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U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 01, 2023 in Washington, DC. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) — Biden-appointed U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday admitted to Republican U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri that the leaked FBI memo directing surveillance of certain traditional Catholics deemed to share common ideological ground with white supremacist extremists was “appalling” and “inappropriate.” He couldn’t say whether or not there are currently any FBI informants operating within Catholic churches.

Garland made the comment during a March 1 Senate Judiciary Oversight hearing, in which Hawley demanded that the attorney general answer for his DOJ’s alleged targeting of Catholics.

After grilling Garland repeatedly over the the “SWAT-style” raid of pro-life Catholic sidewalk counselor and father Mark Houck, Hawley said he “notice[d] a pattern.”

“The FBI field office in Richmond, on the 23rd of January of this year, issued a memorandum in which they advocated for, and I quote, ‘the exploration of new avenues for tripwire and source development’ against traditionalist Catholics – their language – including those who favor the Latin Mass,” Hawley said.

READ: GOP senators grill Merrick Garland over FBI, DOJ terrorizing Mark Houck and his family

Last month, former FBI agent turned whistleblower Kyle Seraphin released an eight-page internal document indicating the FBI field office planned to use informants to intercept “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists” who they said had found common ground with “radical-traditionalist Catholic (RTC) ideology,” LifeSiteNews reported.

The FBI retracted the memo the day after the leak, saying the document had failed to meet its “exacting standards.” However, Seraphin says the memo is still being internally circulated.

In the March 1 Senate hearing, Hawley asked Garland whether his DOJ is “cultivating sources and spies in Latin Mass parishes and other Catholic parishes around the country?” 

Garland denied the charge, but said he agreed with Hawley’s condemnation of the memo.

“The Justice Department does not do that. It does not do investigations based on religion,” he said, adding that he “saw the document” and “it’s appalling.”

“I’m in complete agreement with you. I understand that the FBI has withdrawn it and is now looking into how this could ever have happened,” he said.

Hawley pushed Garland to answer how the memo did come to be created and circulated, something Garland repeated is currently under investigation.

The Missouri Republican told Garland he could already give him an answer about how the document “happened,” pointing out that it “cites extensively the Southern Poverty Law Center, which goes on to identify all these different Catholics as being part of ‘hate groups.’” 

“Is this how the FBI, under your direction and leadership, is this how they do their intelligence work? They look at left-wing advocacy groups to target Catholics? Is this what’s going on? I mean, clearly it is,” he said. “How is this happening?”

READ: Rep. Jim Jordan demands FBI reveal details regarding since-retracted ‘anti-Catholic memo’

Though again agreeing the Richmond, Virginia memo was “inappropriate,” and “doesn’t reflect the methods that the FBI is supposed to be using,” since they “should not be relying on any single organization without doing its own work,” Garland argued that the “FBI is not targeting Catholics.”

As Hawley’s time came to a close, he asked Garland, “how many informants do you have in Catholic churches across America?”

The attorney general said he didn’t think there were any, but he couldn’t be sure.

“I don’t know, and I don’t believe we have any informants aimed at Catholic churches,” Garland said. “We have a rule against investigations based on First Amendment activity and Catholic churches are obviously First Amendment activity. But I don’t know the specific answer to that question.”

“You don’t know the specifics of anything, it seems, but apparently on your watch, this Justice Department is targeting Catholics, targeting people of faith, specifically for their faith views,” Hawley argued. “And Mr. Attorney General, I’ll just say to you: It’s a disgrace.”