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20 state AGs "horrified," call for investigation into FBI's anti-Catholic memo

Catholic News Agency Reports:

The chief law enforcement officers from 20 states signed a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland condemning a since-retracted "anti-Catholic" leaked internal memorandum produced by the FBI's Richmond field office.

Published Feb. 8 by the website UncoverDC, the memo discusses launching an investigation into "radical-traditionalist" Catholics because of possible ties to "the far-right white nationalist movement."

The memo, titled "Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities," was dated Jan. 23 and was reportedly leaked by an FBI agent in the Richmond office. Its unnamed author singles out Catholics who are interested in the Traditional Latin Mass and are members of certain social media groups as presenting "new opportunities for threat mitigation."

The FBI confirmed to CNA on Feb. 9 that the document came from its Richmond field office and issued a statement retracting it.

"While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, this particular field office product - disseminated only within the FBI - regarding racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI," the statement reads.

In their letter to the U.S. attorney general, the 20 state attorneys general, all of whom are Republicans, address their concerns about the memorandum:

"We write with outrage and alarm to address the anti-Catholic internal memorandum produced by the FBI's Richmond Field Office on Jan. 23, 2023, which was released to the public this week.

"The FBI must immediately and unequivocally order agency personnel not to target Americans based on their religious beliefs and practices. We also demand that the FBI produce publicly all materials relating to the memorandum and its production," the letter said.

The material requested includes all documents implementing the report's recommendations, a complete briefing of the process by which it was drafted, and information about whether the FBI is infiltrating houses of worship, among other things.

"The FBI's scrubbing of the document from its systems and the purported 'review' of the process that created it in no way reassures us that this memorandum does not reflect a broader program of secretive surveillance of American Catholics or other religious adherents, and infiltration of their houses of worship," the state attorneys general wrote. "It assures us only that the FBI is embarrassed at the public revelation of the memorandum's contents."

The signers of the letter expressed their concerns with the agency's expressed intention to initiate investigations within churches that offer the Latin Mass and within "radical-traditionalist" Catholic online communities, as stated in the memo.

The leaked memo specifically points to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) and the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) as potential points of contact for outreach. Both offer the Latin Mass within the Richmond FBI's area of responsibility.

Photo Credit Jason Miyares Official