A temporary altar was installed on January 23 at the United States Capitol Photo: Ed Condon/Pillar Media.

Traditional mass held at Washington’s Capitol one year after attacks on religious freedom

This religious service comes one year after the FBI’s Richmond, Virginia, office issued a memo against traditionalist Catholics on Jan. 23, 2023.

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(ZENIT News / Washington, 01.23.2024).- On January 23, a traditional Mass was celebrated at the United States Capitol. Originally scheduled to take place in the private dining room of the Speaker of the House, it was moved to a larger venue just minutes before starting at noon on January 23, becoming a sold-out event.

This religious service comes a year after, on January 23, 2023, the FBI office in Richmond, Virginia, issued a memorandum titled «Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities.»

The memo, leaked to the press in a redacted version, justified an increase in police surveillance of «traditional» Catholic communities, arguing they would be of interest to extremists in the lead-up to the November elections that year.

Areas of «convergence» between the «traditionalists» and the «white nationalist far right,» according to the FBI memo, included «growing hostility towards abortion rights advocates on social media,» as well as «antisemitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, and white supremacist ideology.»

However, the memo also pointed out flaws in its own argument, mentioning that «an overemphasis on U.S. white nationalism can be off-putting to traditionalist Catholics of different ethnicities and countries of origin» and that «deep-seated anti-Catholicism remains a feature of many far-right white nationalists.»

Despite the criticisms and controversies it generated, the memo was withdrawn by the FBI after leaking. Bishops of Virginia, Barry Knestout of Richmond, and Michael Burbidge of Arlington, expressed their rejection, deeming it «alarming» and a threat to religious freedom.

The House Judiciary Committee and its Select Committee on Government Politicization held hearings, summoning FBI Director Christopher Wray to explain the origin of the memo and its connection to FBI policies.

Despite efforts, one year later, lawmakers still express concerns about the possibility of American Catholics being targeted for their religious beliefs by federal law enforcement.

In an interview before the January 23, 2024 Mass, House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Southern Baptist, spoke with The Pillar about the Richmond memo and his ongoing concerns about the FBI’s approach to religious freedom.





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Tim Daniels

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