(LifeSiteNews) — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has released a statement responding to a leaked internal memo indicating FBI surveillance of “Radical Traditionalist Catholics” in the Richmond, Virginia area, with Cardinal Timothy Dolan condemning “racism” and “violence.”
The statement was released February 16, eight days after the news of the FBI surveillance broke, and was issued by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty.
Dolan began by appearing to support the FBI memo, leaked last week by former FBI agent turned whistleblower Kyle Seraphin which was titled, “Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities.”
“Let me first be clear,” said Dolan, “anyone who espouses racism or promotes violence is rejecting Catholic teaching on the inherent dignity of each and every person. The USCCB roundly condemns such extremism and fully supports the work of law enforcement officials to keep our communities safe.”
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
Continuing, Dolan echoed the words of Richmond’s Bishop Barry Knestout, describing the FBI memo as “troubling and offensive.” Dolan’s condemnation of the FBI appears to be merely a rewording of Knestout’s statement, without adding his own additional criticism.
I agree with my brother Bishop Barry Knestout that the leaked memorandum was nonetheless ‘troubling and offensive’ in several respects – such as in its religious profiling and reliance on dubious sourcing – and am glad it has been rescinded.
“We encourage federal law enforcement authorities to take appropriate measures to ensure the problematic aspects of the memo do not recur in any of their agencies’ work going forward,” closed Dolan.
LifeSiteNews contacted the USCCB asking for further information on Dolan’s statement. Specifically, LifeSite asked if the USCCB would condemn the FBI’s depiction of traditional Catholics. LifeSite also asked if the USCCB would condemn the FBI’s surveillance, since Dolan’s statement only condemned the FBI’s “religious profiling and reliance on dubious sourcing.”
This report will be updated upon receipt of a response.
READ: FBI whistleblower releases docs showing agency is surveilling ‘Radical’ Latin Mass Catholics
A day after news of the memo’s existence was made public, the FBI stated it had been retracted, adding it would investigate why the memo was issued. “While our standard practice is not to comment on specific intelligence products, this particular field office product — disseminated only within the FBI — regarding racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI,” the statement read.
However, whistleblower Seraphin was skeptical of the FBI’s intentions. Writing on Twitter, he suggested 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.”
The @FBI doesn’t confirm information, but they confirmed this. Because they were called out. Not because they would NEVER approve it. They approved it, and are embarrassed. This is the only way. https://t.co/S9I7ouUB7J
— Kyle Seraphin (@KyleSeraphin) February 9, 2023
The FBI’s memo, written by a bureau analyst, used a defamatory study conducted by the anti-Catholic and pro-abortion Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on the subject “Radical Traditional Catholicism” to make its designations.
The SPLC has long been rejected as a legitimate resource for the FBI, Seraphin stated, but in this instance, has been 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.
Citing the “increasingly observed interest of racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) in radical traditionalist Catholic (RTC) ideology,” the report stated that this “almost certainly presents new opportunities for threat mitigation through the exploration of new avenues for tripwire and source development.”
The report states that the “RTC ideology” possesses an “anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, and white supremacy” outlook, and that this presents a threat to the U.S.’s domestic well-being. Additionally, the FBI 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.
Nine traditional Catholic groups were mentioned by name in the report, all of which were accused of spreading such “ideology.” They were: 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.
READ: Virginia AG leads 19 states in demanding FBI come clean about ‘anti-Catholic’ memo, church spying
Following the disclosure of the FBI memo, the Bureau has been roundly criticized by both lawmakers and Catholic clergy. Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas provided LifeSite with the following statement about the document:
Sadly, the experience of Mark Houck provides evidence that this type of surveillance is not beyond the realm of possibility. It underscores our societies deep ignorance of what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ or as presently stated “radical traditional Catholic.” Our Lord tells us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. Deeply committed Catholics are the last people the authorities should be concerned about. Yes committed traditional Catholics will defend the unborn and others who are helpless but attacks of violent aggression are antithetical to what it means to be a radically committed traditional Catholic. Let us pray for all in positions of authority and especially those in law enforcement.
This week, U.S. House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray demanding further answers and stating that the memo must be further investigated.
READ: Rep. Jim Jordan demands FBI reveal details regarding since-retracted ‘anti-Catholic memo’
The two lawmakers demanded the FBI “come clean about “the genesis, review, and approval of this document,” and also asked for a “list of all FBI employees involved in drafting, reviewing, approving, or disseminating” the memo.