The Irish-American head of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, has lashed out at the makers of the new Tom Hanks movie, “Angles & Demons,” accusing its makers of “inventing a story about the Catholic Church so they can smear it.”

Bill Donohue, whose organization says it defends Catholics’ civil rights and their religion against defamation, accused Dan Brown and director Ron Howard of creating a dangerous mixture of fact, fiction and conspiracy theory.

“They promote the legend that the Catholic Church is anti-science and anti-reason,” Donohue told IrishCentral.

The movie, based on the book by "Da Vinci Code" writer Dan Brown, features a secret society of intellectuals called the Illuminati, who were once persecuted by the Catholic Church centuries ago, and who are seeking revenge through a plot to bomb the Vatican.

While there is an historical record of a group called the Illuminati, who were established in a German university in the 18th Century, there is no evidence to suggest that they were persecuted by the Catholic Church. The Illuminati are the source of numerous outlandish conspiracy theories.

Donohue rejected the suggestion that the average viewer would realize that the film is a work of fiction.

“The problem is that there is no distinction between fact and fiction. It’s a very slippery genre, and the average viewer doesn’t discern the difference.”

Donohue said that that if a movie were to be made about the infamous anti-Semitic book, “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” Jews would be rightly outraged.

“Hollywood would never make a movie about the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ and it wouldn’t matter a whit if it was made on the grounds that it was nothing but fiction. What would matter is that a film version of this slanderous anti-Jewish tract might promote intolerance. 

“There are certain people Hollywood won’t offend,” Donohue said. “Catholics are the exception.”

Although Donohue said that he didn’t think that “Angels & Demons” would incite hatred to Catholics in a way that a movie about the “Protocols” would, he said that it “would prejudice people in their thinking about the Catholic Church and its contribution to science.”

Donohue also pointed out that an assassin character who is a Muslim in the novel is not a Muslim in the movie – “once again, we have the protected classes,” Donohue said.

The film’s makers have rejected suggestions that it is anti-Catholic.

"Let me be clear: neither I nor ‘Angels & Demons’ are anti-Catholic,” wrote Ron Howard for the Huffington Post. “And let me be a little controversial: I believe Catholics, including most in the hierarchy of the Church, will enjoy the movie for what it is - an exciting mystery, set in the awe-inspiring beauty of Rome."

Howard said it would be a lie if he had ever suggested his movie was anything other than a work of fiction

“And if fictional movies could never take liberties with reality, then there would have been no ‘Ben-Hur’, noBarabbas’, ‘The Robe’,Gone With The Wind’, or Titanic’.

“I guess Mr. Donohue and I do have one thing in common: we both like to create fictional tales, as he has done with his silly and mean-spirited work of propaganda.

“Since Mr. Donohue has, in effect, smeared me by claiming I am smearing his Church, I want him to know this: I have respect for Catholics and their Church, and know they accomplish many good works throughout the world.”

“Angels & Demons” is due to be released May 15 in the U.S. and looks to be one of the summer’s biggest movies.