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FBI Director Expresses Shock at Memo Targeting Catholic (Christian) Communities as Extremists

Leaked document sparks controversy and concerns over religious liberty

FBI Director Expresses Shock at Memo Targeting Catholic Communities as Extremists


FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress on Wednesday, expressing his shock and disapproval after learning about an internal memo that targeted Catholic communities as potential extremists. The leaked memo, originating from the Richmond Field Office in Virginia in January 2023, identified traditionalist and Latin Mass Catholic parishes as potential hotspots for extremism in the lead-up to the next general election cycle.


The memo, signed by multiple officials from the Richmond Field Office, recommended the placement of confidential informants within Catholic parishes ahead of the 2024 election to counter the alleged extremist threat posed by "radical traditionalist Catholics." It also discussed the need for outreach and the development of sources to report on places of worship.


Once the memo was made public, it sparked widespread outcry from Republicans and Catholics alike. Republicans characterized the discovery as yet another instance of the federal government allegedly targeting conservatives, while Bishop Barry Knestout of the Diocese of Richmond denounced the memo as a direct threat to religious liberty.


Facing questioning from the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Wray was asked to clarify the distinction between a traditional Catholic and a radical traditional Catholic by Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Mr. Wray, acknowledging his lack of expertise in Catholic orders, sought to downplay the memo's significance by emphasizing that it was a product of a single field office and had no broader impact on FBI policy.


Mr. Wray assured the committee that as soon as he became aware of the memo, he took immediate action to withdraw and remove it from FBI systems. He reiterated that the document was not something he would defend or excuse, but rather something he found appalling and promptly addressed.


The FBI director further reassured the committee that the agency does not recruit or deploy confidential human sources to infiltrate, target, or report on religious institutions. He condemned the leaked memo as a breach of FBI policy, emphasizing that it did not reflect the overall stance of the bureau.


While Mr. Wray's condemnation of the memo and his commitment to upholding religious freedom were welcomed by many, the incident has raised concerns about the potential misuse of government agencies for political purposes. Calls for greater transparency and accountability in law enforcement agencies have grown louder, particularly regarding their activities involving religious organizations.


As the controversy surrounding the leaked memo continues to unfold, it remains to be seen how the FBI will address the issue internally and regain public trust in its commitment to safeguarding religious liberty and refraining from targeting specific communities based on their beliefs.

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