In 1670, the Catholic philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal defined faith as “God is perceived by the heart, not by the reason.” Similarly, religion is a matter of the heart, and it is essential that everyone have the ability to pursue that understanding through the belief systems that most speak to their intuition and personal preferences. That is true freedom.
Of course, many wars costing countless lives have been waged in the name of religion, forgetting that it is the individual who must choose their path up the mountain, as there are infinite ways to find God. Knowing this, Thomas Jefferson wrote a “Bill for establishing religious freedom,” which decreed that “no man shall be…restrained, molested or burdened…or shall otherwise suffer, on account of their religious opinions or belief.” This would later become part of the First Amendment.
And in 1804, as further evidence that religious liberty was deliberately woven into the American ethos, then-President Jefferson responded to a letter from a nun at the Ursuline Convent in New Orleans, who sought clarity on her religious community’s rights under U.S. law following the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson assured her that “the principles of the constitution and government of the United States are a guarantee…sacred and inviolate…that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority.”
Fast forward to January 23, 2023, when the FBI’s Richmond Field Office identified “radical-traditional Catholics” as potentially “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists,” specifically targeting Catholics with a preference for “the Traditional Latin Mass and pre-Vatican II teachings.” These are not the Virginians of Jefferson’s time, nor champions of the well-established American virtues of religious liberty and freedom of speech.
Instead, our weaponized FBI along with the U.S. Department of Justice are once again acting in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution by targeting Americans for simply exercising their First Amendment right. Not only are these institutions passing judgement on what is or is not a good Catholic, the memo also proposed recruiting Catholics to spy on their fellow practitioners and report their conversations back to the FBI.
As outlined in a letter I recently signed with 19 of my colleagues, this secretive campaign against religious practitioners is unacceptable, unconstitutional, and deeply un-American. It also heralds back to horrible periods in world history, in which communities of faith — including but certainly not limited to Catholics — have been singled out and persecuted because of their beliefs. That is why we are demanding that the FBI and USDOJ desist from these activities as well as deliver the full, unredacted version of their report and any other documents related to this horrifying abuse of power.
If left unchecked, this totalitarian power-grab will not stop with practicing Catholics. If the federal government is willing to target one faith, they will surely target all, infringing not only upon your freedom to reason, think, and speak your mind but also your freedom of intuition, faith, and conscience of the heart. That is why, Catholic or not, we must stand together and say “enough is enough.”