According to a recent Washington Post report, a Denver-area nonprofit is reportedly collecting data from gay dating app Grindr in an effort to out gay Catholic priests.
The Post reported that the nonprofit, dubbed Catholic Laity and Clergy for Renewal, has spent at least $4 million between 2018 and 2021 on collecting data from various gay dating and hookup apps, including Grindr, Scruff, Growlr, Jack’d, and OKCupid, and giving that data to roughly a dozen Catholic bishops. The group’s trustees have been publicly listed as Mark Bauman, John Martin, and Tim Reichert.
Reportedly, the nonprofit obtained the data from third-party data brokers, who got the information from ad exchanges and cross-referenced that advertiser data with location data from the apps themselves. Location data then revealed specific churches, church-owned residences, workplaces, and seminaries in order to find which Catholic priests are on the app.
Bennett Cyphers, who is described as a special advisor for the Electronic Freedom Foundation, said the data-mining operation constituted the “first needle-in-a-haystack case, where someone sifts through millions of locations in apps and looks for one person and then tries to use that info to impeach them.”
How the data from the apps has been used remains unclear, however, as no resignations or terminations as a result of the surveillance and data collection campaign have been publicly announced. However, the Post‘s sources speculated that the data could be used to intimidate gay priests, or push certain priests into early retirement.
The Post’s sources, which remain anonymous due to their fear of reprisal from speaking publicly, referred to the data collection campaign as “un-Catholic,” damaging to priest-bishop relations, and damaging to the Catholic Church’s reputation as a whole. However, supporters of the effort, like Fox News commentator Rev. Gerald Murray, argue that the outing of gay Catholic priests is necessary as the priests are violating their public vow of celibacy.
Click here to read the full report in The Washington Post.
(Featured image: stainedglassdenver.com, Creative Commons)