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FBI Admits to Spying on Catholic Congregations

                                                                                            Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

Based on new internal information obtained by Congress, we now know that at least one undercover FBI agent was used to spy on Catholics while they were attending Mass in an effort to develop sources in Christian churches and Catholic dioceses in order to “combat domestic terrorism.”

Fox News is reporting on the latest development in the scandal that broke in February when a leaked FBI document revealed that the Bureau was targeting Catholics who attend Latin Masses. They were engaging in this activity after far left extremist groups such as the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center branded traditionalist Catholics as a fringe group that had the potential of attracting racially or ethnically motivated extremists who might attempt to connect with adherents via social media and in-person places of worship.

Even though the memo, which was leaked by former FBI agent and whistleblower Kyle Seraphin, originated from a lone FBI field office in Richmond, Virginia, the Bureau immediately retracted it, stating that the memo “does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI.”

This resulted in an immediate investigation by Congress and demands that FBI director Christopher Wray testify and provide more information about the Bureau’s targeting of American Catholics.

Wray appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee in March and claimed to have been “aghast” when he first heard of the memo and took immediate steps to withdraw it.

“We’re also taking steps to reinforce with our workforce, all of the long-standing policies we have that speak to this kind of thing,” Wray said during the hearing. “We’ve got refresher training for the relevant employees, etc. And we do not and will not target people for religious beliefs, and we do not and will not monitor people’s religious practices.”

After repeated requests from Congress for more information related to the incident, the FBI finally released heavily redacted internal documentation which revealed that the FBI planned to use churches as “new avenues for tripwire and source development,” and were specifically targeting mainline Catholic parishes. The agency also cited a desire to “sensitize religious congregations to the warning signs of radicalization and enlist their assistance to serve as suspicious activity tripwires.”

"Based on the limited information produced by the FBI to the Committee, we now know that the FBI relied on at least one undercover agent to produce its analysis,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote in a letter to Wray on Monday. “And that the FBI proposed that its agents engage in outreach to Catholic parishes to develop sources among the clergy and church leadership to inform on Americans practicing their faith."

Calling this behavior outrageous, the letter went on to remind the Bureau that “Americans attend church to worship and congregate for their spiritual and personal betterment. They must be free to exercise their fundamental First Amendment rights without worrying that the FBI may have planted so-called ‘tripwire’ sources or other informants in their houses of worship."

Congress has now issued a subpoena to the FBI demanding “all responsive material without redactions.” Jordan is suggesting that the information provided be used to inform Congress on how to draft legislation that will protect the First Amendment Rights of American church goers from the “misuse of FBI resources.”

Catholic Vote president Brian Burch says his organization is pressing Congress to hold the FBI accountable for this outrageous and unconstitutional behavior.

“What the FBI has been doing is disgusting…using the power of federal law enforcement to infiltrate Catholic churches under the guise of combating ‘threats’ to democracy” Burch said in a recent memo to followers. “It doesn’t take a genius to see how dangerous this is, and how easily it will quickly be abused. The First Amendment has been turned on its head!”

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