FBI Under Pressure for Targeting Catholics in Leaked Document

The FBI has come under scrutiny after a leaked document showed the bureau warning that "radical traditionalist" Catholics pose as an extremist threat.

Kyle Seraphin, a former FBI special agent and federal whistleblower, obtained the document from the bureau's field office in Richmond, Virginia, and published it on the UncoveredDC website.

Fbi Catholics
The seal of the F.B.I. hangs in the Flag Room at the bureau's headquarters March 9, 2007 in Washington, DC. The agency is under fire for plans targeting Catholics. Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

The document is titled "Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities."

The FBI in Richmond discusses monitoring Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists (RMVE) and their interests in so-called "Radical-Traditionalist Catholics" or RTCs.

The memo notes that FBI investigations have found that there is a "growing overlap" between the far-right white nationalist movement and RTCs.

The January 23 document claims that RTCs are a small minority of the Catholic Church. They adhere to "anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT and white supremacy" ideology, while also preferring the "traditional Latin mass."

The memo notes that these Catholics reject the Second Vatican Council and show a "disdain for popes elected since Vatican II."

Also included in the memo was a list of Catholic organizations that are defined as hate groups by civil rights advocates the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). These include the Catholic Apologetics International in Pennsylvania and the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in New Hampshire.

The FBI has since confirmed to several news sites that it has removed the document from its systems because it does not meet the "exacting standards of the FBI."

"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," the statement read.

"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 statement 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 bureau has since been criticized by a number of conservative figures after news emerged of the memo being pulled.

Charlie Kirk, political commentator and founder of Turning Point USA, tweeted: "The FBI was just caught plotting to target Catholics who attend Latin Mass using SPLC rhetoric as justification to treat them as enemies of the state. The KGB didn't go away. They just got the FBI to adopt their tactics."

Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene wrote, while sharing extracts of the leaked memo: "This is religious persecution. And it's being done by our own government. I'll say it again. DEFUND THE FBI!"

Texas GOP representative Ronny Jackson added: "Apparently 'devout Catholic' Joe Biden is using his FBI to target Catholics. WOW! The FBI has truly become the enemy of the people. They've actually declared war on Christians now!! UNBELIEVABLE!"

Fox News anchor David Asman tweeted that there needs to be an inquiry into how the "bigoted, unconstitutional piece of trash" was shared within the FBI in the first place.

Newsweek has contacted the FBI for comment.