(LifeSiteNews) – Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin condemned the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) memo targeting “radical” Latin Mass Catholics and demanded the agency show “full transparency” during its review of the document’s creation and release.
The memo, unveiled by an FBI whistleblower on February 8, shows plans involving “assessment” and “mitigation” of so-called “Radical Traditionalist Catholics” in the next two years. As previously reported by LifeSiteNews, the document stated the agency was prompted to do so in response to alleged concerns about links between “white nationalists” and Catholics who attend the Traditional Latin Mass.
In a statement obtained by The Daily Signal, Youngkin’s press secretary Macaulay Porter explained that “the governor was stunned by the news reports on the FBI memo” because “religious freedom is a foundational tenet of our great nation.”
“While he is encouraged that the FBI removed the document, he believes there must be full transparency and accountability from FBI leadership as part of the review under way.”
The leaked memo, which originated with the FBI’s Richmond, Virginia field office, specifically noted that the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) and Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) have “houses of worship” in the Richmond area.
It also said other FBI investigations, local law enforcement reports, and un-named liaisons have helped compile its findings – an indication that persons familiar with these communities have been in touch with intelligence officials.
Attorneys general: ‘The FBI has been down this road before’ when it infiltrated mosques after 9/11
Youngkin’s call for accountability comes less than a week after Virginia Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares led 19 state attorneys general in submitting a letter to the FBI demanding the agency explain the origins and implementation of the memo.
“The memorandum deploys alarmingly detailed theological distinctions to distinguish between the Catholics whom the FBI deems acceptable, and those it does not. Among those beliefs which distinguish the bad Catholics from the good ones are a preference for ‘the Traditional Latin Mass and pre-Vatican II teachings,’ and adherence to traditional Catholic teachings on sex and marriage (which the memorandum glibly describes as ‘anti-LGBTQ’),” the Attorneys General wrote.
“The memorandum even appears to accuse the Supreme Court and the Governor of Virginia of ‘[c]atalyzing’ the bad Catholics through ‘legislation or judicial decisions in areas such as abortion rights, immigration, affirmative action, and LGBTQ protections,’ singling out the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and Governor Youngkin’s support for sensible abortion regulations as examples.”
“After defining which Catholics are the dangerous ones, the memorandum proposes dealing with those Catholics through ‘the development of sources with access,’ including in ‘places of worship,’” the attorneys general wrote, translating: “In other words, the memorandum proposes recruiting Catholics to enter a sacred house of worship, talk to their fellow Catholics, and report those conversations back to the FBI so that the federal government can keep tabs on the bad Catholics.”
“The FBI has been down this road before, having infiltrated countless mosques throughout the country in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks,” the attorneys general wrote later in the letter, noting the FBI “disavowed this ignominious practice in 2008, and revised its internal guidelines in 2010 and 2013 to prevent its operatives from callously disregarding the religious liberty of American citizens. It would be very concerning indeed if the FBI had revived this practice against American Catholics or, worse, if it had never shut down the program in the first place.”
The now-infamous memo also cited a study from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which the FBI has rejected as a legitimate source for years, and anti-Catholic articles from left-wing Salon and The Atlantic.
“The targeting of Catholics for treatment as ‘violent extremists’ because of the language in which they pray or because of the beliefs to which they subscribe is unacceptable, unconstitutional, and deeply un-American,” the attorneys general added.
Richmond bishop: The Fraternity of St. Peter has served our diocese ‘with devotion for many years’
Following the release of the FBI document – which has since been publicly retracted although the former agent who released it said it’s actually still on government servers – some Catholic bishops have publicly condemned the federal agency’s actions.
On February 8, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas told LifeSiteNews that “attacks of violent aggression are antithetical to what it means to be a radically committed traditional Catholic.” He added that “the experience of Mark Houck provides evidence that this type of surveillance is not beyond the realm of possibility,” referencing the Pennsylvania father of seven who was subjected to an early morning FBI raid and faced 11 years in prison over an altercation with an abortion facility volunteer “escort.” Houck was acquitted on January 30.
Earlier this week, Bishop Barry Knestout of the Diocese of Richmond broke his initial silence and said that he was “alarmed” at the news of the internal memo.
“I call on all national representatives from the Commonwealth of Virginia in the House and Senate to exercise their role of oversight, to publicly condemn this threat to religious liberty, and to ensure that such offenses against the constitutionally protected free exercise of religion does not occur again,” Knestout said in a statement. He said the “FSSP has served with devotion for many years the parishes within our Catholic community and to the faithful of our diocese who appreciate this form of the Catholic Mass in our diocese.”
Yesterday – more than a week after the anti-Catholic memo’s initial release – the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) finally issued a statement through Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty. Dolan reiterated Knestout’s response: “I agree with my brother Bishop Barry Knestout that the leaked memorandum was nonetheless ‘troubling and offensive’ in several respects – such as in its religious profiling and reliance on dubious sourcing – and am glad it has been rescinded.”
However, cardinal also stated that “the USCCB roundly condemns such extremism and fully supports the work of law enforcement officials to keep our communities safe.” The USCCB has not yet responded to LifeSite’s requests for further information on Dolan’s statement.
Specifically, LifeSite asked if the USCCB would condemn the FBI’s depiction of traditional Catholics. LifeSite also asked if the USCCB would condemn the FBI’s surveillance, since Dolan’s statement only condemned the FBI’s “religious profiling and reliance on dubious sourcing.”