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FBI interviewed priest, choir director when creating ‘anti-Catholic’ memo

Dec 05, 2023

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FBI Director Christopher Wray testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Dec. 5, after a House investigative report revealed the FBI interviewed a Catholic priest and choir director to collect information for a memo which has since been rescinded. The memo raised the alarm about “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists” with individuals who hold a “radical-traditionalist Catholic” ideology. 

The memo was criticized by Republicans who said it targeted Americans for their religious beliefs. The report from the House Judiciary Committee also found “no legitimate basis for the memorandum to insert federal law enforcement into Catholic houses of worship.”

Wray told Congress that the individuals involved were not found to have engaged in bad faith conduct. 

“A number of the individuals involved in writing that product in the Richmond office were themselves Catholics,” Wray said. “So the notion that they were targeting their own faith is nonsense.”

“Oh, so they had a get out of jail free card. I see,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., responded. 

Wray said that the individuals involved in writing the memo have been admonished, and the incident will go into their annual performance reviews, which directly impacts their compensation. 

The House Judiciary report also states that the agents who wrote the memo admitted to using information from sources they knew were politically biased. 

“I can tell you that we don’t investigate people for their exercise of their constitutionally protected religious expression,” Wray said. “As for this particular intelligence product — is something that as soon as I saw it, I was aghast, I had it withdrawn,” Wray said.

As Wray mentioned, the memo has been retracted, but House Republicans contend that had it not been for a whistleblower, the memo would still be in systems across the FBI.

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[Ray Bogan]

FBI Director Christopher Wray was grilled on Capitol Hill Tuesday after a House investigative report revealed the FBI interviewed a Catholic priest and choir director to collect information for a since rescinded memo that raised the alarm about “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists” with individuals who hold a “radical-traditionalist Catholic” ideology. 

The memo was criticized by Republicans who said it targeted Americans for their religious beliefs. The report from the House Judiciary Committee also found, “…no legitimate basis for the memorandum to insert federal law enforcement into Catholic houses of worship.”

Director Wray told Congress the individuals involved were not found to have engaged in bad faith conduct. 

[FBI Director Christopher Wray]

“A number of the individuals involved in writing that product in the Richmond office were themselves Catholics. So the notion that they were targeting their own faith is nonsense,” Wray said during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing. 

[Sen. Josh Hawley]

“Oh, so they had a get out of jail free card. I see,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., responded. 

[Ray Bogan]

Wray went on to say that the individuals involved in writing the memo have been admonished and the incident will go into their annual performance reviews which has a direct impact on their compensation. 

The House Judiciary Committee report also states the agents who wrote the memo admitted to using information from sources they knew were politically biased and from other field offices. 

[FBI Director Christopher Wray]

“I can tell you that we don’t investigate people for their exercise of their constitutionally protected religious expression. As for this particular intelligence product – it’s something that as soon as I saw it, I was aghast, I had it withdrawn,” Wray said. 

[Ray Bogan]

As Wray mentioned, the memo has been retracted, but House Republicans contend had it not been for a whistleblower the memo would still be in FBI-wide systems.