Catholic Leaders Slam FBI Over ‘Illegitimate Targeting” Of Catholics As Bureau Defends Its Investigation
Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty Images

Catholic leaders slammed the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday after the House Judiciary Committee discovered federal agents interviewed a priest and a choir director as part of an investigation into so-called Radical-Traditional Catholics as potential domestic terrorists.

“The latest revelations only raise more questions about the illegitimate targeting of Catholics by the FBI,” CatholicVote President Brian Burch told The Daily Wire in an emailed statement. “We now know that the FBI effort involved at least four field offices, authorized the use of undercover agents to infiltrate Catholic parishes, and used a Catholic priest and a choir director to inform on one of their parishioners.”

The House Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government launched an investigation into the FBI earlier this year after former agent-turned-whistleblower Kyle Seraphin leaked an internal memo from the bureau’s Richmond Field Office, which painted certain “radical-traditionalist Catholics” as violent extremists and proposed opportunities for the FBI to infiltrate Catholic churches as a form of “threat mitigation.”

“Despite every effort to downplay the significance of this abuse of power, the FBI still owes Catholics and all concerned Americans answers as to who was behind the effort to spy on Catholics, how far and wide this effort went inside the FBI, whether it is ongoing, and whether anyone has been held accountable,” Burch added.

Whistleblower disclosures in the report said FBI authorities interviewed a priest and choir director of The Society of Saint Pius (SSPX) — an international priestly society promoting traditional practices affiliated with a Catholic church in Richmond, Virginia, between November and December 2022.

Although federal agents refused to disclose the contents of the interviews, the committee noted the whistleblower’s allegations showed the FBI directly communicated with Catholic clergy and staff about parishioners practicing their faith around the same time the analysts started drafting the memorandum.

During a hearing on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray claimed that the interview of the priest and choir director was part of “an investigation of a specific individual who was amassing Molotov cocktails and posting about killing people. And it does not surprise me that there were people who knew that subject in that investigation.”

Likewise, the FBI told Fox News that the interviews highlighted by the committee’s report were conducted by the Richmond Field Office during an investigation of an individual allegedly threatening violence who has since been arrested.

“The interviews were not conducted for the domain perspective as characterized by the report,” the FBI said.

Committee members found the memo sparked confusion among FBI employees after failing to define the meaning of “radical traditionalist Catholics” when preparing their anti-Catholic document, which the report said would likely still operate in the bureau’s systems without the revelations of whistleblower disclosures.

The report also discovered the memo circulated to numerous field offices around the country, including field offices in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Portland. The alleged findings appeared to contradict previous testimony from FBI Director Wray, who claimed the operation was limited to one office.

Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley pressed Wray about the memo’s alleged expansion during the Tuesday hearing. But Wray rejected the notion that other field offices were involved as “garble.”

“And let me explain why,” Wray said. “I mean, why I say that the only involvement of the two other field offices was the Richmond authors of the product, which included two sentences or something or thereabouts, referencing each of these other offices’ cases. And they sent those sentences about the other office cases to them, not the whole product, and asked them, ‘Hey, did we describe your case right?'”

“That’s all the other offices had,” he added. “So it was a single field office product, and I stand by that.”

Additional findings in the report included the FBI labeled Americans who are pro-life, pro-family, and those who support the Church rejecting radical gender theory teachings as potential domestic extremists. Meanwhile, at least one undercover agent allegedly spied on Catholics at their religious services as the bureau attempted to develop sources among Catholic clergy and church leadership.

Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow at the Catholic Association and co-host of the nationally syndicated radio show, “Conversations with Consequences,” called the findings “a major wake up call to any and all Americans who care about basic civil liberties.”

“While Catholic Churches as well as pro-life pregnancy care centers are under constant attack from actual violent extremists, the FBI had the audacity to investigate and spy on those targeted by these crimes,” McGuire told The Daily Wire in an emailed statement. “The notion that traditional Catholics pose some kind of national threat is so absurd it exceeds even Hollywood’s imagination.”

“And yet the FBI, an agency designed to protect Americans and their rights, was spying on Catholics everywhere from their choir lofts to their rectories,” she added.

Almost immediately after the document leaked, FBI authorities spiraled into damage control and purged the ant-Catholic memo from its system, saying the bureau would “never conduct investigative activities or open an investigation based solely on First Amendment protected activity.”

“While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, this particular field office product — disseminated only within the FBI — regarding racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI,” a spokesperson told The Daily Wire. “Upon learning of the document, FBI Headquarters quickly began taking action to remove the document from FBI systems and conduct a review of the basis for the document.”

The FBI told Fox News that it conducted an internal review of the memo and found “no malicious intent to target Catholics or members of any other religious faith, and did not identify any investigative steps taken as a result of the product.”

Got a tip worth investigating?

Your information could be the missing piece to an important story. Submit your tip today and make a difference.

Submit Tip
Download Daily Wire Plus

Don't miss anything

Download our App

Stay up-to-date on the latest
news, podcasts, and more.

Download on the app storeGet it on Google Play
The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Catholic Leaders Slam FBI Over ‘Illegitimate Targeting” Of Catholics As Bureau Defends Its Investigation