So I don’t know where to even start with this one. Obviously I’m referring to the FBI memo from the Richmond, VA office that indicates growing concern over
terrorism people not worshiping the state in so-called “Traditional” Catholic parishes. When I first saw this article appear, I gave it the ole’ 72 hour wait to see what ends up being true.
After having the FBI confirm it, I went ahead and read the memo. I have read many, MANY FBI memos in the past. I’ve read plenty of intelligence memos from various agencies, and I’ve written a fair number of memos myself and with others. I also wrote a 100+ page masters thesis that was read by some very smart and important people in our government. I know that writing well is important because you never know how far something you write will travel, whether its an email, memo or 100 page analysis. Since its that important, you should learn to write well, cite good sources and be ready for criticism if you’re going to make points that are controversial.
Does this paper do that? Nope.
Seriously, go read it. First, it starts with an interesting statement: that RMVEs are interested in RTCs. As a network guy, I immediately confused RMVEs with NVME solid state hard drives and RTCs with the people that yell at you at boot camp. But no, RMVE is Racially and Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremist, and RTC is radical-traditionalist Catholic. OK, lots of acronyms, which tells me this is legitimately from a government agency right off the bat, because we know that government loves its acronyms.
Reading the first few paragraphs, its actually kind of bland. The memo states that the FBI is seeing an increase in RMVEs reaching out to RTCs, attending services and engaging more on social media, and that the RMVEs are trying to recruit RTCs. That’s not a crazy assertion. If all you see at more “radical” Catholic churches is women wearing veils and priests speaking out about the evils of homosexuality, and especially if that group of “radical” Catholics thinks the world is on fire because of sins like homosexuality, then yeah, it might seem like a great place to recruit people that would be OK bombing a gay nightclub.
But that’s where it all starts to break down. When I hear Racially Motivated Violence, I think people that hate black people, or white people, or Asians, or immigrants, or something like that. I suspect most people do too. But I have yet to see the Catholic church, including more traditional churches, argue that racism is good. There are lots of Catholic positions that homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion and sex outside of marriage are bad and causing problems in society. These same Catholics vote and protest against the governments attempts to impose these views on people, which is probably the more likely reason the FBI doesn’t like these people.
Saying that the Catholic Church, and more traditional Church followers, appeals to racist terrorism is even more dumb when you think of the extensive Catholic Church in Africa and the Caribbean that is full of…wait for it…black people! The Catholic Church, even the more traditional portions of it, represents people from all walks of life and all skin colors.
If the FBI memo said they that violent extremists were recruiting traditional Catholics to bomb abortion clinics and gay nightclubs, I might, MIGHT believe it. But that’s not what the memo says. It’s specifically about race and ethnicity, and it makes no sense whatsoever. Heck, even the Huffington Post argued that the Catholic Church lead the way to decriminalize mixed-racial marriage.
Probably should have cited that article over Salon…but I digress.
The next part is though: the FBI referencing “tripwire and source development.” I read that as:
- Place snitches in churches
- Develop a list of “trigger” words
- Wrap up so-called “radical” priests when they say mean things
- Threaten a “radical” churches tax-exempt status if they say mean things about the state
Sheesh, does this sound like the Tea Party? Or Waco, TX? Or Trump’s home in Florida? Or the dude that got thrown in jail over defending his kid in PA? If I’m drawing this conclusion, so are a lot of other people.
The analysis in the notes section does an OK job of breaking out SSPX vs FSSP vs Norvus Ordo. Honestly, style point here: put in a side-by-side comparison in the future. One nice graphic would make it a lot easier on the reader.
Further down, the memo admits it conducted no Analysis of Alternatives, fancy speak for “what other conclusions could we draw.” For an example, imagine a memo saying “War with China imminent in X years,” linking the increase in Chinese military activity to a desire to invade Taiwan. An alternative analysis might be that China is simply posturing to distract its population from domestic problems. Not having an alternative is another indication of sloppy detective and writing work on the part of the memo’s author.
The memo cites the Southern Poverty Law Center and a Salon article, which is what most conservative news agencies are jumping on. But the issues are deeper then that. There is no analysis of any of the RTCs, not even a basic open source analysis. The “Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” a scary sounding organization, is a bunch of nuns at a monastery. I doubt that they receive tactical weapons training on their campus, but maybe I’m wrong. If so, that might make for a cool addition to Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter science fiction series. But even a cursory review online shows that most of the organizations aren’t engaging in anything resembling violence.
The most disturbing thing to me is that this memo was even created and published. I’m sure the FBI gets thousands of leads every year, most of which end up being garbage. This looks like someone created an extensive memo over a single, unreliable source that was likely one racist person trying to recruit people that attend a Latin Catholic church. How did the Richmond station supervisor not read this and think “This looks dumb?” How did he or she not tell the author “You’re gonna need at least another source before we bother publishing this.”? That would have been my first comment.
So the FBI allows a poorly written memo attempting to tie racially-motivated extremists to members of the Catholic Church that attend a Mass said in a foreign language. It’s poorly researched, poorly sourced, draws crazy conclusions without data, all in what seems a blatant attempt to connect “white supremacy” to the Church. Much like the “white supremacy” nonsense that was tied to the military early on, this is only going to build more distrust in the FBI while doing nothing to fight actual terrorists.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, Roman Catholic Church, or any other government agency.