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US Catholic group spent millions to track and identify priests using gay dating apps

It’s recently been revealed by The Washington Post that a conservative Catholic group based in Colorado in the US spent millions to obtain data that tracked and identified priests using gay dating apps. The confidential information was later shared with bishops nationwide.

The controversial abuse of power and violation of privacy was conducted by the non-profit Catholic Laity and Clergy for Renewal and discovered by the American daily newspaper through tax records which described the project’s mission as a means to “empower the church to carry out its mission” and provide bishops with “evidence-based resources” to help further identify weaknesses in current training.

As if this news wasn’t shocking enough, it’s also been reported that the group has reportedly spent at least $4 million on the project and shared the information with dozens of bishops across the country.

While the exact impact such data will have on priests is unclear as of now, an anonymous person who spoke with The Washington Post explained that information discovered via the Renewal project may cause Catholic members not to receive promotions or even to be pushed into an early retirement.

Participants in the project were also said to be involved in the outing of prominent Catholic pastor, Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, who stepped down from his post as secretary general of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in July 2021 after religious news site, The Pillar, used commercially available data to track his use of LGBTQIA+ “hookup apps” and visits he paid to a gay bar and a Las Vegas bathhouse.

Following Burrill’s resignation and the latest discovery of mobile app tracking, LGBTQIA+ advocates and privacy specialists have been raising alarms about this specific type of invasion of privacy that is directly targeting vulnerable people.

“The power of this story is that you don’t often see where these practices are linked to a specific person or group of people. Here, you can clearly see the link,” said Justin Sherman, a senior fellow at Duke University’s public policy school and expert on data privacy issues, to The Post.

Sherman added that data privacy laws in the US are limited, noting: “You can count them on one or two hands.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Catholic Laity and Clergy for Renewal told the publication that its president, Jayd Henricks, would give an interview about the project. However, several requests for an interview or comment were ignored.

Coincidentally, Henricks did write a first-person piece published on Wednesday 8 March 2023 on the website First Things, in which he stated that he has “been proud to be a part of [the] group” and justified its actions by adding: “After all, data is used by all major corporations, so why not the Church?”

It should be noted however that some in the Catholic church criticised the use of surveillance to target priests because of their sexual orientation. A USCCB member who knows Burrill stated: “Revealing information that harms a person’s reputation without an objectively valid reason—even if it’s true—is considered a sin.”

Everything dating apps don’t want you to know (from a former dating app employee)

Ghosting, swiping, flirting: I’ve seen it all. Casually throwing “Oh, I actually used to work for a dating app” in a conversation has become one of my favourite party tricks—typically followed up by the person asking for ‘insider info’ on how to crack the uncrackable code of the apps in question. Not saying I know more than any of them do, although I may have acquired some unbeknown wisdom. But where do I draw the line between being a good advisor and breaking an NDA?

Don’t get me wrong, I was just a mere copywriter—but after getting to see the inner workings of matchmaking in real-time, I do have some insights for you. And I understand the appeal of asking. After all, everyone needs a too-good-to-be-true lifehack promising that it will turn your dating life from lukewarm “Hey what’s up”s into spectacular dates. There’s a lot of strange stuff happening in the dating world, but for the sake of not getting in trouble, most of these conclusions are merely subjective and served with a side of my own perspective.

So, why is online dating so strange? Let’s find out.

1. The algorithm is working hard (against you)

This may seem obvious, but it doesn’t quite register in your mind when you’re on a dating app as a user. “Aw, how cute, people come on this app to find just what they’re looking for” is probably what all of us are thinking, right? Well, I’m really sorry to break it to you, but much like any business, the main agenda of a dating app is to keep you engaged on the platform at all costs. How? By dangling a carrot of connection, giving you just enough to keep you communicating but not enough to find the love of your life and delete your account altogether. Sinister, I know.

Have you noticed that dating apps kind of always leave you wanting more? How does the algorithm do it? Most prevalently, by making it seem like your options are endless.

2. The illusion of infinite supply

This is actually a well-known phenomenon that just straight-up messes with us. Dating apps are designed to make you feel like there are oh-so-many great people to connect with. In between the endless swiping, you can’t help but wonder: How can I ensure this person I just matched with is the most compatible partner for me? There must be more, right?

We now begin to view our romantic connections as something disposableand no one here is to blame, really. Just one more swipe, just one more late-night “wyd” or coffee date,  and you might find what you’ve been needing all along. Because why would you settle for someone who doesn’t love The Office as much as you do, or whose music taste isn’t perfectly aligned with yours, when the next person might?

Factors like commitment, effort, patience, and conscious dedication of your time that are all required to make dating valuable go out of the window. Now, let’s be honest here. At the end of the day, we all still believe in finding ‘the one’ but the problem is we no longer believe it’s possible to build that with time and patienceinstead, we like to think it’ll be served fresh and ready to go. Caught up in our own ideas of “just another swipe,” we then start to forget that dating is not exactly a grocery store run.

3. Most people aren’t on the apps to date

Yeah, ouch, this one stings the most—call me naive, but I didn’t know this before I observed it firsthand. Upon researching user behaviour closely and regularly, I was surprised to find out just how many users log on daily (don’t you people have a job?) for a quick dopamine boost ignited by being liked back, starting a conversation just to abandon it minutes later, or scrolling through a catalogue of photos.

A lot of these people have no intention of meeting in real life or turning any of their online exchanges into something tangible and worthwhilethey literally just want to feel chosen for a split second. And I don’t really know why it took me so long to accept that, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind for when you’re wondering why they’re not asking you out. Bad news: they were never planning to do it. Good news: it was never about you.

4. People are desperate and lonely

As a woman who primarily dates men, I’ve always struggled to understand what the male species’ intentions on dating apps are (beyond the obvious). I’ll let you in on one thing I’ve learned: the majority of straight men are lonely and super desperate. They will “swipe right” on almost anyone and copy-paste the same message to every woman that blesses them with a mutual like. And as their chances of being liked back are statistically quite low, they’re going into it with a very obvious—albeit well-hidden—scarcity mindset.

Most men on dating apps will entertain connection with whoever they can get, not who they truly want. To them, anything goes! It’s upsetting and strange, but you can kind of sense it when you’re talking to one: the energy is draining, the conversation is dry, and you’re obviously not feeling it but can’t quite pinpoint why. That’s why I emphasise the importance of being intentional with your matches and not taking things personally—if they don’t seem too interested, that’s because they aren’t. You’re just the only one in their notifications tab.

5. Want a relationship? Get ready to suffer

Ask any 20-something looking for a relationship on dating apps how we’re doing—we’re in the trenches fighting for our lives. It’s no secret that hookup culture has made it near impossible to find something long-term and serious among the infinite “let’s just see how it goes” and casual persuasion. You will most certainly be met with a ton of rejection if you go into it asking for your needs to be met. You might even begin to think it’s better to not bring it up until it’s too late, and I don’t blame you for that.

The only way to combat the ever present casualty and find what you’re truly looking for? Be so unapologetically outspoken about what you want that no amount of late night “come over” texts will be able to mess with your boundaries.

At the end of the day, online dating is what you make it. Among the horror I’ve seen (both as a user and an employee), I’ve witnessed some really cute and genuine love stories unfold too. My advice is simple, but it works: be bold, date intentionally, and don’t take anything personally. I’ve not unveiled all the secrets, but you now know that most people on these apps have no idea what they’re doing. But knowledge is power—and you know yourself and what you want better than anyone. So, don’t say that I didn’t warn you!


A former dating app employee