Virginia Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine gave the FBI his approval to investigate Catholic parishes in his own state on Monday.
When asked by a local ABC affiliate about the FBI’s Richmond division infiltrating Catholic communities to spy on the church for alleged extremism, Kaine called the revelations a misunderstanding.
“I think the key is communication,” Kaine told ABC13. “If the FBI has a concern like that, then go to the church leaders and say, ‘Hey look, we have a concern and we don’t want your members to get unwittingly caught up in something.'”
Former FBI Special Agent Kyle Seraphin blew the whistle on the agency’s Richmond office investigating the Catholic Church with undercover informants in February. The FBI, Seraphin wrote, “would like to protect Virginians from the threat of ‘white supremacy,’ which it believes has found a home within Catholics who prefer the Latin Mass.”
“The document assesses with ‘high confidence’ the FBI can mitigate the threat of Radical-Traditionalist Catholics by recruiting sources within the Catholic Church,” Seraphin warned.
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House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee responded to the news with a subpoena to FBI Director Christopher Wray earlier this month. “We know the FBI, relying on information derived from at least one undercover employee, sought to use local religious organizations as ‘new avenues for tripwire and source development,'” Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio wrote in the subpoena cover letter.
Kaine said Monday that the FBI has been running similar surveillance of American Muslims.
“We’ve done the same thing for years working in tandem with mosques because there have been groups that have tried to target or radicalize, especially young people,” the senator said.
Despite the FBI’s targeting of Catholics, U.S. bishops remained silent.
“The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops is a powerful organization, with a 2018 budget of more than $200 million, much of it from federal grants and contracts,” The Federalist’s Evita Duffy-Alfonso reported in February. “What has the Catholic Church hierarchy had to say in the seven days since the slanderous leak? Nothing.”
The conference never responded to The Federalist’s inquiries. Bishop Barry Knestout was the only U.S. bishop to speak out on the issue one week after the February whistleblower report.