FBI interviewed priest, choir director in rogue probe of Catholic church’s link to terrorism
The FBI’s probe into whether traditional Catholics posed a terrorist threat included interviews with a priest and a church choir director and involved an undercover agent who infiltrated the church, House investigators said Monday.
A House panel examining the weaponization of government uncovered the interviews and the role of at least one undercover agent as part of a congressional probe into the FBI’s recent targeting of traditional Catholics.
Subpoenas issued in the investigation, House lawmakers said, revealed that the FBI “singled out Americans who are pro-life, pro-family, and support the biological basis for sex and gender distinction as potential terrorists.”
According to the House Judiciary subcommittee on the weaponization of government, the FBI’s interviews with a priest and choir director were used to inform on a parishioner under investigation who self-described as a “radical traditionalist Catholic.”
FBI employees in the bureau’s Richmond, Virginia, office where the probe originated could not define the meaning of radical traditionalist Catholic, but “this single investigation became the basis for an FBI-wide memorandum warning about the dangers of ‘radical’ Catholics,” House lawmakers said Monday.
It warned that Catholics who favored the traditional Latin Mass are more likely to be interested in joining violent extremist groups.
The FBI proposed developing “sources among the Catholic clergy and church leadership” to aid in its investigation, according to the subcommittee report released Monday.
The interviews with the priest and choir director were used to draft the memo, which warned that “radical-traditionalist Catholics” adhere to an “anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and white supremacist ideology [and are prone to] extremist ideological beliefs and violent rhetoric.”
The Washington Times reached out to the FBI for comment.
The FBI memo associating traditional Catholics with terrorism was authored by two unidentified FBI employees who based much of it on reporting from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the publications Salon and The Atlantic.
The SPLC is known for identifying conservative, pro-life and parental rights organizations as hate groups. In 2021, it listed nine Catholic groups as “radical traditional Catholic hate groups.”
In April, the House Judiciary Committee revealed plans by the Richmond field office to spy on Catholic churches and church leaders. They distributed their plan to other FBI offices across the country.
According to an FBI internal document, the bureau relied on information from at least one undercover operative who sought to use local religious organizations as “new avenues for tripwire and source development.”