FBI wanted sources within Catholic Church to look for 'radicalization' in local parishes: House GOP

Rep. Jim Jordan revealed that the FBI was looking to develop new sources who had access within the Catholic Church to report on suspicious activity and extremism, raising questions about First Amendment freedoms.

Updated: April 10, 2023 - 6:08pm

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House Republicans said Monday they have new information showing the FBI has been trying to develop undercover sources inside Catholic Church parishes throughout the U.S. in search of radical elements within the religious faith. 

The allegation follows a former FBI agent recently revealing a since-retracted field office memo, characterizing Catholics with a devotion to the traditional Latin Mass as possible domestic threats.

"The FBI relied on information derived from at least one undercover employee and sought to use local religious organizations as 'new avenues for tripwire and source development,'" House Select Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan said Monday.

He also said the proposed outreach plan included contacting so-called "mainline" Catholic parishes and the local diocesan leaders.

The new information revealed that the FBI expressed an interest in leveraging existing sources and/or initiating new assessments to "develop new sources... to report on suspicious activity," Jordan said.

As a result, the Ohio Republican issued a subpoena Monday to FBI Director Christopher Wray requesting all documents related to the Bureau's actions on the matter.

"The FBI received the subpoena," a Bureau spokesperson told Just the News, adding that "the FBI recognizes the importance of congressional oversight and remains fully committed to cooperating with Congress’s oversight requests consistent with its constitutional and statutory responsibilities." 

"The FBI is actively working to respond to congressional requests for information including voluntary production of documents," the statement concluded. 

Jordan and Louisiana GOP Rep. Mike Johnson, also a member of the subcommittee, previously sought information from the FBI related to the Jan. 23, 2023 memo generated by the Richmond Field Office titled: “Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities."

After receiving no response, the committee reiterated its request in a subsequent letter dated March 20, both lawmakers said Monday.

They stated the FBI, on March 23, produced a "substandard and partial response consisting of only 18 pages—many with significant redactions ... that prevents the committee from fully assessing the content and context of the documents and obtaining information requested."

Jordan's findings also show that the Bureau had been relying on information derived from "at least one undercover employee" and sought to use local religious organizations as "new avenues for tripwire and source development."

The Bureau's plan to target the Catholic community was approved by at least two senior intelligence analysts and even a local counsel, according to Jordan's release. 

"This information is outrageous and reinforces the committee’s need for all FBI records about the domain perspective document," the lawmakers said in conclusion. 

You can read the subpoena cover letter to FBI Director Wray here.

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