Two parishioners at a Latin Mass Catholic Church have reported “suspicious activity” from what appeared to be FBI vehicles this past February, just a month after the FBI’s Richmond field office submitted a now-rescinded internal memo warning of danger from “radical-traditional Catholics.” The story was first reported by The Daily Signal.
Two witnesses told the outlet that they saw two vehicles approach the church, drive through the parking lot as if they were marking down license plate numbers, then leave. This was reported on two separate occasions at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel in Linden, Virginia, located about 63 miles outside of Washington D.C.
“I saw a black Ford car with dark tinted windows and a knoblike antenna on the top,” one parishioner, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Daily Signal. “It was driving very slowly by all the cars, and I could see a laptop in the center front.”
“I could not see the person inside, and no one ever got out,” the witness added. “They did leave as soon as they saw me looking at them.”
The second witness described a “white Chevrolet Tahoe car, with very tinted windows and “lots of antennas” driving slowly through the parking lot. “Looked like a male. He had an open laptop in the middle of the car, not sure if he was typing, as the window was very dark,” the witness said.
“He never got out of the car, but by the time I saw him, he was on his way out, and drove back towards the highway after pulling through,” the second parishioner stated. “Not sure how long he was out there, as we were all inside. Everyone else was still inside the chapel, so he must have been going around while we were all inside at Mass/catechism.”
“I suspect that it was the FBI,” the parishioner added. “However, I could not confirm, since he never got out of the car.”
Jack Posobiec addresses the FBI surveillance of a Latin Mass Church in rural Virginia after an internal memo focused on “Radical Traditional Catholics” pic.twitter.com/cPRv84zbZL
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When contacted about the claims, the FBI denied any involvement. “The Washington Field Office is not aware of that activity,” said the FBI’s national office in an email to The Daily Signal.
The alleged incidents took place about a month after FBI agents published an internal memo instructing agents to develop “sources with access,” including in places of worship, in order to investigate a connection between “racially or ethnically motivated, violent extremists” and “radical-traditional Catholic ideology.”
After a whistleblower published the memo on February 8, the FBI rescinded it the following day. “Well, first, let me say that when I first learned of the piece, I was aghast,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said at the time. “And we took steps immediately to withdraw it and remove it from FBI systems. It does not reflect FBI standards.”
“We do not conduct investigations based on religious affiliation or practices, full stop,” Wray added.
In response to the memo, Catholic Vote and Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice demanding they comply with records requests relating to agency actions targeting Catholics.