Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

Senator Kaine’s outrageous ‘misunderstanding’

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 19, 2023

Relax, all you “radical traditionalist Catholics.” You needn’t worry about the FBI agents infiltrating your churches, looking for evidence of extremism. You aren’t under suspicion. Those government agents are there to help you. That’s the reassuring message from your friend (and fellow Catholic), Senator Tim Kaine.

Oh, sure, there are some people who were upset when an FBI memo leaked, detailing the argument for a “mitigation” strategy to counteract “Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical Traditionalist Catholic Ideology.” But all that distress was caused by a “misunderstanding,” Senator Kaine assures us. The senator announced that he was helping to put Catholic bishops in touch with the FBI, to clear up any misconceptions.

The purpose of the FBI inquiry, Senator Kaine explained, was not to target the “radical traditionalist Catholics,” but to protect them from recruitment efforts by extremists. “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,” he added.

Well, aren’t you glad that’s all clear now?

And yet I do still have a few questions.

  • Why does the FBI see traditionalist Catholics as potential recruits for extremism? As Jeff Mirus has pointed out, there is abundant evidence of extremist ideology in Islamic circles. Where is the evidence that traditionalist Catholics might be prone to terrorism?
  • Why does Senator Kaine, following the FBI usage, refer to “radical traditionalist Catholics”? Would the FBI only propose to send agents to the traditionalist parishes that identify themselves as “radical”? Because I know of no such parishes. Or would the government agents be on the lookout for Catholics who seem more traditionalist than their fellow parishioners? (Those who regret the 1955 changes to the liturgy of the Easter Triduum, maybe?) Would that be a healthy use of the federal police power?
  • The senator’s office was at pains to emphasize that the FBI was seeking to protect the “radical traditionalist Catholics” from recruiting efforts. Isn’t it odd that Kaine would use the pejorative term “radical” to describe the people he hopes to defend? Wouldn’t “traditionalist Catholics” have been good enough? By describing them as radical, isn’t he suggesting that they are already in the extremist camp?
  • Who would be recruiting these traditionalists into the ranks of extremism? Other “radical traditionalist Catholics,” presumably; certainly the recruitment efforts would founder—without any help from the FBI—if they were based on some ideology that conflicts with the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church. Which brings us to raise an unsettling question: Does the FBI see, in traditional Catholic teachings, evidence of dangerous extremism, which must be “mitigated”? And how would that mitigation be accomplished, if not by government interference in religious matters?
  • Senator Kaine says that “we” (apparently meaning federal law-enforcement agencies) have been working “in tandem with mosques” to counteract extremists. Working “in tandem” implies cooperation with the mosques. So has the FBI contacted the pastors of traditionalist parishes, to ensure that they are working together against the extremist threat? The feds would no doubt prefer a cooperative effort—unless they viewed traditionalist pastors as potential extremists.
  • But frankly, why would traditionalist Catholic priests—or traditionalist parishioners, for that matter—view the FBI initiative as a friendly effort? When armed federal agents raided the home of a pro-life activist to arrest him on a minor charge, while violent attacks on Catholic churches and pro-life institutions go unpunished, prudent Catholics—traditionalist or not, radical or not—have good reason for concern about the weaponization of law enforcement, and therefore good reason to be hesitant about cooperating in another federal fishing expedition.
  • And as long as we’re thinking about the politicized use of law-enforcement agencies, we might ask whether it is coincidental that President Biden, and Democrats in general, find very little voter support in traditionalist Catholic communities. Would the FBI, and Senator Kaine, be equally solicitous about “protecting” Catholics in ordinary Novus Ordo parishes from extremist recruitment? By the senator’s logic, that might be a more productive use of federal resources. Because I have reason to believe that some Catholics parishes are infected by an ideology that is prone to violence. Just for example, wherever Senator Kaine goes to Mass, there seems to be no resistance against an ideology that justifies violence against the unborn.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: a son of Mary - Apr. 21, 2023 9:04 PM ET USA

    VA Sen Tim Kaine. Loves to swim in the tepid bloody water of abortion like his buddy VA Rep Gerry Connolly. “Reproductive Healthcare”. So “Healthcare” to make sure no reproduction occurs? Or to be blunt, killing a baby is healthcare? What a wretched world they live in. The doublespeak makes one ill. Radical traditionalists. Virgin Most Powerful please help us!