It is not every day that one learns that federal law enforcement (this time, the compromised and diminished Federal Bureau of Investigation) is watching your church and its members. But that is exactly what happened in Richmond, Virginia, where someone at the FBI’s Richmond field office recently wrote a memo warning that those Catholics who attend the traditional Latin Mass are “almost certainly” ripe targets for recruitment by violent extremists.
In full disclosure, this columnist attends the Latin Mass in Richmond, Virginia; for all we know, the FBI analysis was pointed directly at this columnist. (RELATED: JUDGE ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO: Biden Could Stop Three Letter Agencies From Freely Spying On Americans. Why Won’t He?)
How did the FBI come to the conclusion that the old ladies and young families at Mass are just a handful of steps away from becoming modern-day Weathermen? Well, the Richmond field office figured that since those folks have concerns that the post-Vatican II church might not be firing on all cylinders, it only stands to reason that they are likely to be anti-Semitic, racist xenophobes ready to pull down the civilized order at any moment.
If you don’t follow that, maybe knowing the sourcing of the memo will help. The memo appears to lean on a report by the very much left of center Southern Poverty Law Center, as well as the analyst’s own sentiments about the pro-life orientation of the Catholic Church. Other sources include the Salon website and Atlantic magazine. If you can’t trust those guys when it comes to extremism, who can you trust?
In one unintentionally hilarious passage, the memo distinguishes Catholics who attend Latin Mass routinely from those who attend “mainline” Catholic churches. Bad news Mr. Special Agent in charge of religious surveillance: all Catholics in union with Rome pray for the Pope and their local bishop at every Mass as a sign of unity. There are no such things as “mainline” Catholic churches; that nonsense is reserved for the Protestants.
It is beyond ironic that this recent attack on the American republic, directed on churches, comes just days after the modernized version of the Church Committee — focused on precisely these sorts of abuses — opened for business on Capitol Hill.
When the memo from the Richmond field office surfaced, the FBI said that: “[t]his particular field office product . . . does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI.” It’s difficult not to laugh at that statement; the memo does in fact almost precisely match the standards of the shambolic and politicized FBI.
Is there any doubt that once attention wanders that the FBI won’t again start watching the always-dangerous religious fanatics who go to Mass and mind their own business? While subverting freedom of religion would be an impressive addition to an already extensive record of destruction, in no way is it beyond the capabilities of federal law enforcement in general and the FBI in particular.
Also tucked into the statement was this: “The FBI . . . will never conduct investigative activities or open an investigation based solely on First Amendment protected activity.” So, they won’t go after anyone “solely” for their religion, but religion will remain fair game.
Keep in mind, this is a group of people who tried to select the president in 2016 and 2020 and helped fabricate evidence (the Steele Dossier) to do so. Some of them committed perjury before Congress and the FISA courts. Federal law enforcement has surveilled American citizens, Congressional offices, reporters and presidential campaign staff.
No one in the Richmond field office must have ever been to a Latin Mass and must not know a single Roman Catholic. The idea that having disagreements with fellow Catholics over doctrine and liturgy, or that praying and working towards the creation of a pro-life ethos in the United States makes one susceptible to becoming a violent extremist may be the least sensible notion ever produced by the federal bureaucracy.
The sort of good news is that 19 state attorneys generals pushed back immediately in a letter to the FBI that noted all of the various problems — legal and moral — associated with surveilling churches and their congregants. Regrettably, only 19 attorneys general were on the letter, instead of the 50 that should have been.
In a normal world, the current occupant of White House, who prides himself on being a faithful son of the Catholic Church, would call down to the FBI and suggest they step away from this particularly messy and anti-constitutional work and focus for a moment or two on apprehending actual criminals.
Unfortunately, we no longer live in a normal world.
Michael McKenna is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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