WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) — Conservative lawmakers are criticizing the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for placing “undercover sources” in various Catholic churches to monitor “suspicious activity.” News of these plans was unveiled on Monday by the House Weaponization of Government Select Committee.
The Republican-backed committee was established in January to investigate and hold accountable federal agencies whose actions have targeted and continue to target conservative citizens. Since then, FBI whistleblower Kyle Seraphin revealed documents showing that the agency was monitoring “radical” Catholics, specifically those who attend the Latin Mass.
In the most recent development of this saga, additional documents obtained by the committee show that the federal agency “sought to use local religious organizations as ‘new avenues for tripwire and source development.’”
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 (here, here, 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
“I specifically asked [Attorney General] Merrick Garland whether the FBI was targeting Catholic parishes and he said no,” Republican Sen. Josh Hawley wrote on Twitter after the latest installment of revelations. “Now it turns out the FBI was using undercover sources in multiple parishes.”
“Someone needs to give them a lesson in the First Amendment,” Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, who also serves as the weaponization committee chair, told Sean Hannity on Monday. “This memorandum talks about doing just that [placing undercover agents in Catholic parishes] and it was signed off on by two senior analysts and the chief division counsel there.”
Jordan continued: “Now, stop and think for a second. Yesterday [there were] probably more Americans in church than any other day of the year. The day we celebrate the Resurrection of our Savior. Millions of Americans going to church. Now what if this FBI thing would have been carried out? There would be people in the church spying on fellow parishioners, fellow church-goers. That’s what they were looking to do. That’s how scary this is, what they’ve done to the First Amendment.”
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) April 11, 2023
Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, whose conservative actions have been contradicted by her voting for left-wing legislation including the so-called “Respect for Marriage Act,” also condemned the agency’s actions, calling the effort to target Catholics “un-American.”
“@Weaponization is exposing the illegal targeting of religious organizations as avenues for source development,” she tweeted.
According to a letter written by Rep. Jordan to FBI director Christopher Wray, one internal document stated plans to “engage in outreach to the leadership of other [Society of Saint Pius X] chapels in the FBI Richmond [area of responsibility] to sensitize these congregations to the warning signs of radicalization and to enlist their assistance to serve as suspicious activity tripwires.”
Additionally, the federal agency developed an “outreach plan” which “included contacting so-called ‘mainline Catholic parishes’ and the local ‘diocesan leadership.’ The FBI also expressed an interest in ‘leverag[ing] existing sources and/or initiat[ing] Type 5 Assessments to develop new sources with the placement and access’ to report on suspicious activity.”
“Based on the limited information produced by the FBI to the Committee, we now know that the FBI relied on at least one undercover agent to produce its analysis, and that the FBI proposed that its agents engage in outreach to Catholic parishes to develop sources among the clergy and church leadership to inform on Americans practicing their faith,” the letter reads. “This shocking information reinforces our need for all responsive documents, and the Committee is issuing a subpoena to you to compel your full cooperation.”
The FBI's abuse of power attacking practicing Catholics’ First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion is unAmerican.
.@Weaponization is exposing the illegal targeting of religious organizations as avenues for source development. https://t.co/B0k0D6Pd8P
— Rep. Elise Stefanik (@RepStefanik) April 11, 2023
Jordan concluded the letter by explaining that the House of Representatives, and subsequently the weaponization committee, “is authorized to conduct oversight of the Justice Department and FBI – including with respect to the agencies’ use of law-enforcement and counterterrorism resources and their policies to protect civil liberties – to inform potential legislative reforms.”
“The information we have requested about the FBI’s Richmond document is necessary to inform such potential legislation,” Jordan added, reiterating the attached subpoena.
The development comes months after the initial release of the document from the Richmond, Virginia, office which referred to traditional Catholics as “extremists” for their so-called “anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, and white supremacy” views. The FBI retracted the document soon after its public release.
In February, Jordan joined Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana in demanding answers from the federal agency regarding the leaked “anti-Catholic memo.” However, the FBI has failed to cooperate with the committee’s requests, leading to Jordan’s recent subpoena to gain access to withheld information.
The agency received similar backlash over the early morning, heavily-armed raid of pro-life author and counselor Mark Houck, who was arrested by federal agents in September. Houck, who was charged with violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, was acquitted in January. The father of seven also shared his plans to press charges for the raid which “terrorized” his children.
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