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FOREST LAKE, Minnesota (LifeSiteNews) — The Remnant editor Michael Matt on Wednesday blasted the FBI document planning surveillance of “radical traditionalist Catholics,” arguing that the report is “[a]t best … a simple mistake” but “at worst … a politically-motivated witch hunt.” 

The FBI has subsequently backpedaled on the memo following outcry, saying the document had failed to meet its “exacting standards.”

In a Wednesday statement shared via email, Matt told LifeSiteNews that “[a]s a traditional Catholic newspaper publisher, whose family has been in the Catholic press apostolate for 150 years, I vehemently protest this reckless report and I encourage fair-minded Christians of all denominations to do the same.”

The remarks came after former FBI agent turned whistleblower Kyle Seraphin released an eight-page memo indicating the federal law enforcement agency planned to conduct surveillance to intercept “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists” who have allegedly found common ground with “radical-traditionalist Catholic (RTC) ideology,” LifeSiteNews reported.

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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.”

SIGN: Politically-motivated witch-hunts of faithful Catholics cannot be allowed in a civilized society

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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READ: FBI whistleblower releases docs showing agency is surveilling ‘Radical’ Latin Mass Catholics

According to the memo, the FBI was concerned that “white nationalist” groups were finding solidarity with “radical” Latin Mass-going Catholics who the bureau says may share certain ‘“anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, and white supremacy” perspectives.

The report relied in part on a 2021 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center to substantiate its allegations. The SPLC has notably branded conservative groups including Liberty Counsel, Family Research Council, and Alliance Defending Freedom as hate groups, as well as traditional Catholic groups and news organizations including The Remnant, Catholic Family News, and Tradition in Action.

According to Matt, the leaked FBI document “is the latest in a long series of unfortunate memos whereby various groups and news organizations have made the mistake of taking seriously a 2007 fundraising campaign by one Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, entitled ‘Radical Catholic Traditionalists.’”

“Where The Remnant is concerned, I have successfully debunked the ‘findings’ of that SPLC fundraiser more than once, and to the satisfaction of the Left-leaning news organizations that had initially taken it seriously, including City Pages and WCCO TV reporter, Heather Brown,” Matt continued, adding that the “SPLC’s credibility has since been called into question by John Stossel, the Weekly Standard, National Review, Judicial Watch, among others.”

Matt warned of the potential real-world harms that could come from labeling organizations “hate groups” and treating them as a potential threat.

He pointed out that domestic terrorist Floyd Corkins, who years ago “carried out a politically-motivated shooting at the Family Research Council, admitted that he’d gotten his target list from the SPLC.” 

“Simply put, this FBI report is based on fake news,” Matt told LifeSite, going on to note that “although the SPLC has been peddling this fake news for more than 16 years, they have yet to unearth a single example of any violence or threats of violence coming from a traditional Catholic individual or organization.” 

“At best, this FBI report is a simple mistake; at worst it is a politically-motivated witch hunt worthy of the anti-Catholic Know Nothing party of the 1850s, which provoked violent vigilantism, church burnings, and even the murder of Roman Catholics,” he said. 

“If this FBI report is true, then Catholics should guard against a spike in violence against them by individuals who like domestic terrorist, Floyd Corkins, might decide to take matters into their own hands,” Matt said.

Michael Matt isn’t the only Catholic news publisher named in the FBI report to speak out.

Catholic Family News editor-in-chief Brian McCall on Wednesday told LifeSiteNews “[t]he release by a courageous whistleblower of this internal FBI memorandum confirms the dystopian state of the country in which we sadly live.”

“This memo … proves beyond any doubt the evil people who control the levers of power in the U.S. government are using that power to persecute any who dissent from their godless ideology,” McCall said.

RELATED: Catholic media outlet named in FBI report slams ‘dystopian’ Latin Mass surveillance

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas has also weighed in, telling LifeSite in a February 8 email statement that “[d]eeply committed Catholics are the last people the authorities should be concerned about” and “attacks of violent aggression are antithetical to what it means to be a radically committed traditional Catholic.”

Following widespread outcry, the FBI reversed course on the memo, telling The Daily Signal on Thursday the document “does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI” and that the agency is “taking action to remove the document from FBI systems.”

FBI whistleblower Kyle Seraphin responded on Twitter to the FBI’s about-face, suggesting the agency only backed off because it had been held to account.

“The FBI doesn’t confirm information, but they confirmed this,” he wrote. “Because they were called out. Not because they would NEVER approve it. They approved it, and are embarrassed. This is the only way.”