AGs demand FBI come clean about ‘anti-Catholic’ memo, church spying

Friday's letter demanded that the FBI first "immediately and unequivocally order agency personnel not to target Americans based on their religious beliefs and practices."

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares

(LifeSiteNews) — Virginia’s attorney general has led 19 states in sending a letter demanding that the FBI come clean about the origins and implementation of its recently leaked “anti-Catholic” memo, including about whether the FBI has begun spying on Catholics.

In a Friday letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Virginia AG Jason Miyares slammed a memo targeting so-called “Radical Traditionalist Catholics” as “anti-Catholic” and “un-American,” and demanded that the FBI “produce publicly all materials” relating to the document.

The eight-page memo from the FBI’s Richmond, Virginia office asserts that “increasingly observed interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists (RMVE) in Radical Traditionalist Catholic (RTC) Ideology almost certainly presents new opportunities for threat mitigation” via “tripwire and source development.”

The document claims that RMVEs have “sought out” traditional Catholic worship and use the language of RTC ideology on social media. Besides attending the Traditional Latin Mass, RTCs are considered to typically “reject” Vatican II as a “valid council,” according to the memo.

Regarding the government’s labeling of certain Catholics as “violent extremists” because of their beliefs, and its plans to recruit Catholics to spy on their fellow parishioners, Miyares remarked, “Frankly, it’s what I would expect from Communist Cuba.”

Friday’s letter demanded that the FBI first “immediately and unequivocally order agency personnel not to target Americans based on their religious beliefs and practices.”

The 20 attorneys general also specifically “request[ed] a full explanation of the document’s origins, documents related to its implementation,” and information on how Virginia’s Catholics have already been affected by the document, including on “whether the FBI has begun infiltrating houses of worship in conflict with the FBI’s internal guidelines.”

While the FBI has retracted the document following intense backlash over its contents, Miyares and his undersigned attorneys general emphasized that they remain unpersuaded by the FBI’s “damage-control efforts.”

The Virginia AG pointed out that if the memo had not been leaked, “it might well still be an intelligence product available to the Bureau.”

He went on to add, “The FBI’s scrubbing of the document… and the purported ‘review’ of the process that created it in no way reassures us that this memo does not reflect a broader program of secretive surveillance of American Catholics or other religious adherents, and infiltration of their houses of worship. It assures us only that the FBI is embarrassed at the public revelation of the memorandum’s contents.”

Miyares noted that he and his fellow attorneys general found the memo particularly alarming for several other reasons, one being that they observed it is part of a “dangerous tendency in the FBI and DOJ to label those who hold views contrary to the Administration as violent extremists or terrorists,” since, for example, they have already targeted parents who have merely protested school board meetings.

The AG also pointed out that “spying on Catholics” is “an absurd use of federal law-enforcement and counterintelligence resources,” while manifestly dangerous illegal activities remain unaddressed, like the daily traffic of “lethal amounts of fentanyl” across the border, and foreign intelligence threats, shown by the prolonged incursion of a Chinese spy balloon on U.S. territory.

Miyares noted as well that the FBI had already “disavowed” the practice of spying on Americans in places of worship, as it had done in mosques after the September 11 terrorist attacks. In fact, the FBI had “revised its internal guidelines in 2010  and 2013 to prevent its operatives from callously disregarding the religious liberty of American citizens.”

“It would be very concerning indeed if the FBI had revived this practice against American Catholics or, worse, if it had never shut down the program in the first place,” wrote Miyares.

The FBI whistleblower who published the anti-Catholic memo, Kyle Seraphin, recently warned that it serves as an “open door” to target all Christians in the U.S. as criminals.

“I think if we’re realistic about it, they have found a gateway in what they think is fringe Catholicism in order to move into Christians in general and declare them to be the actual criminals in this country, or potential terrorists,” he told Tucker Carlson on Thursday.

It is noteworthy that the document’s mention of “anti-LGBTQ” RTC beliefs appears to vilify not only the vast majority of traditional Catholics, but the majority of conservative Christians, since the biblical belief that marriage only exists between a man and a woman is interpreted by pro-LGBT activists to be “anti-LGBTQ.”

In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), cited by the memo in question, even identifies legislation that prevents males from participating in women’s sports as “anti-LGBTQ.” On its website, the SPLC rejects “religious liberty” as a “guise” for what it claims are anti-LGBT beliefs.

Catholic Family News editor-in-chief Brian McCall remarked to LifeSiteNews that the memo’s release “confirms the dystopian state of the country in which we sadly live.”

McCall also pointed out that Traditional Catholicism “has never had anything to do with racial bigotry or hatred,” and that in fact white supremacist groups have historically targeted Catholics “because Catholics have always sought the salvation and improvement in this world of the lot of those races and ethnicities despised by the White Protestant elitists.”

“Ironically every traditional Latin Mass parish I have ever attended is more ethnically diverse than liberal Catholic parishes that segregate attendees by linguistic, and hence ethnic, lines (i.e., Spanish Masses, Vietnamese Masses, etc.),” McCall continued.

In addition, McCall and the 20 attorneys general behind the letter to Wray and Garland denounced the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), upon whose assessments the memo relied, as having been “utterly discredited” as a reliable source. McCall rebuked the SPLC as a “radical political leftist front.”

Attorney General Miyares’ letter was signed by the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.


Emily Mangiaracina

Emily Mangiaracina is a Miami-based journalist for LifeSiteNews. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of Florida. Emily is most passionate about the Traditional Latin Mass and promoting the teachings of the Catholic Church.