I Am Joining the FBI Specifically to Infiltrate Catholic Groups
An exciting personal update.
"The sacred is a fine hiding place for the profane."
-from Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
"I'M IN YO' AREA
I'M IN- I'M IN-
I’M IN YO’ AREA
I KNOW THE FIRST THREE NUMBERS
I'M IN- I'M IN-
WHEN YOU COME OUT YO' SHIT IS GONE"
This is a true story: when I was in college, I applied for an internship with the FBI. I did not get it, or even really come anywhere close to being at all considered for it, mainly because I was in no way qualified to work at the FBI, and didn't really have any strong desire to work for them, or in law enforcement more generally. But I needed a summer job and I had three completely unmarketable majors, and the FBI was at my college career fair, and I remember thinking "well I'm not studying anything at all related to this but maybe I can talk my way into a job with these guys?”I even remember calling the special agent in charge of recruiting because she never followed up on my resume submission, and leaving a voicemail where I said "Hi Special Agent Johnson, this is Tony Ginocchio, sorry we didn't get a chance to, uh, make contact?" because I thought that ‘make contact’ would be a cool term to use with an FBI agent. And my voice cracked on the call because, at age twenty, I was only halfway through puberty.
In the fifteen years since that happened, my personal politics have shifted around a lot and I’m less inclined to view the FBI as a good career move, and more inclined to view it as another cog in America’s murder machine. But I am applying to work at the FBI once again, because oh boy do I think they have the perfect opportunity for me.
You probably already saw this because everyone in Catholic media has been required to post their take on it already: a former FBI agent posted an internal FBI memo warning of the dangers of violent white nationalists finding a home in Radical Traditionalist Catholic (RTC) communities. The agent who posted the memo is now doing interviews with LifeSite News to rail against the anti-Catholic and "woke" culture of the FBI - it's difficult for me to imagine a less woke government agency than the one that murdered Fred Hampton - and is pretty transparently trying to spin a media career out of this.
The thing about the FBI memo is that I don’t know what’s in it. You don’t know what’s in it, either, since it contains big chunks of redacted text. When twenty state AGs write an angry letter to Merrick Garland about the memo, or the USCCB puts out a statement expressing alarm at this new government threat to religious freedom, they also don't know what's in the memo. Maybe the FBI is sitting on smoking gun evidence that RTCs are already tied up in extremist violence. Or maybe it’s all a bunch of bullshit and anti-Catholic bigotry. I don’t know. I don't love that the FBI is taking an interest in a specific religious group, given their track record with, say, surveilling Muslims over the past two decades. But I don't know what's in the memo.
The non-redacted parts of the memo, as written, do make a fair amount of sense, though. The memo is pretty explicit that the RTC groups they're looking at are extremists well outside the mainstream of Catholicism, well outside the Latin Mass aethestic preference, and even well outside of most of the right-wing grifters we've looked at before. Nine RTC groups named in the memo, sourced from a Southern Poverty Law Center report, appear to be pretty upfront in using violent, racist, and anti-Semitic language in their public facing materials. These are not the guys who go to your parish's 8am Mass while you're at the 10am. These are actual white supremacists, who know they are white supremacists, who happen to have a Catholic aesthetic. There's not nothing worth investigating here (a point on which most of the takes in Catholic media agree).
And also, let's be honest, the FBI is several years late to this party. Mainstream outlets have been reporting on this for years. In terms of white nationalism getting tangled up in a traditionalist Catholic aesthetic, and in terms of the church willing to look the other way when white supremacists embrace the Catholic church, I have nothing to say that you don't already know. The institutional church has always been on the cutting edge of slavery, segregation, and general structural racism. The church will go out of its way to make sure that white nationalists don't feel the slightest bit uncomfortable identifying as Catholic while advocating racial purity. Bishops openly questioned the 2020 election results and one of them spoke at a Stop The Steal rally, which I'm allowed to keep bringing up as long as they're allowed to keep being bishops. Robert Barron is probably four weeks out from booking Nick Fuentes on his show for a fawning interview.
The rises of a Catholic-flavored white supremacist movement was perhaps most famously outlined in a 2020 piece for Sojourners that I've cited multiple times, an essay that traces the development of white supremacist groups that found a home in the Catholic church. The essay presented these developments in parallel with the USCCB's own ineptitude in trying to draft a 2019 pastoral letter about racism, a letter in which the only use of the word "condemn" was pointed at people saying mean things about the police, and suggested that the bishops unwillingness to take a stronger stance against white supremacy allowed this movement to find ideological havens in places where they really shouldn’t. Of course, that piece, by Eric Martin, has its own saga, because after it originally ran, Sojourners briefly took it down, because the USCCB called and complained that the piece made them look bad. It took three years of the Trump presidency to get a pastoral letter about racism (or really any meaningful rhetoric about the contemporary wave of violent racism in America at all), but the second a magazine ran with "the USCCB is very bad at dealing with racism", the bishops absolutely lit up the phones.
I think that's interesting, don't you? Just like how it's interesting that, when presented with "the FBI thinks there are white supremacists identifying in these Catholic fringe groups", the response from the bishops wasn't "what's going on with the white supremacists?" or "what's going on with the Catholic fringe groups?", but rather "what the hell is going on with the FBI?" We already have angry bishops’ statements on how the FBI is biased against Catholics, the bishops are clearly outraged that the memo, now formally rescinded, exists at all. It’s a similar pattern to what we saw in 2020: the bishops are outraged by the suggestion that they are dropping the ball on white supremacy, far more than they are outraged by the white supremacists themselves. Just like they are outraged by the thought that the FBI could surveil fringe Catholic groups, far more than they are outraged by the actual surveillance that fringe Catholic groups are already doing on the church.
As originally reported in the Washington Post last week, a conservative Catholic group in Denver has been spending millions to purchase dating and hookup app data and send unsolicited reports to bishops across the country telling them which of their priests are likely to be gay. It's a sort of echo of JD Flynn and Ed Condon mining Grindr data back in 2021 because they wanted to call themselves journalists.
When the FBI memo made the news, outrage at the invasion of privacy and institutional prejudice and the ominous implications for the police state swelled up at outlets like the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek and the National Review. I feel laughably safe predicting that none of these outlets will have anything to say about the work of Denver's "Catholic Laity and Clergy for Renewal"'s homophobic surveillance, what it assumes about gay men, what it suggests about the priorities of the church, or where it could all go. The bishop of Richmond and the USCCB's Religious Freedom committee put out statements condemning the FBI's anti-Catholic Secret Police; no bishop is going to have shit to say about the self-appointed Secret Gay Police. It is difficult for me to imagine Denver archbishop Samuel Aquila - who has been busy firing gay teachers and denying Communion to anyone who wants to stand in solidarity with them - telling this group in his archdiocese to stop combing through app data to out gay priests. It is much easier for me to imagine Aquila saying "this is so neat how you used this data, is there a way we can do this for everyone in my arch?"
I'm sorry, guys, this shit is just so boring. This is more of the same. There's this umbrage about a stupid thing that isn't really happening, something that fuels the persecution complex that comes as part of the Standard Fascism Package, all while the church waves through a bad thing that actually is happening because they have no problem with marginalized people getting crushed a little bit more. I’m so tired of seeing this over and over again. And let's be clear, the current outrage is over a thing that isn't happening. The FBI is not infiltrating your weekly Mass, they are not planting undercover agents in Catholic parishes just because a priest is using Latin. The author of the memo took great pains to narrow his subject down to the most extreme of the extreme white supremaicsts, and from the text of the memo that we have, it’s not clear whether the FBI has done anything to act on this at all. There is not a massive government program to persecute radical traditionalist Catholics. All of that said, there should be, and I, personally, would like to be the one in charge of it.
I am once again applying to work at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, this time to be the special agent responsible for infiltrating and agitating traditionalist Catholic groups. I am willing to start at a GS-11 salary, in the interest of serving my church and my country. I am diligent and professional, and my mother says I am a lovely young man. I will effortlessly integrate myself into traditionalist cells, after which point I will start dropping ideas into conversation like "do you guys want to do crimes together?" The plan is flawless.
Let’s review my qualifications. Could I physically fit into a group of white supremacists who identify as Catholic? Well, I am white, so that clears a huge hurdle right there. I probably need to clean up a little bit, since my look for the past decade has been "toy store cashier who prints Communist zines on the side", but I could do it. Or I could wear a disguise! Maybe a wig? That would be cool, I’m definitely down if you want to put me in a wig for this. It’d be like an episode of The Americans.
Speaking of The Americans, I have seen every episode of that show, so there’s another good qualification for my being ready to go undercover. I was even able to point out every single thing on the show that Stan did wrong, from “not finding Henry” to “being a high-ranking counterintelligence agent but not realizing that his next-door neighbors that he was friends with for years were KGB spies”. I can learn from these mistakes and become an exemplary secret Fed.
"Oh but Tony, could you fit in at a Latin Mass? Would you know what's going on? Would you respond correctly at the right parts of the Mass?" Uh, does four years of high school Latin answer your question? I've worked through every single Ecce Romani textbook, was co-captain of one of the strongest Latin teams in Chicago's North Suburban Certamen League, and while I haven't taken a Latin class since 2005, I vaguely remember doing well on the AP Virgil exam. In pictura est puella, nomine Cornelia. Still got it!
Most importantly, I have the requisite background knowledge for all of this stupid bullshit. You're really going to take a veteran special agent and make them sit down and read Taylor Marshall's Infiltration start to finish? They'd quit the job immediately, or possibly kill themselves. I've already read it, years ago. I hated it, but I did it. I can hold my own and not blow my cover in a conversation about which Popes were real and which were Freemasons. I can talk about abortion - you know, healthcare that people need - actually being an evil plot by the Jews to destroy America, which is the stated thesis of the 2019 movie Unplanned, a completely unwatchable film that I have, of course, watched. If the situation calls for it, I can be all like "no priests have ever abused people and priests have never done anything wrong," like the idiots over at Opus Bono. Or, if the situation calls for it, I could be like "actually priests are homopredators," like Michael Voris does at Church Militant. Or, if the situation calls for it, I could be like "Michael Voris isn't conservative enough and also he is gay and has AIDS," like E. Michael Jones - whose publishing company is named in the FBI report - did when he wrote this actual book which has this actual cover:
I can code switch to every different shade of psychopathic Catholicism. I can blend in seamlessly without losing my mind. I've read it all, watched it all, have it all stored in my brain - you have three years of archives on this website to prove it - and have somehow managed to hold on to a tiny shred of my sense of humor. This is the job I have been preparing for my whole life, the job that is going to save the church. Taylor Marshall's Infiltration was lame, my infiltration will be cool as shit and actually do something useful. And as with my proposal last year for a national rosary confiscation program, putting me in charge of this initiative may all seem like a completely absurd and idiotic way to fight white nationalism, but it’s miles ahead of anything that the bishops are willing to do.
This is the same methodology that, a year later, would lead me into the industry in which I have worked full-time for the past fourteen years.
Flynn and Condon aren’t journalists; I suppose they’re trained as canon lawyers, but it’s more accurate if you think of them as two men wearing “PEDO HUNTERS” t-shirts walking around your local Target with giant butterfly nets trying to catch gay people while shoppers kind of try to ignore them.
The first draft of this joke was “Harry Potter if he got cast as a background actor in Girls.”
I'm not sure enough has been said in the television-blogging world about just how bad an FBI agent Stan actually was.