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FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee July 12, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

CHICAGO (LifeSiteNews) — The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Chicago Field Office appears to have axed the longstanding tradition of a priest distributing ashes to employees this Ash Wednesday.

Steve Friend, an FBI agent suspended for blowing the whistle on the agency’s “overzealous” treatment of Americans connected with the 2021 U.S. Capitol riot, shared on Twitter an image of a Tuesday email to Chicago Field Office employees announcing the unavailability of ashes to mark the beginning of Lent.

“The Chicago Field Office will be unable to offer ashes tomorrow, but if you are interested in receiving them, as an FBI employee you are entitled to religious compensatory time,” the email reads.

According to Friend, the priest who would’ve distributed the ashes told employees that the FBI “instructed him to stay away due to a ‘legal issue.'” It is not clear what the legal issue could be, or whether the office’s Ash Wednesday tradition was suspended indefinitely or only for this year.

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The FBI is planning to intensify its “assessment” and “mitigation” of “Radical Traditionalist Catholics” over the next 12 to 24 months according to an explosive document from a former agent turned whistleblower.

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The bombshell 8-page memo was released by former FBI agent Kyle Serpahin on his website UncoveredDC Wednesday. The report, written by an FBI analyst in Richmond, Virginia, was 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.”

Seraphin describes the briefing as an “intelligence product” that, though not being exhaustive, can be used as an initial reference point for the agency to “prop up” future investigations on the subject. He says he obtained the document from an anonymous Baptist employee for the agency.

“This is the first FBI Richmond domain product to focus on the interest of racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists in the Radical Traditional Catholic movement,” the document states. “A search of FBI databases indicates this is also the first FBI finished intelligence product to specifically address this environmental variable.”

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Among the most controversial aspects of the memo is that it directly cites a defamatory study conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on the subject “Radical Traditional Catholicism.” The SPLC has long been rejected as a legitimate resource for the FBI, Seraphin says, 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 (herehere, and here) published by leftwing websites Salon and The Atlantic to defend its monitoring.

The report alleges that its real motivation is a concern that “Radical Traditionalist Catholic Ideology” possesses an “anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, and white supremacy” outlook, and that this presents a threat to the US’s domestic well-being. The report further claims that adherents to RTC ideology “frequently share language and symbolism, such as crusader references or anti-Semitic discourses” online that pro-life white nationalists also support.

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FBI whistleblower releases docs showing agents are surveilling "Radical" Traditional Catholics in Virginia

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“I guess @FBI wasn’t spanked hard enough for the Radical Traditional Catholics intel report,” Friend tweeted, referring to the leaked intelligence memo targeting traditional Catholics that relied on a defamatory study by the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

That memo was leaked by FBI whistleblower Kyle Seraphin, who also took aim at the agency in reaction to the Chicago office’s suspension of Ash Wednesday.

“Strange. It is like people don’t like freedom FROM religion — only freedom OF religion. Then again, you gotta wonder if those ashes are actually a sign of that dangerous ‘radical’ Catholicism… right @FBIRichmond?” he tweeted.

Although the FBI’s Richmond office announced a retraction of the memo targeting traditional Catholics, Seraphin has claimed the memo is still internally circulating on the bureau’s servers. He has also opined that the FBI is only distancing itself from the memo to “protect [its] brand.”

The FBI has also come under scrutiny for its intimidating raid on the home of Catholic pro-life father Mark Houck, who was recently found not guilty of violating the FACE Act after he shoved a Planned Parenthood volunteer escort who had been harassing his 12-year-old son.