Ministry matters

Questions abound in the wake of Msgr. Burrill’s Return to Active Ministry | National Catholic Register

A decision to restore Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill in active ministry in his home diocese in Wisconsin, less than a year after a scandal involving his alleged use of the “hook-up” app Grindr, has raised questions about the caution of the move and how which it was implemented.

Bishop William Callahan of La Crosse told members of St. Teresa Parish in Kolkata June 11-12 that Msgr. Burrill would be their new parish administrator. He also expressed his confidence in his ability to accompany them in their journey towards Christ.

However, although he said in a brief statement published on the parish website that Mgr. Burrill had recently served the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, he did not mention the priest’s resignation last July as general secretary just before an investigative report in The pillar. According to this report, Msgr. Burrill allegedly engaged in inappropriate behavior and frequently used Grindr, which describes itself as “the world’s largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans and queer people.”

The bishop’s statement also did not say what Msgr. Burrill did so while on “extended leave” from active ministry other than to state that he “has engaged in a sincere and prayerful effort to strengthen his priestly vows” and has responded favorably to every request made by Bishop Callahan and the diocese. These requests were not specified.

Finally, although the diocese has pledged to cooperate fully with the USCCB last year to investigate and address claims against Msgr. Burrill, the statement says only that the diocese has not received any allegations of unlawful misconduct from him.

Since the announcement of Mgr. Burrill’s nomination, there was no apparent response from the parishioners of St. Teresa of Calcutta. Nothing surfaced on the parish’s Facebook page, although a post about the nomination on the diocese’s Facebook page generated more than a dozen comments and reactions, most expressing surprise, anger or sadness, but none were identified as coming from a parishioner.

Non-parishioner Monica Mohan responded to the diocesan post with a link to a article about LifeSiteNews’ nomination, which contrasted Bishop Callahan’s support for Msgr. Burrill with his censorship of Father James Altman, another priest in the diocese. Bishop Callahan removed Fr. Altman as pastor of St. James the Less Parish and removed his priestly faculties last July after seeking to privately correct him for inflammatory comments on several social media platforms.

Mohan, of Fall Creek, Wisconsin, also mentioned Father Altman’s dismissal in a letter to La Crosse Grandstand, criticizing the way in which the bishop dealt with it as well as Mgr. Burrill’s appointment “A good bishop protects – is transparent,” she wrote.

Incomplete accounting

Father Gerald Murray, a canon lawyer and pastor of Holy Family Church in New York, told the Register that he viewed Bishop Callahan’s statement as lacking in candor and avoiding reporting on the public scandal that Msgr. Burrill occasioned. It also leaves the impression, he added, that because no one sent the diocese allegations of unlawful misconduct, there was nothing more that could be done.

Furthermore, he said, it raises questions such as whether an investigation was carried out by a qualified and independent professional expert, whether it covered the potential use of Church funds or the USCCB for immoral activities and if Msgr. Burrill sought and received professional help for a possible sex addiction. Likewise, says Father Murray, there was no reference to the Cannon 1395-2which provides for sanctions, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state, against clerics who publicly violate the sixth commandment.

Also missing from Bishop Callahan’s statement, he said, is whether Msgr. Burrill will be watched closely by a diocesan official, to see if parishioners will have a way to raise concerns about his behavior and where he resides.

The Registry’s efforts to obtain answers to these questions about Msgr. Burrill’s appointment was met with silence from the Diocese of La Crosse as well as St. Therese Parish in Kolkata. Repeated calls and emails were not returned.

“The mission of Msgr. Burrill to a leadership position of pastoral responsibility without a full account of what he has done and without a sincere expression of public regret from Msgr. Burrill himself,” Father Murray said, “seems to me extremely reckless and seems to follow the all-too-familiar pattern of bishops protecting clerics known to have engaged in grave sexual immorality while asking the faithful to trust their judgement “.

Clericalist approach?

Indeed, Andrew Petiprin, who wrote about Msgr. Burrill appointment in a recent Catholic World Report column, told the Register that such situations reinforce the perception that the Church hierarchy has a problem with clericalism. “It seems right to me that Msgr. The Bishop of Burrill has truly put his concern for his priests ahead of the greater good for the people of his diocese.

A former Episcopal priest who came into full communion with the Church in 2019, Petiprin said he speaks as a concerned layman who believes in the mercy extended to Msgr. Burrill must be balanced with the needs of God’s people.

He said: “I think it’s important, obviously, that his bishop cares about him and wishes the best for him, but he also has a major responsibility to take care of the souls of the people in his diocese and also to worry about the perception of things in the eyes of the world.

Petiprin said it is not that some sort of rehabilitation is out of the question for Bishop. Burrill. “But it seems a bit strange that less than a year after being exposed in public scandal, he has returned to active ministry.”

A priest expert in priestly formation, ethics and canon law who asked not to be named said he was less bothered by the shortness of time between Msgr. Burrill’s resignation from the USCCB and his return to the ministry only by the lack of information available on the situation.

“It looks like God’s people are being gaslighted, like it never happened,” he said. “This has been made public and therefore the public needs an answer from the Church as to what happened.”

The priest said the statement that no allegations of unlawful misconduct had been received indicates passivity on the part of the diocese and not that there was an investigation.

If an investigation takes place and it identifies people involved with Msgr. Burrill, the priest said there might be reasons to remain silent to protect them. However, he said, there is also an obligation to clarify that the Church does not approve of this behavior and will not sanction it, which means that a sanction has been imposed and instruments have been put in place. in place to ensure that this does not happen again. For example, he said, “I would have expected someone in authority to say that priests should not use these apps, and the minimum would be that Msgr. Burrill deleted these apps from his phone.

The priest also said that all sense of sin seems to have been lost in the way Msgr. Burrill’s case has been dealt with. “It would be helpful to have a statement from him saying he is sorry and commits to being a faithful priest.”

Therapeutic perspective

Peter Kleponis, a licensed clinical therapist who has worked with priests, clerics and seminarians and specializes in recovery from pornography addiction, said he could not say whether Msgr. Burrill is reinstated too early in the ministry. In some cases, he told the Register, a year of good, healthy sobriety may be enough to warrant the return of someone struggling with sex addiction.

However, he said he sees several red flags at Msgr. The Burrill Affair. Among these, although the priest is not suspected of having participated in illegal activities, his alleged use of Grindr suggests a moral violation.

“Has the diocese investigated this? said Kleponis. “Morally, a priest who talks about chaste celibacy shouldn’t be on something like Grindr.”

Kleponis said there was also no indication that Bishop. Burrill received a psychological assessment, adding, “If a person is on Grindr every day, there could be a sex addiction here, but that needs to be assessed.” According The pillar report, a mobile device correlated to Msgr. Burrill pinged Grindr app data on a near-daily basis for parts of 2018, 2019, and 2020, and analysis showed he also visited gay bars and private residences while using the application during this period.

Upon being returned to the ministry, Kleponis said that Msgr. Burrill and his use of technology should be monitored regularly. “Where he goes and what he does requires accountability.”

Because the availability of technology and the internet can facilitate involvement and addiction to pornography or apps like Grindr, Kleponis said he would like to see the Church institute more formal guidelines to help priests in such situations.

“The Church needs a policy to help these people,” he said. “A lot of dioceses just send them to a treatment center for six months, but even that doesn’t help. There needs to be new policies based on current research…and each diocese needs to have a policy on how to handle these situations.

Helping priests doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll eventually return to ministry, as some might not be able to do so, Kleponis said, but they shouldn’t be automatically fired because they are identified as having such problems.

“In my practice, I work with many priests who struggle with pornography addiction, and many of them come to me in secret. They don’t want their diocese to know about it. happen and they are afraid of losing their ministry – and some have.

Nonetheless, Kleponis said he advises these priests to make their struggles known to their bishops. “It leads to laying off some – and some should be. Some are so ingrained that they need to step away for a while. Some may even need hospital treatment.