Mar 10, 2023 - News

Report: Denver-based Catholic nonprofit bought LGBTQ dating and hookup app data

A security camera lies on its side

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A Denver nonprofit run by conservative Catholics bought mobile app tracking data to identify priests who used LGBTQ dating and hookup apps, according to the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The Catholic Laity and Clergy for Renewal says it is trying to identify weaknesses in priest training, but two people with firsthand knowledge of the project told the Post they see the project as spying and damaging to the church's reputation.

Driving the news: The Denver nonprofit spent $4 million and obtained information from apps like Grindr, Scruff, Growlr and Jack'd, which it then shared with bishops around the country.

The other side: The group's president, Jayd Henricks, did not respond to calls or messages for comment from the Post, but he posted an online note this week saying the group "hoped to keep this work private, so as to be able to have honest and frank conversations with Church leaders, and protect the privacy of those affected."

Details: The Post says it also reviewed documents that were prepared for bishops, and heard audio of Henricks talking about the project.

Zoom in: The Post reported that men involved in the Renewal project were also involved in the outing of Jeffrey Burrill, a high-ranking priest who resigned from his position in 2021 after a Catholic news site said it had mobile app data showing he used Grindr. Burrill has since returned to active ministry.

  • "The anonymous tracking of a gay priest through his phone made news around the world, with critics calling it a kind of weaponized, anti-gay surveillance," the Washington Post writes.

Of note: It's unclear if the data collected by the Renewal has led to the resignations or firings of other priests.

  • There are more than 37,000 Catholic priests in the U.S., according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Between the lines: Public records, audio recordings and other documents show the trustees for the nonprofit include philanthropists Mark Bauman, John Martin and Tim Reichert, who last year unsuccessfully ran as a Republican candidate for the 7th Congressional District.

  • The Catholic Foundation of Northern Colorado is identified among the donors to the group, giving Renewal $400,000.

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