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Christopher Wray (OSV News/Leah Millis, Reuters)

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation director has clashed with Republicans over a leaked memo that alleged political extremism in some Catholic groups. Source: UCA News.

FBI director Christopher Wray sparred with Republicans during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday about the leaked and withdrawn memo from the bureau’s field office in Richmond, Virginia.

During a committee oversight hearing, three Republican senators – Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley – had tense exchanges with Mr Wray about the memo, alleging the bureau targeted Catholics.

Mr Wray denied that allegation, arguing they “do not and will not conduct investigations based on anybody’s exercise of their constitutionally protected religious expression”.

Senator Hawley asked Mr Wray if Catholic churches are “breeding grounds for domestic terrorism,” and if there is “systemic bigotry against Catholics in the FBI?”

The FBI faced scrutiny earlier this year after a leaked memo suggested some “radical traditionalist” Catholics pose threats of racially or ethnically motivated violence. The memo was later retracted by the bureau, a spokesperson said at the time.

In the leaked memo, dated January 23, an analyst at the FBI’s Richmond Division said “Radical Traditionalist Catholics” are “typically characterised by the rejection of the Second Vatican Council.” 

The memo said the ideology can amount to an “adherence to anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and white supremacist ideology”. 

However, the memo distinguished “radical traditionalist” Catholics as “separate and distinct” from “traditionalist Catholics,” Catholics who “simply prefer the Traditional Latin Mass and pre-Vatican II teachings.” The same FBI memo noted that “conversely, deep-seated anti-Catholicism remains a characteristic of many far-right white nationalists.”

Mr Wray has previously condemned the memo in testimony before Congress, and repeated in Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that he was “aghast” at its contents.


FBI director spars with GOP senators about memo targeting Catholics (By Kate Scanlon, OSV News via UCA News)