When Government Slanders and Spies On Traditional Catholics

On Feb. 8, former FBI special agent turned federal whistleblower Kyle Seraphin published online a Jan. 23, 2023, internal memorandum by the FBI’s Richmond Field Office in which it advocated spying on Catholics who attend the traditional Latin Mass. It did so under the slanderous assertion that such communities were infiltrated and prone to manipulation by proponents of “anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, and white supremacist ideology.”

Entitled, “Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities,” and approved for release by the FBI Richmond Chief Division Counsel, the office’s top lawyer, the eight-page memorandum advocates recruiting those who attend these Masses to serve as surreptitious spies or overt informants against their so-called “extremist” fellow Catholics. It also urges the Bureau to monitor traditional Latin Mass websites and online social media posts.

The memorandum distinguishes between those who simply love and attend the traditional Latin Mass from those it labels “Radical Traditionalist Catholics,” who it declares are “typically characterized by the rejection of the Second Vatican Council” and advocate “more extremist ideological beliefs and violent rhetoric.” It presents no evidence at all, however, of violent rhetoric, extremist beliefs, or hostile behavior. It specifies the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter as well as the schismatic Society of St. Pius X as points of outreach and infiltration.

As soon as the memorandum became public, the FBI disavowed it, saying that it “does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI” and averring that the bureau “will never conduct investigative activities or open an investigation based solely on First Amendment protected activity.” It also stated it had retracted the memorandum and would investigate why it was issued.

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