The FBI wants Catholics to rat on each other. In doing so, it has crossed the line.

On April 11, Bill Donohue wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray asking him to make public those documents that are related to the FBI’s outreach program to “mainline Catholic parishes” and “local diocesan leadership.” They were targeted because of “radicalization” within the Catholic Church.

“This is taking the FBI into new, and disturbing territory,” he said.

We know from previous disclosures that the FBI was probing “Radical-Traditionalist Catholics” (RTCs). To this day we have not seen any evidence that they are a threat to anyone. Now the FBI has upped the ante, going after “mainline” Catholics and dioceses.

On February 9, Donohue made public his concerns about the FBI’s interest in RTCs. “What’s next?” Will it be a war on “Catholics who are orthodox?”

The First Amendment provides for a healthy measure of autonomy between church and state, so when the state encroaches on religious bodies, it had better have unambiguous and very serious reasons for doing so. Donohue asked Wray, “I would like to know what they are in this instance.”

Catholics have a right to know what the FBI is up to. The evidence is clear: Violence against Catholic churches and crisis pregnancy centers are largely going unattended to, yet probes of innocent Catholics are being conducted. This raises important questions that go to the heart of the FBI’s legitimacy.

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