‘Multiple’ FBI Offices Were Involved in Discredited Scheme To Target ‘Extremist’ Catholics, Report Says, Contradicting FBI Director’s Testimony
The FBI director testified that the plot to target ‘radical-traditionalist Catholics’ was ‘a single product by a single field office.’ It turns out at least three field offices were involved.
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jim Jordan, is seeking relevant information from the FBI related to its targeting of traditionalist Catholics as new details emerge about a cross-country effort to infiltrate conservative churches.
In a letter sent Wednesday to the FBI director, Christopher Wray, Mr. Jordan says new documents obtained by his committee “explicitly” show that at least three FBI field offices were involved in developing a memo that advocated for infiltrating churches and developing sources within the conservative Catholic community.
The committee first gained access to a heavily redacted version of the memo earlier this year, but only recently obtained a less redacted version with information which showed that multiple field offices were involved.
Mr. Wray testified to the Judiciary Committee on July 12 that the memo was drafted by the field office at Richmond, Virginia, and was quickly disavowed once senior FBI leadership learned of its existence.
According to Mr. Jordan, that statement has proved to be false. The FBI field offices at both Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, knew of the memo and plans to infiltrate conservative Catholic churches, the congregants of which the memo refers to as “radical-traditionalist” Catholics. The FBI memo argued that such traditionalists were motivated by racial, ethnic, and religious bigotry.
Mr. Jordan also accuses the FBI of using “its law enforcement capabilities to intrude on” the “First Amendment rights” of Americans and claims the new memo “reveals inconsistencies with your previous testimony before the Committee.”
At Portland, one FBI official had made contact with a now-deceased source within traditionalist Catholic circles. The source only found his or her way to the church after leaving what the FBI calls a “racially or ethnically motivated” hate group.
According to the new version of the memo, that individual “gravitated” away from the more “mainline” Roman Catholic sect toward the Society of Saint Pius X, which is named for Pope Pius X and advocates for a staunchly conservative church doctrine.
The members of the society, also known as the Lefebvrists, reject the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. That ecumenical council, which recessed in 1965, gave birth to the Novus Ordo Missae, also known as the “new order of the Mass,” which required, among other things, that Mass be conducted in local languages as opposed to the traditional Latin.
The Lefebvrists reject the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, arguing instead for the anti-modernist teachings of Pope Pius X. Last year, Pope Francis said any group that rejects the Second Vatican Council “longs for a bygone world” and engages in “selfishness that puts our own tastes and plans above the love that pleases God.”
Another FBI official — this one based at the Los Angeles field office — infiltrated a Lefebvrist-aligned church for more than a year, according to the memo. That official also had contact with the official working at Portland.
Mr. Jordan is now seeking updated testimony from Mr. Wray to correct errors made in July. He has also requested that the FBI turn over all documents and communications between the three field offices that are related in any way to the development of the memo.