Jordan: FBI Targeting Catholic Churches Through Informants

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) wants answers on why the FBI targeted Catholic churches as possible sources for domestic extremism.

According to documents released by Jordan’s committee Monday, the agency attempted to establish sources within Catholic institutions as part of a counterterrorism campaign. Some of the specific targets included parishes that observe the traditional Latin Mass.

Internal documents gathered by Jordan and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) in March revealed the FBI worked to utilize churches for “new avenues for tripwire and source development.” Besides traditional observances, part of its effort focused on “mainline Catholic parishes.”

Jordan indicated the FBI showed interest in working with existing sources and creating new sources with access to the congregations.

The agency reportedly expressed the need to prepare churchgoers “to the warning signs of radicalization and enlist their assistance to serve as suspicious activity tripwires.”

In Jordan’s letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the chairman noted that documents currently received by House Republicans show the agency wanted to use sources to monitor parishioners. He also issued a subpoena for documents not provided to shed light on FBI actions.

The FBI successfully placed at least one undercover agent in a Catholic church in Richmond, Virginia. The Judiciary Committee said the intention was to determine if any worshipers exhibited signs of religious extremism.

The news that the agency looked to infiltrate mainstream Christian churches follows revelations two months ago that it was suspicious of radicalism within Catholic parishes. The FBI also expressed its desire to recruit Catholic leaders to inform on their congregations.

The Richmond field office created an internal memo warning that there may be Catholics that are “radical-traditionalists.” Further, they could be “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.”

The agency cast suspicions on the faithful who prefer the Latin Mass.

The Jan. 23 memo became public thanks to a whistleblower on Feb. 8. Twenty state attorneys general wrote a letter to the FBI and U.S. Attorney General two days later demanding answers on the internal document. They also asked if infiltrations had been successful.

The FBI officially responded on March 23 in an 18-page writing. The agency said it withdrew the Catholic memo due to it not meeting its standards. They also reported that a review had been opened.