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(LifeSiteNews) — The Department of Justice’s investigation into the FBI’s disturbing 2023 memo suggesting that Catholicism is a breeding ground for violent domestic terrorists – especially within Traditional Latin Mass circles – found that the memo “failed to adhere to FBI standards” but showed “no evidence of malicious intent,” absolving the agency of wrongdoing.

When the bombshell eight-page memo was released in February 2023 by a former FBI agent turned whistleblower, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, individual U.S. bishops, and others slammed what appeared to be an FBI witch hunt targeting faithful Catholics.

Among the most controversial aspects of the memo was that it directly cited a defamatory study conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) – an organization that regularly labels conservative, Christian, pro-life and pro-family enterprises as “hate groups – on the subject “Radical Traditional Catholicism.”

After a massive public backlash, the FBI quickly retracted the memo, but the perception of extreme anti-Catholic bias within the agency persisted.

After conducting a 120-day review of the troubling incident, DOJ Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz sent a 10-page report to Congress that, according to some conservative politicians and Catholic commentators, leaves important questions unanswered.

Horowitz’s report explained that during the course of his investigation, “We considered concerns expressed by Members of Congress that FBI Richmond (the office where the report originated) more broadly targeted Catholics who attend traditional Latin Mass or hold pro-life or other conservative views in an effort to identify domestic terrorists, including by placing undercover agents or confidential human sources (CHS) in churches or interviewing clergy and other church employees.”

The report attempted to put to rest all of those alarming concerns. It concluded that the FBI had created the “appearance” of conflating religious beliefs with racially motivated violent extremism and blamed the public’s – and Republican members of Congress’ – misperception on nothing more than the use of improper “domestic terrorism terminology.”

The report “found that although there was no evidence of malicious intent or an improper purpose, the (memo) failed to adhere to analytic tradecraft standards and evinced errors in professional judgment, including that it lacked sufficient evidence or articulable support for a relationship between RMVEs (Racially Motivated Violent Extremists) and so-called RTC (Radical Traditional Catholicism) ideology; incorrectly conflated the subjects’ religious views with their RMVE activities, creating the appearance that the FBI had inappropriately considered religious beliefs and affiliation as a basis for conducting investigative activity; and reflected a lack of training and awareness concerning proper domestic terrorism terminology,” the inspector general’s report said.

“The employees involved in drafting, editing, and reviewing the (memo) failed to adhere to FBI standards,” according to the inspector general.

“The report leaves questions unanswered that I and many of my colleagues have been asking of the FBI for over a year. The most important part of this report is what’s not in it, rather than what is,” Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa told CNA.

“The FBI has also failed to explain why it ordered the permanent deletion of files related to the memo or why it continues to use biased sources like the Southern Poverty Law Center,” Grassley said. “The FBI owes the Senate many more answers regarding this appalling case.”

‘Totally irresponsible’

In a letter to Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary who himself had expressed outrage last year over the original FBI memo, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights president Bill Donohue insisted that Congress needs to continue probing the FBI’s internal policies and actions.

“While there was no evidence of malice, it was determined that the probe of Catholics ‘lacked sufficient evidence’ to establish a relationship between the aforementioned extremists and RTC ideology,” Donohue wrote. “The report also concluded that the FBI Analysts “incorrectly conflated the subjects’ religious views with their RMVE activities.”

He continued:

This begs the question: Why did the Analysts think there was a relationship in the first place? It is one thing to concede that there are racial and ethnic extremists in every religious and secular organization; it is quite another to assume a nexus between a mainstream religious organization and violence, especially when the grounds for making such an assumption are spurious.

It is as revealing as it is disturbing to note that the probe of Catholics was based on one person, namely, Defendant A. That he is clearly a violent, bigoted thug – he hates everyone from Jews to cops – is uncontested. But where are the others? There isn’t even a Defendant B.

More disturbing is the admission that Defendant A does not attend a Catholic church. The report admits that he attended a church “with an international religious society that advocates traditional Catholic theology and liturgy, but it is not considered by the Vatican to be in full communion with the Catholic Church.

“Later in the report we learn that ‘there was no evidence that Defendant A was being radicalized’ at the church he attended, and that ‘he had been on the radar as an unstable, dangerous individual before ‘any association with any Catholic related entity whatsoever,’” Donohue noted. “That being the case, why was it necessary to investigate his fellow churchgoers? Since when does the FBI conduct an investigation of a world religion on the basis of one miscreant whom they admit was not radicalized by it?”

Donohue said that the judgment of the two FBI analysts who authored the original memo “was more than flawed – it was totally irresponsible.”

“There are many issues left outstanding,” Donohue concluded.  “Moreover, if we are to believe that what happened was nothing of a serious nature, why was it necessary for the FBI to delete files? That suggests a cover up.”

In apparent complete contradiction to Horowitz’s findings, the House Weaponization Committee published a report in December based on its own investigation revealing that FBI employees were still discussing how to disseminate a bureau-wide memo identifying so-called “Radical Traditionalist Catholic Ideology” as a magnet for “violent extremists.

The House Committee report noted that while it is “concerning” that “the FBI wanted to further infringe on religious liberties Bureau-wide, equally concerning is that there are discussions still taking place with FBI Richmond” on how to create this external memo sounding the alarm about Radical Traditional Catholics.

In its coverage of the recent inspector general’s report, the New York Times continued to insist that the original FBI memo was about “Catholic Extremists,” giving casual headline readers the false impression that Catholicism harbors domestic terrorists, yet the 2023 FBI memo was about a single individual.