Multiple FBI Offices Targeted American Catholics
New evidence is suggesting that the FBI’s attempts to spy on American Catholics were more pervasive than originally stated and the agency’s director may have lied under oath. According to a letter from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) to FBI director Christopher Wray, documents that the federal law enforcement agency provided to legislators show that an FBI memo detailing plans to spy on “radical traditionalist Catholics” did not originate solely with the Richmond field office, as Wray insisted under oath. Instead, multiple field offices were reportedly involved — namely, offices in Portland and Los Angeles.
Jordan, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, and Johnson, who chairs the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government, wrote to Wray:
“This new information suggests that the FBI’s use of its law enforcement capabilities to intrude on Americans’ 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 memo in question, leaked to the public earlier this year, details the FBI’s plans to infiltrate and spy on “radical traditionalist Catholic” communities and parishes. “Radical traditionalist Catholics” are, in this case, defined as Catholics who attend the Tridentine rite of the Mass, which is the form of the Mass the Catholic Church celebrated exclusively up until the 1960s and which was promoted by the late Pope Benedict XVI. According to the FBI memo, “radical traditionalist Catholics” are likely to be “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.” This classification comes from the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center think tank, which places Catholics, Evangelical Christians, and parental rights groups on a “hate map” alongside the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis.
Although Wray told Congress last month, while under oath, that the memo was “a single product by a single field office,” the new documents indicate that the Richmond field office coordinated with the Portland and Los Angeles field offices, both of which had actually spied on Catholic parishes while tracking the activities of an alleged “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist.” Jordan alleges that Wray lied to Congress because “it appears that 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.”
The new documents were only handed over to Congress after Jordan threatened to hold Wray in contempt for failure to comply with subpoenas. In comments to The Daily Signal, Jordan also noted, “First, they went after moms and dads at school board meetings. Now, they’re going after traditional Catholics. When’s it going to stop?”
Conservative Catholic advocacy group CatholicVote also criticized the FBI and Wray’s duplicity. CatholicVote’s director of Governmental Affairs, Tom McClusky, said, “This memo, exposing the lies of FBI Director Wray and his cohorts in the Biden administration, further tarnishes a once-respected organization. The FBI is supposed to target criminal activity, but Christopher Wray and Merrick Garland have given it the reputation of a Democratic [Party] goon squad.” Catholic Vote President Brian Burch said, “The FBI has finally acknowledged what we have long suspected, namely that FBI efforts to spy on Catholic churches went far beyond a single field office and a so-called rogue agent.” Burch added, “Catholics deserve answers as to why the director of the FBI was not honest with the committee during his previous testimony.”
In April, CatholicVote filed a lawsuit against the FBI after the agency consistently ignored a Freedom of Information Act request relating to the Richmond field office memo. The agency also ignored the lawsuit for months, before finally responding in July and simply saying that CatholicVote is “not entitled” to the information legally requested.
The House Judiciary Committee is now demanding that the FBI turn over communications between the Richmond field office and the Portland and Los Angeles field offices, and has asked Wray to “amend” his testimony “to fully explain the nature and scope of the FBI’s assessment of traditional Catholics as potential domestic terrorists.”
S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.