RICHMOND, Virginia (LifeSiteNews) — The Bishop of Richmond has called on all legislators in Virginia to condemn the FBI’s targeting of traditional Catholics.
“I call on all national representatives from the Commonwealth of Virginia in the House and Senate to exercise their role of oversight, to publicly condemn this threat to religious liberty, and to ensure that such offenses against the constitutionally protected free exercise of religion do not occur again,” Bishop Barry Knestout wrote in a statement released on February 13.
“I was alarmed to read the reports written late last week about the contents of the internal memo created by the Richmond Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” the statement reads. “I was also surprised to learn of the mention of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), a religious order, which celebrates the traditional form of the Catholic Mass. FSSP has served with devotion for many years the parishes within our Catholic community and to the faithful of our diocese who appreciate this form of the Catholic Mass in our diocese.”
“The leaked document should be troubling and offensive to all communities of faith, as well as all Americans,” Knestout blasted. “I am grateful for the Virginia Attorney General and 19 attorneys general who have called upon the government to publicly release all materials related to the production of this memo.”
Concluding, Knestout noted that if “evidence of extremism exists, it should be rooted out, but not at the expense of religious freedom. A preference for traditional forms of worship and holding closely to the Church’s teachings on marriage, family, human sexuality, and the dignity of the human person does not equate with extremism.”
The Virginia bishop reacted to a bombshell FBI memo that was released by whistleblower Kyle Seraphin last week, which sparked outrage among Catholics and other groups concerned about religious freedom. The report, written by an FBI analyst in Richmond, Virginia, published for internal agency use only on January 23, is titled, “Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities.”
Among the most controversial aspects of the memo is that it directly cites a defamatory study conducted by the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on the subject of “Radical Traditional Catholicism.” The SPLC has long been rejected as a legitimate resource for the FBI, former agent Seraphin said, but in this instance, it is being relied on as a primary source to justify its efforts. The memo also references three anti-Catholic smear articles (here, here, and here) published by leftwing websites Salon and The Atlantic to defend its monitoring.
The memo identifies nine Traditional Catholic organizations allegedly guilty of promoting Radical Traditionalist Catholic (RTC) ideology: Catholic Family News, The Remnant, The Fatima Center, Tradition in Action, Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Culture Wars, In the Spirit of Chartres, Christ or Chaos, and Catholic Apologetics International. These groups were all listed in the SPLC report. The FBI document also specifically mentioned the FSSP and the Priestly Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), the SSPX “Resistance,” as well as sedevacantist groups.
After the memo had caused an immense backlash, the FBI quickly retracted the document that targets traditional Catholics. In its statement, the FBI claimed that “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.”
On February 10, Virginia’s Attorney General and Attorney Generals from 19 other states signed a document that condemned the FBI document and called upon the federal government to release all materials related to the controversial memo.
“The FBI must immediately and unequivocally order agency personnel not to target Americans based on their religious beliefs and practices,” the document by the Attorney Generals reads. “We also demand that the FBI produce publicly all materials relating to the memorandum and its production.”