Michael McMahon filed suit in Vermilion County earlier this month against the News-Gazette, which is also the publisher of the Paxton Record. This case illustrates the cliche about truth being stranger than fiction.

Let's start with the facts. On April 6, 2011 the Paxton Record published a letter to the editor purporting to be from a "Fr Michael McMahon, President of GLABA of Vermilion County." The letter announced the establishment of the Gay Lesbian and Bisexual Association of Vermilion County and invited members of the public to join. Some of the wording in the letter was odd; for example, it referred to an "alternate love/sex orientation." I've known a number of people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual and have never heard any of them use an awkward phrase like that. McMahon, currently the headmaster of Notre Dame de la Salette Boys Academy in Georgetown, denied being the author of the letter, and the Paxton Record published an apology and a retraction. This apparently wasn't enough for McMahon, and he filed a lawsuit claiming that the paper was "negligent" and "reckless" in publishing the letter.

Some people might argue that Michael McMahon isn't even a Catholic priest. He is associated with a group known as the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). SSPX is a traditionalist group that, according to Pope Benedict, has no canonical status within the Catholic Church. "Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church." Nonetheless, SSPX operates a number of churches and schools, including the boarding school in Vermilion County.

SSPX has generated controversy outside the Catholic Church as well. Both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have described the organization as anti-Semitic. Although their article "The Mystery of the Jews" has been scrubbed from their website, it is still available via archive.org. One of the most polarizing figures in SSPX is their Holocaust-denying bishop, Richard Williamson.

Before Williamson was finally forced into retirement, he worked at SSPX seminaries. One of them was St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, MN, where a young seminarian named Michael McMahon studied. According to the paper "Traditional Catholicism and the Teachings of Bishop Williamson" (published in "Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism"), Williamson's beliefs may have influenced McMahon.

Despite the festive atmosphere, Williamson's obsession with the Jews seeped into the day. Michael McMahon, now a priest of the SSPX, gave a conference on Queen Isabella of Spain, the sponsor of Columbus’ voyages. His thesis was that, before Columbus could come to the New World and spread Christianity, Isabella had had to accomplish five feats, which McMahon described as "diamonds in her five-pointed crown." The "fifth diamond" of her crown was the expulsion of the Jews from Spain!

McMahon gained some publicity of his own when he led a group in disrupting a Tibetan Buddhist monk concert in Grand Rapids' Basilica of St. Adalbert. TIBETmichigan later filed a small claims case McMahon and won $316 when he failed to appear.

The Buddhist monks didn't put up much of a fight. But now McMahon has decided to fight with an organization that buys ink by the barrel, which may prove far riskier.

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