Catholic Leaders Demand Answers from FBI on Bombshell Discovery Agency Probe into Traditional Catholics ‘Bigger than Believed’

National Catholic leaders said the FBI’s probe of Catholics, as revealed by documents obtained by the House Judiciary Committee, went far beyond a so-called rogue agent in a single field office in Richmond, as was explained in testimony by agency Director Christopher Wray.

The leaders of Catholic civil rights groups reacted to a letter to Wray sent Wednesday by Judiciary Chairman Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH-04) and Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government Chairman Representative Mike Johnson (R-LA-04), who informed the FBI director evidence obtained by the Judiciary Committee shows the agency’s “assessment of traditional Catholics as potential domestic terrorists” was developed through information obtained “from around the country,” rather than from an isolated source.

In February, former FBI special agent Kyle Seraphin uncovered the leaked FBI Richmond memo that cited the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center’s warning that “white supremacy” has “found a home” in traditionalist Catholics.

“We are just as disturbed as you are to learn that the FBI’s probe of Catholics was never confined to one field office in Richmond,” wrote Catholic League President Bill Donohue to Jordan on Thursday. “From the trove of documents you received, it is now known that the FBI’s Portland Field Office and the Los Angeles Field Office were also involved in this unseemly investigation.”

Donohue continued the evidence suggests the FBI probe of Catholics is “bigger than believed” and that Wray’s testimony that the FBI’s actions were restricted to a “single field office” is “not true.”

“This calls into question Wray’s forthrightness, and it also begs the question: What else does the FBI know about this matter?” the Catholic leader noted, adding that while Jordan’s request for further information from Wray is “much appreciated,” he nevertheless is skeptical, “given that the FBI has proven that it has not been transparent about this matter.”

“Wray needs to explain why,” Donohue asserted.

CatholicVote President Brian Burch also stated the evidence shows FBI efforts “to spy on Catholic churches went far beyond a single field office and a so-called rogue agent.”

“These admissions raise even more concerns related to the weaponization of the Department of Justice for political purposes,” Burch said on his organization’s website. “We can’t help but also wonder if this is why the FBI has done everything possible to withhold information requested by our Freedom of Information Act request, now lawsuit.”

“We must hear directly from the agents and supervisors involved in this memo,” said the CatholicVote president. “Further, Catholics deserve answers as to why the Director of the FBI was not honest with the committee during his previous testimony.”

The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal appears to agree with the Catholic leaders.

“Remember the tempest this year when the Federal Bureau of Investigation was found to be targeting some Catholics as ‘extremists?’” the Journal editors wrote Wednesday. “The bureau cast it as the work of a single rogue field office. Well, it looks like the effort was more widespread than our G-men admitted to the public.”

In addition to the bombshell discovery that other FBI field offices were involved in the probe into traditional Catholics, the editorial board observed that “also troubling is the FBI’s decision to redact the Portland and Los Angeles roles from the original version of the Richmond document it provided Congress in March.”

While Acting Assistant FBI Director Christopher Dunham said the redactions were necessary to protect “information specific to ongoing criminal investigations,” the Journal editors asked:

What changed from March until July, other than a threat of contempt from the Judiciary Committee? It’s hard not to conclude that the bureau was trying to hide the breadth of its Catholics-as-radicals investigation.

In their letter to Wray, Jordan and Johnson wrote:

This new information suggests that the FBI’s use of its law enforcement capabilities to intrude on American’s First Amendment rights is more widespread than initially suspected and reveals inconsistencies with your previous testimony before the Committee. Given this startling new information, we write to request additional information to advance our oversight.

The Republican leaders explained the FBI’s most recent version of the Richmond field office document that contained fewer redactions than had previously been sent to the committee twice, “shows that the FBI’s actions were not just limited to ‘a single field office,’ as you testified to the Committee.”

The documents obtained by the committee, Jordan and Johnson wrote, show that, besides the Richmond office, “both FBI Portland and FBI Los Angeles field offices were involved in or contributed to the creation of FBI’s assessment of traditional Catholics as potential domestic terrorists.”

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Susan Berry, PhD is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Traditional Latin Mass” by Servants of the Holy Family. CC BY 4.0.



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