FBI Memo Naming ‘Radical Traditionalist Catholics’ Involved Multiple Offices: Jordan

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
August 10, 2023Congress

FBI Director Chris Wray may not have been fully truthful with lawmakers when he recently testified about the bureau’s involvement in drafting a memo targeting “Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology.”

Earlier this year, the internal memo was leaked by a whistleblower from the FBI’s Richmond, Virginia, field office. The January memo, published on Feb. 8 via the UncoverDC website, expressed that the office had “observed interest” among racially or ethically motivated violent extremists in “radical-traditionalist Catholic (RTC) ideology.” The assessment went on to suggest that “RTC or traditionalist Catholic places of worship” could offer “new opportunities for mitigation efforts” in the office’s trop priority of preventing terrorist attacks.

Upon its leak, the memo sparked public outrage, leading Republican lawmakers to seek clarification from the FBI amid accusations that the agency is being weaponized by political actors within government to increasingly target their opponents.

Mr. Wray testified about the controversial memo during a July 12 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. The director said he was “aghast” at the memo but insisted it was “a single product by a single field office” and immediately ordered for it to be retracted.

Now, however, Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is asserting that more than one FBI office was involved in the memo targeting the so-called “radical-traditionalist Catholic ideology.”

The memo in its definition of RTC ideology cited the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which had published a web article in which it identified and characterised several RTCs as “hate groups” within the United States. It also cited other “open source reporting,” listing links to the self-described progressive publication Salon and The Atlantic.

The memo described RTC adherents in an “Analyst Note” as having “frequent adherence to anti-Semitic, anti-immigration, anti-LGBTQ, and white supremacist ideology,” while saying they are “distinct from ‘traditionalist Catholics’ who prefer … pre-Vatican II teachings and traditions, but without the more extremist ideological beliefs and violent rhetoric.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Jordan sent a letter (pdf) to the FBI director, following up on the director’s July 12 testimony. According to the letter, FBI officials provided a new copy of the controversial Richmond field office memo with fewer redactions than previous versions. With the additional unredacted information, Mr. Jordan said the Richmond field office memo was informed by investigations involving the FBI’s Portland, Oregon, field office and the FBI’s Los Angeles, California, field office.

“This new version shows that the FBI’s actions were not just limited to ‘a single field office,’ as you testified to the Committee,” Mr. Jordan wrote.

According to the Republican lawmaker, the newly unredacted information showed that the FBI’s Portland field office monitored a now-deceased suspect they believed to be a “Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremist” who sought out a mainline Catholic denomination before gravitating to the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). According to Mr. Jordan, the unredacted information also showed the FBI Los Angeles office monitored and investigated a suspect who attended an SSPX-affiliated church for over a year.

“Most concerning of all, the newly produced version of the document explicitly states that FBI Richmond ‘[c]oordinated with’ FBI Portland in preparing the assessment,” Mr. Jordan asserted. “Thus, it appears that both FBI Portland and FBI Los Angeles field offices were involved in or contributed to the creation of FBI’s assessment of traditional Catholics as potential domestic terrorists.”

Mr. Jordan called on the FBI director to amend his July 12 testimony. The Republican lawmaker also called for all communications about “Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology” between the FBI’s Richmond and Portland field offices, and between the Richmond and Los Angeles field offices. He also requested a list of any other FBI intelligence products or investigations against Catholics derived from reports by the Richmond or Los Angeles FBI field offices.

The FBI director has until Aug. 23 to comply with these new requests.

NTD News has reached out to Mr. Jordan’s office about what steps he may take if the FBI does not fully comply but did not receive a response by press time.

In an emailed statement to NTD News, the FBI’s national press office insisted that Mr. Wray spoke accurately when he said the controversial memo about “radical-traditionalist Catholic ideology” was “a single product by a single field office.”

“Director Wray’s testimony on this matter has been accurate and consistent. While the document referred to information from other field office investigations of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremist (RMVE) subjects, that does not change the fact the product was produced by a single office,” the emailed FBI statement read.

The bureau said it’s policies do not allow the conduct of investigations based solely on religious affiliations, which it recognizes as First Amendment-protected activity.

“To be clear: the document was a domain perspective which is an intelligence product designed to address potential threats in a particular area—in this case, the Richmond Field Office’s area of responsibility,” the FBI said in a statement. “Because the product failed to meet FBI standards, it was quickly removed from all FBI systems and a review was launched to determine how it was produced in the first place.”