Oct 21, 2016

The disturbing links between an anti-Semitic sect, an S&M orgy and a sinister bid to muzzle the press




When Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke died in Rome in October 2013 his funeral caused a riot. 

The former SS captain had been extradited from Germany, convicted and jailed for the massacre of hundreds of Italian civilians in 1944.

Shortly before his own death, aged 100, Priebke affirmed his belief that the Holocaust — the Nazis’ extermination of six million Jews — was a hoax.

Priebke was a monster. But he was also a baptised Roman Catholic and his family wanted a burial service in a church. 

The Vatican refused: holy premises were to be off-limits for a ‘manifest sinner’.

Then, to widespread outrage that led to that riot, an already controversial breakaway Roman Catholic sect stepped in to give this unrepentant Nazi his dying wish.

The Society of St Pius X (SSPX) is no stranger to accusations of anti-Semitism.

Its current leader, a Swiss bishop named Bernard Fellay, has recently described Jews as ‘the enemies of the Church’; one of its former bishops was, like Priebke, a Holocaust-denier. 

Another war criminal who was wanted for murdering Jews was eventually tracked down decades afterwards — to his refuge in a Society of St Pius X monastery.

The Society’s ultra-reactionary Catholicism rejects gay rights and sexual equality. 

Its founder, a controversial French cleric, was once fined for racial intolerance (he was accused of fomenting hatred of Muslim immigrants). 

To many — such as the Anti-Defamation League, which fights prejudice against Jews — the SSPX is an exemplar of modern-day anti-Semitism.

Yet the organisation is also a UK-registered charity. At the head of its six-strong board of trustees — which includes Bishop Fellay — is a man named Wilfrid Vernor-Miles, a London-based tax lawyer to the rich.

He and his father — one of the best-connected legal clans in the country — are also trustees of a Catholic charity which makes significant donations to the Society of St Pius X, as we shall see.

But Wilfrid Vernor-Miles is also a trustee of another charity. It is called the Independent Press Regulation Trust (IPRT). 

Its role is potentially pivotal in the battle for the future freedom, or otherwise, of a British Press which has sometimes called the SSPX and its offshoots to account.

That is because the IPRT is the vehicle through which motor-racing tycoon Max Mosley has been channelling his money — via his own family trust fund — to finance a would-be ‘independent’ UK press regulator called Impress.

Founded by a Labour activist called Jonathan Heawood, and backed by the anti-Press pressure group Hacked Off, Impress has applied for recognition from a quango established by David Cameron’s coalition administration, the Press Recognition Panel.

This was established by Royal Charter after the Leveson Inquiry into the Press. 

It is now thought possible, if not likely, that next Tuesday the Panel will indeed recognise Impress as an official regulator.

If Impress does secure approval from the Panel, it will trigger the implementation of a new law under which devastating punitive damages can be awarded against publications that lose libel actions and do not belong to Impress.

This, of course, will include all of Britain’s mainstream newspapers, which have refused to acknowledge the Press Recognition Panel, thereby declining to endorse what would be the State’s authorised Press policeman.

Mr Mosley, the loyal son of British Union of Fascists leader Sir Oswald Mosley, would like that. 

He has been on a mission to ‘reform’ the Press since his predilection for sadomasochistic orgies was exposed in 2008 by the now defunct News of the World. 

In short, he is a man with a very big axe to grind.

The Independent Press Regulation Trust was established to present a cordon sanitaire between the tycoon’s naked desire for revenge and the ‘independent’ press regulator, Impress, which he has promised to underwrite to the tune of nearly £4 million, virtually all of its income. 

Mr Mosley would supposedly be several steps removed from the regulator’s business.

But that carefully planned arrangement cannot disguise the forces at play here, which begs the question of how ‘independent’ and fit for purpose the Independent Press Regulation Trust really is.

Today, a Mail investigation can reveal how, for the second time in 80 years, the wealthy and influential Mosley and Vernor-Miles families are working side by side in an endeavour which focuses on the media. 

It also reeks of an urge to control, and has troubling links to racial bigotry.

The year was 1932 and Ernest Vernor-Miles, grandfather of our modern-day tax lawyer Wilfrid, decided to convert to Catholicism. 

Two years later he bought the Catholic Herald, a weekly newspaper for the faithful which had a circulation of almost 100,000.

In the year of Vernor-Miles’s conversion, the aristocratic former Labour MP Sir Oswald Mosley formed the British Union of Fascists.

His hard-core supporters were known as the ‘Blackshirts’ after the uniform they wore that was based on Hitler and Mussolini’s cohorts. 

For a brief period some of the mainstream press — this paper and the Daily Mirror included — praised the BUF’s supposedly ‘conservative’ agenda. 

That support soon evaporated as violence and an intolerance that was very evidently ‘un-British’ became synonymous with the movement.

But not so with the Vernor-Miles-owned Catholic Herald.

Throughout the rest of the 1930s up until the outbreak of war with Nazi Germany, the Herald expressed, at best, a moral ambivalence towards fascism. 

At worst it suggested a solidarity of purpose with it.

The Herald condemned the Blackshirts’ street fights, crude anti-Semitism and worship of State power over God. 

But it admired much about the Fascists’ authoritarianism, and reminded readers that a ‘Jewish problem’ really existed.

This week the Mail has examined the Catholic Herald’s archives in Cambridge University library. 

The examples uncovered, which were published under the Vernor-Miles ownership, are damning.

In the edition of August 17, 1935, under the headline ‘Fascism’, a Herald article stated: ‘To bring back social solidarity and to inspire the whole with the common end are the aims of Fascism and also of ourselves.’

It added: ‘The principle of authority is essentially Catholic …’

In an article on the ‘East End’, published in October the following year, the Herald described Jewish citizens as ‘an alien element’.

It added: ‘Once again the crudities and brutalities of the Fascist campaign in East London and other Jewish quarters should not be allowed to blind us to the reality of the problem here.

‘And it was not Fascism that created the problem but the Liberalism that allowed the Jew to become dominant in a then-Christian country.’

In January 1937, under the headline ‘Resistance to Jewry’, an article says: ‘To pretend there is nothing substantial behind the complaints [of a contemporary newspaper called the English Fascist] is the attitude of the ostrich.

‘To hush up the problem as if it were not fit to be talked about is to preclude the possibility of any solution but violence.’ 

In other words, there was a Jewish ‘problem’ that needed to be discussed.

Then in February 1938, the month before the Nazi takeover of Austria, the Herald carried a prominent report of a BUF rally in South London.

The headline read: ‘Cheers and salutes at Mosley meeting.’

Underneath it began: ‘There was great enthusiasm when Sir Oswald Mosley addressed a meeting in Lewisham. 

'He outlined the Blackshirt policy, many points of which are excellent.’

The Herald reported that ‘the Leader’ said: ‘The National press is one long stream of lies. 

'And this produces such a roar of assent as one thought only to hear on some occasions at Nuremberg.’

And so the Mosley and Vernor-Miles love-in continued with, for example, a large Herald piece in June 1938 which stated that: ‘In England the growing strength of the British Union of Fascists is a hopeful sign …’

During the war, Sir Oswald Mosley was interned in Pentonville jail — a precaution against which his son Max Mosley, then a boy, railed in his recent autobiography.

Winston Churchill had also wanted Vernor-Miles’s editor put behind bars for his paper’s attacks on Britain’s necessary alliance with Communist Russia against the Nazis. In the end, the Prime Minister was persuaded otherwise.

In 1948, Ernest Vernor-Miles was awarded a papal knighthood by Pope Pius XII, who has been much criticised for remaining silent about the Holocaust when it was taking place.

And what of that central player in this drama, Max Mosley?

By 1962, he was a married Oxford graduate and a Parachute Regiment reservist studying for the Bar. 

But that summer he was arrested in Ridley Road, a predominantly Jewish area of Hackney, when trouble broke out at a provocative rally sparked by his father’s fascistic Union Movement. 

Mosley Junior had brawled with anti-Nazi protestors who attacked Sir Oswald. 

The American Time magazine reported that prior to the clash, Mosley Senior’s thugs had entered the neighbourhood shouting, like their 1930s forbears, ‘Jews Out’.

Max Mosley was acquitted after a night in the cells. Eyewitnesses recall that his parents, Sir Oswald and the socialite Diana Mitford — at whose wedding Adolf Hitler was a guest — collected him in a chauffeured limousine.

The same year saw the start of the Second Vatican Council, which was convened by Pope St John XXIII to bring the Catholic Church into the late 20th century.

This modernisation was opposed by some clergy, including the afore-mentioned French cleric, Bishop Marcel Lefebvre, who, in response, founded the breakaway Society of St Pius X.

Today, it runs a number of seminaries, churches and schools around the world and remains apart from the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome.

Now dead, Lefebvre had been accused of collaboration with the French Vichy regime, which in turn collaborated with the Nazis during the war.

He also advocated support for France’s far-Right National Front in more recent years. 

In 1990, the SSPX founder was fined for fostering racial intolerance because of comments he made about Muslim immigrants from France’s former colonies.

Other episodes brought the Society a bad press.

A Frenchman, Paul Touvier, was a Nazi collaborator who killed a number of Jews and helped deport others to Auschwitz.

After the war, Touvier went on the run and was sentenced to death in absentia. 

He was finally caught by police in 1989, in a Society of St Pius X priory in Nice, where he had been sheltering with his family.

Perhaps the most high-profile scandal concerned the Society’s British-born Bishop Richard Williamson, who in a 2009 television interview denied that the Nazis had ever used gas chambers to kill millions of Jews.

The furore after his comments was immense. The Society denied that the sect was in any way anti-Semitic, and yet fully three years passed before Williamson was expelled — and that was largely due to his opposition to any SSPX rapprochement with the Vatican.

Today, as I have established, it is the tax lawyer Wilfrid Vernor-Miles who is named in Charity Commission records as the point of contact for the Society of St Pius X. (His family no longer owns the Catholic Herald.)

Wilfrid’s solicitor father John Vernor-Miles is another trustee. In fact, they are the only two lay members on the board.

Both father and son are partners at venerable City solicitors Hunters, which absorbed their family law firm Vernor Miles and Noble in 2011. Hunters acts for the SSPX.

Wilfrid and John Vernor-Miles are also two of the three trustees of another charity, called the Catholic Charitable Trust.

Charity Commission records show that each year the trust, which has a cash reserve of more than £2 million, gives thousands of pounds to a number of Catholic causes.

But each year, by far the biggest beneficiary is the Society of St Pius X and its support groups around the world.

The latest accounts show that the trustees of the Catholic Charitable Trust gave the SSPX more than £20,000 in the financial year ending in December 2014. 

A similar figure was donated the previous year — when the SSPX helped to bury the Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke.

It was to tax lawyer Wilfrid Vernor-Miles at his Hunters address that Jonathan Heawood, founder of the would-be Press regulator Impress, wrote cap in hand in July 2015 ‘in the hope that you and your fellow Trustees [of the Independent Press Regulation Trust] will be able to provide financial assistance towards the establishment and support of Impress’.

Mr Heawood’s hopes of financial support were realised thanks to the millions that Max Mosley has promised to pour into Impress via the IPRT.

Despite its extensive financial support from Mr Mosley, today Impress still only regulates a handful of tiny news organisations — some of them distinctly Left-leaning. 

In stark contrast, most mainstream papers, including the Daily Mail, are signed up to the newspaper industry-funded self-regulator IPSO (the Independent Press Standards Organisation).

The government quango set up to decide which body should oversee the Press, the Press Recognition Panel, has received a handsome grant of taxpayers’ money from the Treasury to conduct its business. But in a year’s time, that £3 million of funding will run out.

It must then support itself by charging any Press regulator it has recognised for periodic reviews of its activities. So far only one potential regulator has applied for recognition — Impress.

(The regulator most of the mainstream press supports, IPSO, has not sought recognition from the Press Recognition Panel for the simple reason that the press is not free if it is forced into regulation by judicial blackmail.)

So it is that the Press Recognition Panel must recognise Impress next Tuesday — or wither and die.

Of course without Mr Mosley’s money, and the charity of which Mr Wilfrid Vernor-Miles is a trustee — the Independent Press Regulation Trust — there is no Impress.

The Press Recognition Panel prides itself on its liberal credentials — it even held a solemn debate on what to call its staff Christmas dinner, before settling on ‘seasonal end of the year event’ in order to avoid offending anyone.

How uncomfortable, then, that a key figure behind providing funding for Impress, Wilfrid Vernon-Miles, is so closely linked to the strange Catholic organisation that ran the gauntlet of outraged Italians to bury a former SS captain, and whose grandfather’s Herald newspaper found such sympathy with the Fascist followers of Max Mosley’s father.



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