The FBI’s Richmond field office came under fire Wednesday when a whistleblower revealed that office was bundling Traditional Catholics into an anomalous group known as Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists (RMVEs). RMVE is apparently FBI-speak for “yukky people we don’t like unless they are a protected minority group.” These Catholics earned for themselves their own acronym of RTC or Radicat-Traditionalist Catholics. My colleague Teri Christoph covered that story in detail in FBI Declares War on Traditional Catholics in Insidious New Intelligence Report. The story was broken by FBI whistleblower Kyle Seraphin writing at UncoverDC.
In a footnote to the leaked intelligence report marked (U) for unclassified, we learned, “RTCs are typically characterized by the rejection of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) as a valid church council; disdain for most of the popes elected since Vatican II, particularly Pope Francis and Pope John Paul II; and frequent adherence to anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, and white supremacist ideology.”
In a footnote marked (U) for unclassified, the report went on to say, “In making this assessment, FBI Richmond relied on the key assumption that [racially or ethnically motivated extremists] will continue to find [radical-traditionalist Catholic or RTC] ideology attractive and will continue to attempt to connect with RTC adherents, both virtually via social media and in-person at places of worship.”
Radical-traditionalist Catholics compose a small minority of overall Roman Catholic adherents and are separate and distinct from ‘traditionalist Catholics’ who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass and pre-Vatican II teachings and traditions, but without the more extremist ideological beliefs and violent rhetoric.
The report uses the libelous Southern Poverty Law Center to declare nine specific groups as RTC hate groups
Catholic Apologetics International, Greenville, Pennsylvania;
Catholic Family News/Catholic Family Ministries, Inc., Niagara Falls, New York;
Christ or Chaos, Corsicana, Texas;
Culture Wars/Fidelity Press, South Bend, Indiana;
The Fatima Crusader/International Fatima Rosary Crusade, Buffalo, NY;
Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, New Hampshire;
In the Spirit of Chartres Community, Maryland;
The Remnant/The Remnant Press, Minnesota;
and Tradition in Action, Los Angeles.
The report makes a large number of unsubstantiated and problematic claims, such as, “FBI Richmond assesses RMVE interest in RTCs is likely to increase over the next 12 to 24 months in the run-up to the next general election cycle complicating the overall RMVE threat picture while also creating new opportunities for mitigation efforts.” RTCs would attract people interested “in areas such as abortion rights, immigration, affirmative action, and LGBTQ protections.”
Ominously, the report recommends the FBI cultivate tripwires, i.e., overt contacts who are members of the community (I imagine it refers to Catholic priests who practice the Tridentine Rite), and sources, that is, snitches inside the congregations, to monitor goings-on.
Within hours of the FBI report becoming public, the FBI disavowed it.
“While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, this particular field office product — disseminated only within the FBI — regarding racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI,” FBI headquarters told the Washington Examiner on Thursday. “Upon learning of the document, FBI Headquarters quickly began taking action to remove the document from FBI systems and conduct a review of the basis for the document.”
The national office added: “The FBI is committed to sound analytic tradecraft and to investigating and preventing acts of violence and other crimes while upholding the constitutional rights of all Americans and will never conduct investigative activities or open an investigation based solely on First Amendment protected activity.”
The idea that the FBI would, without evidence, tie Traditional Catholic groups to violence is simply bizarre. In fact, it is so bizarre that it gives credence to Tucker Carlson’s take that it is a gateway to declaring observant Christians potentially violent.
Courts have criticized the FBI for placing spies in mosques where terrorism is openly preached; I don’t know why they would think that spying on a few very small communities and organizations with no history of violence makes sense. The report itself seems to rate the idea of Traditional Catholics collaborating with violence instigated by “white supremacists” as unlikely.
(U/FOUO) [FOUO is the For Official Use Only security classification] Ultimately, there may be limits to the level of engagement between RTCs and other far-right white nationalists. For example, many RTCs consider other forms of Christianity to be heretical and an over-emphasis on white US nationalism may be off-putting to RTCs of different ethnicities and countries of origin. Conversely, deep-seated anti-Catholicism remains a characteristic of many far-right white nationalists. Nonetheless, the current trend of RMVE interest in RTC ideology provides new opportunities to mitigate the RMVE threat through outreach to traditionalist Catholic parishes and the development of sources with the placement and access to report on RMVEs seeking to use RTC social media sites or places of worship as facilitation platforms to promote violence.
The tenor of the report has a “Conservative in the Mist” feel to it. An inordinate amount of attention is focused on why these groups exist and how they differ from religious communities who use the 1962 liturgical missal. Considering the number of Catholics in central and southern Virginia, this report coming from this particular office is very strange. When you consider it is focused on a few thousand Catholics who aren’t currently in Communion with the Church, it becomes downright creepy. It would be interesting to know if the writer is a liberal Catholic with a vendetta or someone who is casually fascinated by modern Catholic intramural politics.
As alluded to earlier, there is no factual basis in the report for asserting that violent “white supremacists” are associating with Traditionalist Catholics. There is no reason to include unsubstantiated SPLC slanders.
This document is not the musings of a rogue analyst. On the contrary, it is an approved intelligence product of the FBI.
As I write this, the House of Representatives is holding hearings on the “weaponization” of federal law enforcement. I hope someone there has enough ambition to find out why anyone in the FBI, like this guy, thinks investigating religious communities is a smart thing to do.