders who made mistakes or who had charges placed against them. Back in 2020, Father George Rutler was accused of watching gay pornography and then sexually assaulting a 22 year old woman. The charges of assault were dropped in May of 2021 as unfounded.  Will that be enough to restore his good name?  Who can say?  The headlines made when a priest is charged are in bold and everywhere.  When vindicated, one is lucky to find a mention in anything larger that a want ad or obituary.  The left delights in what it sees as the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.       

The current environment is toxic and dangerous for the most innocent of clergymen.  But original sin and concupiscence is still at work even in the best of men.  The Church would naturally seek to heal and restore while many other voices would rather expose and depose. 

One Response

  1. Remove all homosexual priests
    Do not ordain homosexuals to the clergy

    Look at the disgusting mess they are causing to the church around the world

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