Catholic Advocacy Group Prepared to Sue FBI for Failure to Comply With FOIA on Targeting

A leading national Catholic advocacy organization says it is prepared to file a lawsuit against the FBI for failing to comply with its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that seeks communications information related to a leaked document that revealed the bureau was targeting so-called “radical traditional Catholics.”

“On March 6th we filed a freedom of information act request with the FBI in Richmond, VA, asking for communications regarding the targeting of traditional Catholics,” stated CatholicVote in a tweet Tuesday. “Norms require the agency to respond within 20 business days, with an additional 10 for ‘unusual circumstances.’ To date we have not received any response.”

The organization continued its legal team is “prepared to bring a lawsuit within the next 10 days if we do not receive what we are entitled to by law,” adding:

Between this delay and the inaction associated with investigating and prosecuting the violence and vandalism being committed against pregnancy centers and Catholic Churches our top law enforcement institutions have demonstrated a pattern of hostility against Catholics and all people of faith. This is unacceptable and we will not back down.

CatholicVote’s announcement comes one day after the House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to FBI Director Christopher Wray for the agency’s records as part of its investigation into a leaked FBI Richmond Division memo that cited the discredited radical Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) warning that “white supremacy” has “found a home” in traditionalist Catholics.

In his letter to Wray regarding the issuance of the subpoena, chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) asserted his committee is conducting oversight into the FBI’s “handling of domestic violent extremism investigations against Catholic Americans and its effect on protected First Amendment activity.”

Jordan wrote:

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, 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. This shocking information reinforces our need for all responsive documents, and the Committee is issuing a subpoena to you to compel your full cooperation.

Jordan informed Wray his committee has “repeatedly sought information from the FBI” regarding the leaked memo, now reportedly rescinded, which was uncovered in February by former FBI special agent Kyle Seraphin.

The memo cited the disgraced leftist SPLC and served to warn Virginians about “Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violated Extremists” and “Radical-Traditionalist Catholics.”

“The document assesses with ‘high confidence’ the FBI can mitigate the threat of Radical-Traditionalist Catholics by recruiting sources within the Catholic Church,” Seraphin cited the document, adding a footnote further explains the term ‘RTCs’:

RTCs are “typically characterized by the rejection of the Second Vatican Council.” The writer makes an unsubstantiated leap that a preference for the Catholic Mass in Latin instead of the vernacular and a number of more traditional views on other world religions can amount to an “adherence to anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and white supremacist ideology.”

Jordan reminded Wray that his committee first wrote to him to request documentation on February 16.

“After receiving no response, we reiterated our outstanding requests in a subsequent letter dated March 20, 2023,” the chairman asserted. “On March 23, 2023, we received a substandard and partial response consisting of only 18 pages – many with significant redactions of ‘personally identifiable information’ or ‘specific non-public information about [FBI] investigations, sources, and methods’ that prevents the Committee from fully assessing the content and context of the documents and obtaining information requested from the Bureau.”

Jordan referred to the “limited information” that has been forwarded to his committee as “outrageous” in that it shows the FBI “sought to use local religious organizations as ‘new avenues for tripwire and source development,’” and to “engage in outreach with religious institutions in the Richmond area,” including “so-called ‘mainline Catholic parishes’ and the local ‘diocesan leadership’” for the purpose of reporting on “suspicious activity.”

“Although the FBI claims to have ‘numerous’ and ‘rigorous’ policies to protect First Amendment rights, the FBI’s Richmond document plainly undercuts these assertions,” Jordan wrote.

– – –

Susan Berry, PhD is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Catholic mass” by PrayOnItPhotography CC2.0.


Read More: Catholic Advocacy Group Prepared to Sue FBI for Failure to Comply With FOIA on Targeting