Targeting of Catholics ‘More Widespread’ Within FBI Than Director Claimed, Republicans Say

Members of a Federal Bureau of Investigation SWAT team are seen during an FBI field training exercise
Members of a Federal Bureau of Investigation SWAT team are seen during an FBI field training exercise / Getty Images
August 10, 2023

House Republicans say they uncovered evidence that shows multiple FBI field offices worked together to target traditionalist Catholics, after the agency's director claimed last month that such actions were performed by a "single field office."

"From information recently produced to the Committee, we now know that the FBI relied on information from around the country—including a liaison contact in the FBI’s Portland Field Office and reporting from the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office—to develop its assessment," House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan said in a letter to FBI director Chris Wray, referring to the FBI's January 2023 assessment that traditionalist Catholics could be domestic extremists.

The internal memo from earlier this year, which was eventually withdrawn after its release, characterized Catholics who attend Latin Mass as potential domestic extremists and terrorists. Wray told Congress in July that the memo came from only one office. But now Republicans say they have proof it was part of a widespread effort by different field offices.

"This new information suggests that the FBI’s use of its law enforcement capabilities to intrude on American’s First Amendment rights is more widespread than initially suspected and reveals inconsistencies with your previous testimony before the Committee," the letter reads.

The Jan. 23 memo came out of the FBI's Richmond office and was titled "Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities."

Republicans demanded communications and memos from Wray that will show the extent to which other offices were involved.

"We invite you to amend your testimony to fully explain the nature and scope of the FBI’s assessment of traditional Catholics as potential domestic terrorists," the letter said.

The revelation comes after House Republicans revealed in April that the FBI created a plan to cultivate sources inside Catholic churches to investigate alleged religious extremism.

Published under: FBI