The Republican senator for Missouri, Josh Hawley, claims that Merrick Garland, the attorney general, lied under oath when he denied that the DOJ had been recruiting informants within the Catholic Church.
The Richmond Field Office of the FBI leaked information to the Daily Signal detailing the dangers of “radical-traditionalist Catholic” (RTC) theology, prompting lawmakers to question the Justice Department’s infiltration of Catholic institutions. As the FBI admitted the documents were genuine, they rescinded them since they did not uphold the agency’s standards.
Hawley questioned Garland’s DOJ bias against Catholics on March 1 after seeing an FBI memo on RTC ideology. Hawley directed his question to Garland, who was asked if the DOJ was planting informants and spies within Catholic parishes. Garland testified under oath in that hearing that the Justice Department does not conduct religiously motivated inquiries.
When Hawley asked another approach, if the DOJ has any informants working within the Catholic Church, Garland answered he didn’t know and didn’t think they did.
On Monday, the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government addressed outreach to develop sources between the clergy and church leadership to inform parishioners. It raised allegations that the FBI did indeed rely on “at least one undercover agent” to produce the document assessing the threats of RTC ideology. Hawley went back over Garland’s responses from his Senate testimony on March 1 in light of the findings from that House subcommittee.
Hawley requested information from Garland regarding the DOJ’s infiltration of traditionalist Catholic churches, the number of undercover informants, and the types of agents stationed in Catholic parishes and other Catholic groups. Hawley also inquired once more about the number of DOJ spies operating within churches and other houses of worship.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which the U.S. Supreme Court changed the ruling on Roe v. Wade and declared the ability of states to regulate aspects of abortion not already codified by federal law, has piqued the DOJ’s interest in Catholic individuals.
Increased hostility toward abortion-rights support on social media sites before and after the Dobbs decision is cited as evidence of a convergence of radical traditionalist Catholics with the far-right white nationalist group and racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) in the FBI’s Richmond Field Office’s document on RTCs.
Since radical Catholics and RMVEs share views on immigration, affirmative action, and the LGBTQ community, the FBI paper also predicts a rise in RMVE interest in radical Catholics before the next general election.
The FBI detained Catholic pro-life activist Mark Houck in September on charges stemming from an incident at a protest outside of an abortion clinic the previous year. During a rally in October 2021, the DOJ claimed that Houck had pushed a 72-year-old clinic escort named Bruce Love to the ground. Houck’s lawyers contended that their client’s 12-year-old kid was the initial target of Love’s aggressive “harassment” during the protest. In January, Houck was found not guilty by a federal court in Philadelphia.
Houck was found not guilty, but his family still questioned his arrest. According to Houck’s wife, their home was broken into by a tactical team of roughly 25 police officers who then pointed their guns at the family. The FBI has denied reports that it deployed special agents to take Houck into custody.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) testified at a Senate hearing in March that since the Dobbs ruling, there have been more than 81 documented attacks on crisis pregnancy centers and 130 attacks on Catholic churches, but only two people have been convicted. Lee mentioned that during this period, there 34 people were arrested for disrupting or vandalizing abortion facilities.
Garland claims the disparity in arrests between pro-life and anti-abortion activists is partially attributable to the former group’s greater visibility.