Column: The FBI's Outrageous Probe of 'Radical Catholics'

December 6th, 2023 5:12 AM

After 9/11, leftist journalists passionately exposed the New York City Police Department doing surveillance of mosques to try and prevent violent Muslim extremism. By contrast, they largely yawned when it was leaked in February that the FBI’s office in Richmond, Virginia discussed surveilling local Catholic churches to root out potential violent extremism from the “radical Catholics.”

The Biden administration loves the narrative that white conservatives and “Christian nationalists” are the biggest domestic terrorism threat. The FBI’s Richmond office wrote an internal memo, titled "Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities." They reported “high confidence” that they would find Catholic terrorism plotters.

Now Congressman Jim Jordan’s Weaponization subcommittee reports the FBI relied on at least one undercover agent to develop its assessment and the FBI even proposed developing sources among the Catholic clergy and church leaderships: "Not only did the FBI propose to develop sources, but it already interviewed a priest and choir director affiliated with a Catholic church in Richmond, Virginia for the memorandum."

If there were an actual extremist threat – like someone wanting to bomb an abortion clinic – that would be understandable, but no such threat emerged. So why would they be nosing around, interviewing priests and choir directors?

Apparently, it was a Richmond church affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X, which is a breakaway traditionalist group of priests and bishops that presently has no official canonical status in the Church. They can validly celebrate the Mass, but Catholics are discouraged from attending. The FBI claimed “Richmond’s highest priority DT [domestic terrorism] subject” was a man who “self-identified” on social media as a “radical traditionalist Catholic Clerical Fascist.”

No one to date has identified any violence committed by a “Catholic Clerical Fascist.”

It looks like people are being monitored for their “far right” religious and political opinions. The report said that the documents obtained by the committee's subpoena show that "the FBI singled out Americans who are pro-life, pro-family, and support the biological basis for sex and gender distinction as potential domestic terrorists.”

The two FBI employees who co-authored the memorandum later admitted to FBI internal investigators that they knew the sources cited in the memo had a political bias— leftist sources including the Southern Poverty Law Center, The Atlantic, and Salon.

The FBI withdrew the Richmond memo from all field offices. But now, despite all the problems that the FBI found with the memorandum, Jordan’s subcommittee report notes FBI Richmond still “desires” to get this information out about “radical-traditionalist Catholics.”

On December 5, Sen. Josh Hawley pressed FBI Director Christopher Wray, asking if Catholic choirs were now breeding grounds for terrorism. Wray claimed the FBI does not and will not investigate Americans for exercising their religious liberty. Hawley shot back that this is exactly what the Richmond memo was advocating, probing Catholic churches for swaggering “clerical fascists.”

This is the same Justice Department who raided the home of pro-life activist Mark Houck in the fall of 2022 with a SWAT team of about 25 and pointed guns at the Houck family over an alleged violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. All Houck had done was shove an abortion-clinic volunteer who was harassing his son a year earlier, in 2021. Does this sound like a government that’s a good judge of who’s a violent extremist, or in this raid, did they look like the violent extremists?