The late Sir Roger Scruton once wrote about the “religious imposter” Tartuffe, an archetypal character from a play by the seventeenth-century French comedic playwright Molière. “Tartuffe is not simply a hypocrite,” Scruton said, “who pretends to ideals that he does not believe in. He is a fabricated person, who believes in his own ideals since he is just as illusory as they are.” The infinite avatars we can create behind the apps on our screens make our true selves easier to ignore; and among Christian leaders, these fakers prop up a culture of deceit that leads to systemic failure.
In July 2021, Catholics learned about the secret life of Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, who resigned as General Secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, after it came to light that he was a frequent user of the gay hook-up app, Gridr. At the time, there was legitimate disagreement in the Catholic world surrounding the investigation and publicizing of Burrill’s moral failures.
But whether we should know about Burrill’s misdeeds is now beside the point. We know. And less than a year after Burrill’s demise, his bishop, The Most Reverend William Patrick Callahan, announced Burrill would be returning to public ministry as Parochial Administrator of St. Teresa of Kolkata Parish in the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin.
While we should all rejoice for Burrill to be reconciled to Christ and the Church, we should also be appalled to see him leading the people of God at the altar and in the pulpit again. We all understand that priests are in short supply, but we will just have to soldier on without men like Monsignor Burrill at the altar.
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