A senior bishop of the Lefebvrist Society of St Pius X (SSPX) has endorsed the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious anti-Semitic forgery that enjoys widespread currency in neo-Nazi circles.
Richard Williamson (right), one of four bishops ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, told The Catholic Herald that the document - which supposedly reveals a Jewish plot to dominate the world - was authentic.
He is also on record as saying that the Jews are fighting for world domination "to prepare the Anti-Christ's throne in Jerusalem". The SSPX has refused to condemn English-born Bishop Williamson and says it has "no policy" on the authenticity of the Protocols, a Russian Czarist forgery that has been described as "a manual in Hitler's war to exterminate the Jews".
The Society's support for Williamson - who also believes that the Americans planned 9/11 - is likely to end any chance of full reconciliation between the SSPX and Rome.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish human rights organisation, said this week that it is planning to take action against Williamson.
Dr Shimon Samuels, the centre's director of international relations, described Williamson as "the Borat of the schismatic Catholic far-Right" and said that he was "a clown, but a dangerous clown".
Williamson, 67, who was excommunicated along with Archbishop Lefebvre and now runs an SSPX seminary in Argentina, is a cult figure among ultra-Right seminarians. Some of his former students have posted video tributes to him on YouTube, in which he expounds his conspiracy theories.
In 2000 Williamson endorsed the Protocols on an official SSPX website. He wrote: "God put into men's hands the Protocols of the Sages of Sion... if men want to know the truth, but few do."
The SSPX's support for Williamson comes at a time when Pope Benedict has extended an olive branch to the breakaway traditionalists in the form of a liberalisation of the pre-Vatican II traditional form of the Mass.
Bizarrely, Williamson last week implied that the Pope was an anti-Semite because of the Pontiff's changes to the 1962 version of the Good Friday Prayer. In an interview with the Herald, Williamson said that he himself was not an anti-Semite, but didn't like "adversaries of Our Lord Jesus Christ".
He said: "If Jews are adversaries of Our Lord Jesus Christ - obviously not all of them, but those that are - then I don't like them.
"My definition of anti-Semitism is to be against every single Jew purely because he's a Jew. That's not at all my case. I once had a Jewish rabbi come and speak to seminarians. Does that sound to you like anti-Semitism?"
Although Williamson's anti-Semitism has been an open secret in the traditionalist Catholic world for years, there will be widespread dismay at the willingness of the SSPX headquarters to defend his views.
The Rev Arnaud Sélégny, the general secretary of the SSPX General House in Menzingen, Switzerland, said Bishop Williamson would not prove an "obstacle in any reconciliation with the post-Conciliar Church" and that the Society was "sure to include Mgr Williamson if there was a reconciliation" because "everyone is allowed to have his opinion in the Society".
He also said that the Society did not have a policy on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and that "the Society has no duty or ability to make a pronouncement" on the document's authenticity.
According to Fr Sélégny, reconciliation with Rome "as it is" is unlikely but he hoped that "one day Rome would rediscover its Catholic tradition". Williamson himself suggested that reconciliation between the Church and the Society was impossible, as there were two churches - "the religion of man and the religion of God".
He told the Herald: "The Second Vatican Council is the religion of man, of man put in the place of God. Deep down what it means is that it's a new religion, dressed up to look like the Catholic religion, but it's not the Catholic religion."
The Society of St Pius X, which was founded by Archbishop Lefebvre, broke with the Church when the archbishop illicitly ordained four bishops in 1988 against Pope John Paul II's express wishes. The bishops were excommunicated.
Williamson, who was educated at Winchester and Cambridge, is a former Anglican who became a Catholic in 1971. He was ordained priest at the Lefebvrist seminary at Ecône, Switzerland, in 1976.
He later became rector of the SSPX seminary in Winona, Minnesota. Since 2003 he has been rector of the Seminary of Our Lady Co-Redemptrix in La Reja, Argentina. In a YouTube video, Williamson is filmed arguing that the Twin Towers were not brought down by aeroplanes but by "demolition charges".
He has also condemned The Sound of Music as an immoral film because it "puts friendliness and fun in the place of authority".
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion presents a Jewish plot for world domination. The text claimed to be the secret minutes from a meeting of Jewish elders conspiring to take over the world through economic manipulation, controlling the media and stoking religious conflict. Used by Czarists and the Nazi Party, among others, the Protocols have carved out a huge new readership in the Arab Middle East, according to the US State Department's Global Anti-Semitism Report.
Sayings of Bishop Williamson
· 'In accordance with their false messianic vocation of Jewish world-domination, the Jews are preparing the Anti-Christ's throne in Jerusalem.'
· 'Can you imagine Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music staying with the Captain if the romance went out of their marriage? Would she not divorce him and grab his children to be her toys? All the elements of pornography are there...'
· 'This is my diagnosis of the Unabomber. You may say what you like about him as a criminal terrorist, and much of it is true... But he still has a remotely Catholic sense of how technology brutalises man. How Catholic are those technophiles who wallow at ease in their computers? Give me the Unabomber's seriousness over their shallowness, any day of the week.'
· 'A woman can do a good imitation of handling ideas, but then she will not be thinking properly as a woman. Did this lawyeress check her hairdo before coming into court? If she did, she is a distracted lawyer. If she did not, she is one distorted woman.' [link to www.thetruthseeker.co.uk]