FBI leak says agency sees traditionalist Catholics as extremist threat

FBI leak says agency sees traditionalist Catholics as extremist threat

A former FBI agent revealed on February 8 that the US agency had released a memorandum naming Catholics attending the traditional Mass, in Latin, as an extremist threat, accusing them of holding hate speech. Faced with criticism from some XNUMX attorneys general and anger from conservatives, the federal intelligence service withdrew the memo intended for counterterrorism.

The latest take from Kyle Seraphin, a former FBI special agent, puts the federal agency under pressure. After being suspended last year, Seraphin joined Truth Social, the media of ex-president Donald Trump, but it was on the Undercovered DC site that he revealed a document from the FBI office in Richmond, in Virginia. It reveals that federal agents have launched an investigation into "radical traditionalist" Catholics who they believe pose an extremist threat due to alleged ties to white nationalist movements.

Seraph has quietly obtained from an FBI agent a note dated January 23 titled "The Interest of Violent Extremists with Racial or Ethnic Motivations in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Opportunities for Risk Mitigation." The agency believes it can notably reduce the risk of violence by recruiting confidential sources within Catholic movements following the traditionalist mass.

The memo distinguishes between Catholics simply preferring the Latin Mass and teachings prior to Vatican II and those who would espouse “more extremist ideological beliefs and violent rhetoric.” The document shows that the FBI uses the acronym RTC (Radical-Traditionalist Catholics) for a rapid designation of these Catholics "generally characterized by the rejection of the Second Vatican Council". He equates the preference for Latin and a conservative theology with an “adherence to anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and white supremacist ideology.” 

A non-rigorous memorandum according to the FBI

Virginia Attorney General James Miyares and attorneys general from 19 other states wrote a letter Feb. 10 to United States Attorney General Merrick Garland, the equivalent of the Attorney General, demanding that the government publish all the documents used to write the note. According to Miyares' office, "the memorandum distinguishes between what the FBI deems acceptable or unacceptable regarding Catholic beliefs and practices." The Virginian lawmaker says his state "is the cradle of religious freedom and has a long history of protecting the inalienable right to live one's faith free from government interference or intimidation."

Faced with demands from 20 attorneys general, the FBI said it withdrew the document on the grounds that it lacked rigor: "Although our usual practice is not to comment on specific intelligence data, this particular product of the field office [de Richmond, ed] – only broadcast within the FBI – for racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism does not meet the rigorous standards of the FBI. The memo referred to lists from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a left-wing organization that claims to work for tolerance and monitor the far right.

Bishop Knestout, Bishop of the Diocese of Richmond, on February 13 thanked the attorneys general for defending religious freedom. Surprised that the Priestly Society of Saint Peter was on the FBI list, the prelate pointed out that a "preference for traditional forms of worship and a close adherence to Church teachings on marriage, family, human sexuality and the dignity of the human person are not synonymous with extremism". Considering that extremism must be eradicated if there is evidence of it, he specifies that this cannot be done to the detriment of religious freedom.

Jean Sarpedon

Image credit: Shutterstock/ Kristi Blokhin


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