Retracted FBI document revealed targeting of pro-life Catholics


A now-retracted, leaked FBI memo published by former special agent Kyle Seraphin appears to show that the bureau’s division in Richmond, Virginia, has been investigating “radical traditionalist” Catholics for possible ties to the “far-right white nationalist movement,” which supposedly includes violent anti-abortion views.

The memo listed several organizations with Catholic ties that are deemed “hate groups” by the controversial Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

“The memo implies that the FBI under the Biden administration has infiltrated Catholic groups and is already spying on their activities,” stated CatholicVote President Brian Burch. “How do they justify this? They cite the SPLC as their primary source in claiming that ‘radical’ Catholics could soon become violent – and thus the FBI should begin a surveillance program on Catholic organizations.”

During a hearing this week, Senator Josh Hawley questioned Attorney General Merrick Garland about the leaked memo, which FBI Headquarters has reportedly retracted because “it does not meet [the FBI’s] exacting standards.” When being questioned, AG Garland called the document “appalling.” Attorneys general from 20 states sent a letter to Garland and FBI director Christopher Wray, stating, “Anti-Catholic bigotry appears to be festering in the FBI, and the Bureau is treating Catholics as potential terrorists because of their beliefs.”

The leaked document states, “FBI Richmond assesses the increasingly observed interest of racially or ethnically motived violent extremists (RMVEs) in radical-traditionalist Catholic (RTC)* ideology almost certainly presents opportunities for threat mitigation through the exploration of new revenues for tripwire and source development.”

In addition, the memo states that “an over-emphasis on white US nationalism may be off-putting to RTCs of different ethnicities and countries of origin.” And though “deep-seated anti-Catholicism remains a characteristic of many far-right white nationalists” “the current trend of RMVE interest in RTC ideology provides new opportunities to mitigate the RMVE threat through outreach to traditionalist Catholic parishes…”

The memo goes on to state, “The ongoing convergence of the far-right white nationalist movement and RTCs was further demonstrated through the increase in hostility toward abortion-rights advocates on social media sites in the run-up to and aftermath of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.” (emphasis added)

“Catalyzing events in which RMVEs and RTC adherents might have common cause include legislation or judicial decisions in areas such as abortion rights…” reads the memo.

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Focus on abortion ‘rights’

The author clearly sees abortion as a right, as demonstrated by the language used surrounding abortion. The intention appears to be to paint the picture of so-called “hostility” toward abortion advocates on behalf of pro-life Catholics. The FBI has demonstrated an apparent willingness to use its power to go after Catholic pro-lifers as it did when it raided the home of Mark Houck for defending his 12-year-old son from the harassment of an abortion facility escort. Houck was charged with violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, but was acquitted of all charges.

So-called pro-life ‘hostility’

The memo is attempting to prove that pro-life Catholics have “hostility towards the abortion-rights advocates” because “far-right” groups with extreme behaviors may also hold pro-life views. Houck’s arrest could have been held up as an example of such supposed violent extremism among Catholics, but the truth about the incident was brought to light.

The majority of the violent abortion-related attacks that have occurred since the fall of Roe have been carried out against pro-lifers by pro-abortion activists. While testifying before the Senate Homeland Security Committee in November, FBI Director Christopher Wray explained, “[Y]ou might be interested to know that since the Dobbs act decision, probably in the neighborhood of 70% of our abortion-related violence cases or threats cases are cases of violence or threats against […] pro-life organizations.”

Despite this, there have been numerous prosecutions against pro-lifers by federal authorities under the Biden administration, and there have been only two individuals charged in the more than 80 reported attacks against pregnancy centers and 130 attacks against Catholic churches. These attacks have included firebombing and threats to the safety of pro-lifers. When questioned about this in the recent hearing, AG Garland claimed the FBI has had difficulty finding and arresting many of the pro-abortion terrorists because they attack “at night in the dark.”

Accusations of racism

Accusing Catholic pro-lifers of “white nationalist” views shows a complete lack of understanding about pro-life values. Houck and other pro-lifers are not working to bring harm to non-white individuals by helping them choose life instead of death for their preborn babies.

As Live Action’s news correspondent Christina Bennett explained to a Congressional subcommittee during a 2020 hearing on the pro-life Hyde Amendment, “I don’t think that racists are in the business of trying to preserve Black lives and generations of children that will come after them.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) responded to the leaked document with Cardinal Timothy Dolan stating, “Anyone who espouses racism or promotes violence is rejecting Catholic teaching on the inherent dignity of each and every person. The USCCB roundly condemns such extremism and fully supports the work of law enforcement officials to keep our communities safe.”

Dolan said the document is “religious profiling” and that it relied on “dubious sourcing.”

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