The document further claims that violent extremists have “sought out and attended traditionalist Catholic houses of worship,” which “presents new opportunities for threat mitigation” through “trip wire or source development” within churches that offer the Latin Mass and “radical-traditionalist” Catholic online communities.
“The current trend of [racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist] interest in [radical-traditionalist Catholic ideology] provides new opportunities to mitigate the [racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist] threat through outreach to traditionalist Catholic parishes and the development of sources with the placement and access to report on [racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists] seeking to use [radical-traditionalist Catholic ideology] social media sites or places of worship as facilitation platforms to promote violence,” the document reads.
Both the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) and the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) are listed as potential points of contact for outreach, according to the document notes. Both offer Traditional Latin Masses to congregants and both have congregations within the Richmond FBI’s area of responsibility. SSPX is a canonically irregular organization ever since its founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre consecrated bishops without papal approval. FSSP broke off from SSPX over that decision and is in full communion with Rome.
However, the document claims that “much of the interaction … takes place online” and they share certain language and symbolism, such as “crusader references and anti-Semitic discourse.”
In the document, the FBI division states that it “makes this assessment with high confidence” and bases its findings on FBI investigations, local law enforcement reports, liaison reports, and “varying degrees of corroboration and access.”
It states that the FBI would revise its judgment based on whether there is an increase or decrease of violent extremist subjects “attending traditionalist Catholic places of worship,” social media activity, or “radical-traditionalist” Catholic personalities or institutions distancing themselves from violent extremists.
Document notes claim that it defines radical-traditionalist Catholic ideology as a “rejection of the Second Vatican Council,” a “disdain for popes elected since Vatican II” and “frequent adherence to anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, and white supremacist ideology.”
It states that radical-traditionalist Catholicism is distinct from “traditionalist Catholics,” whom it defines as those who “prefer the Traditional Latin Mass and pre-Vatican II teachings and traditions” without “more extremist ideological beliefs and violent rhetoric.” However, the Richmond FBI division appears to rely on the SPLC’s analysis to determine what organizations should be classified as radical-traditionalist Catholic.
This is not the first time the FBI justified an insertion into religious communities by claiming it was looking for violent extremists. After al-Qaeda orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the FBI surveilled various mosques in search of Muslim extremists.
In one example, an FBI agent named Craig Monteilh pretended to convert to Islam and “was secretly recording conversations and filming inside people’s homes, mosques, and businesses,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Even though Muslims in the Orange County, California, community ultimately reported him to law enforcement and the FBI when he began to promote terrorism, he had already “gathered names, phone numbers, and email addresses as he secretly filmed and recorded congregants.”
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On Thursday, House Republicans will begin an investigation into the alleged “weaponization” of the federal government against pro-life activists and Christians. It will look into allegations against the FBI and the Department of Justice.