The House Judiciary Committee and its Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government released an interim staff report Monday detailing how the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) painted traditional Catholic Americans as potential domestic terrorists.
The Committee and Select Subcommittee began their investigation into the weaponization of the FBI against “radical-traditionalist Catholic[s]” in February 2023, following the release of an FBI Richmond Field Office memorandum by whistleblower Kyle Seraphin.
In the FBI Richmond memorandum, the agency characterized so-called radical-traditional Catholics as embracing “anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, and white supremacist ideology.”
The House report explains how the FBI memo cited “biased and partisan” sources, including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Salon, and The Atlantic to support the characterization of certain Catholic groups as “hate groups.”
After widespread criticism following the memo being published, the FBI withdrew the memo and blamed the Richmond Field Office for its creation and dissemination, the House report states.
“Upon learning of the document, FBI Headquarters quickly began taking action to remove the document from FBI systems and conduct a review of the basis for the document,” the FBI wrote in a public statement alongside the retraction of the memo.
“The FBI is committed to sound analytic tradecraft and to investigating and preventing acts of violence and other crimes while upholding the constitutional rights of all Americans and will never conduct investigative activities or open an investigation based solely on First Amendment protected activity,” the agency wrote.
Based on witness testimony and subpoenas of internal FBI documents, the House report found that the FBI “abused its counterterrorism tools to target Catholic Americans as potential domestic terrorists.”
The Committee and Select Subcommittee’s investigation revealed that the FBI relied on at least one undercover agent to develop its assessment, and even proposed to develop sources to infiltrate Catholic clergy and church leadership.
The report states that “there was no legitimate basis for the memorandum to insert federal law enforcement into Catholic houses of worship.”
“Most concerning of all, without the disclosure of the whistleblower, the Richmond memorandum would still be operative in FBI systems, violating the religious liberties of millions of Catholic Americans,” the House report states.
Subpoenaed documents show that the FBI targeted Americans who are “pro-life, pro-family, and support the basis for sex and gender distinction as potential domestic terrorists,” according to the report.