The Cardinal Siri Thesis
by John Vennari
A subscriber recently sent a letter asking CFN’s position on the “Cardinal Siri Thesis”. To answer: CFN does not subscribe to this thesis. I find it untenable for many reasons.
The “Siri Thesis” purports that at the 1958 conclave, Cardinal Siri was elected Pope and took the name Pope Gregory XVII, but was displaced by Cardinal Roncalli who became the false Pope John XXIII. The same happened in 1963 with Siri being elected, and then displaced by the false Pope Paul VI.
Thus the true Pope since 1958 was Cardinal Siri the Secret “Red Pope”. All Popes from John XXIII on were impostors.
From what can be gathered, it seems that Cardinal Siri was elected in 1958, but declined the election when it became known in the conclave that Catholics in Eastern Communist countries would face persecution because of Siri’s militant anti-Communist position. The fact that a Cardinal receives the necessary votes in a conclave does not in itself make him Pope. The Cardinal must accept the office in order to become Sovereign Pontiff.
Cardinal Tisserant reportedly admitted that irregularities did indeed occur at the 1958 conclave. These irregularities were also alluded to by Cardinal Siri in an oft-quoted 1985 interview:
“Some moments later, when we asked him whether he had been elected pope, his reaction was completely different. He started by remaining silent for a long time, then raised his eyes to Heaven with a rictus of suffering and pain, joined his hands and said, weighing each word with gravity: ‘I am bound by the secret.’ Then, after a long silence, heavy for us all, he said again: ‘I am bound by the secret. This secret is horrible. I would have books to write about the different conclaves. Very serious things have taken place. But I can say nothing’.”
While this indicates that “serious things have taken place” at recent conclaves, it also reveals that Cardinal Siri was certainly not the Vicar of Christ. As one astute priest observed, only the Sovereign Pontiff is not bound by conclave secrets, so the fact that Siri said, “I am bound by the Secret” demonstrates he was not Pope.
After the 1958 election, Cardinal Siri gave public obeisance to Pope John XXIII and recognized him as Vicar of Christ. He did likewise with Popes Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II. If Cardinal Siri were truly a “Secret Pope”, what sort of scoundrel was he to give public obedience to men whom he knew to be impostors? This theory actually defames Cardinal Siri rather than honors him.
Cardinal Siri reportedly received the majority vote in 1963, but declined to accept because of what Malachi Martin called, “a little brutality”. Nonetheless, Cardinal Siri participated in all the post-1958 conclaves: 1963 and the two in 1978. Why would Pope Gregory XVII take part in false conclaves when he was already Pope?
Cardinal Siri participated in the Second Vatican Council, which was called, if the Siri Thesis is correct, by a Holy Father who was neither Holy nor the Church’s Father. Siri accepted the decisions of Vatican II if interpreted in the light of Tradition. He adopted the reforms, celebrated the Novus Ordo Mass, ordained priests in the New Rite, and consecrated bishops in the New Rite. Why would Pope Gregory XVII adopt sacraments and liturgical re-forms enacted by men whom he knew were false Popes? What sort of man does “our last true Pope” turn out to be?
Cardinal Siri recognized Vatican II to be a disaster. He said, “If the Church were not Divine, the Council would have buried her.” Why would he in any way submit to this destructive Council if he knew it to be the work of papal impostors? Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro Mayer manfully resisted the destruction of Vatican II, with no personal claim to the papacy at all.
In Cardinal Siri’s book Gethsemane, in which he was exceedingly critical of modern theologians such as Father Karl Rahner, Father Henri de Lubac and Jacques Maritain, Siri repeatedly refers to “Pope Paul VI”, something no honest man would do who knew himself to be the true Pope.
Only one event could have given credence to the Siri Thesis: if Cardinal Siri had resigned his office immediately after the 1958 election. The case of Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton at Vatican II comes to mind.
Throughout the 1950s, in the pages of the American Ecclesiastical Review, Msgr. Fenton opposed Father John Courtney Murray’s progressivist teaching on Religious Liberty. Both Fenton and Courtney Murray eventually became periti (expert advisors) at Vatican II.
On November 11, 1963, a Vatican meeting took place between Cardinal Ottaviani and Msgr. Fenton, who represented the traditionalists’ position, and Cardinal Bea and Father John Courtney Murray, who represented the liberal position. Here Msgr. Fenton was told that Father John Courtney Murray’s position would become the teaching of Vatican II.
Msgr. Fenton immediately returned from Rome and resigned as Editor of the American Ecclesiastical Review, allegedly for health reasons. Yesterday’s heresy had become today’s orthodoxy, and Msgr. Fenton resigned his post rather than promote a teaching he knew to be incorrect. He virtually disappeared and died in New England in 1969.
If this is how Msgr. Fenton behaved when confronted with a grave crisis of conscience, what must we expect from Cardinal Siri when faced with a crisis of infinitely greater magnitude? Cardinal Siri did not resign; he remained in visible communion with the post-1958 popes until his death.
Lastly, if the “Siri Thesis” were true, then every Cardinal at the 1958 conclave is implicated in the swindle. None of them could be forced to go along with such a scandal, and none of them could be legitimately “bound by the Secret” of the Conclave, since they would have been well aware that a false Pope had usurped the throne.
This would implicate outstanding prelates such as Cardinal Ottaviani. The Siri Thesis becomes even more untenable when we consider that Cardinal Ottaviani did not want modernist theologians present at Vatican II, but only allowed them because of John XXIII’s insistence.
During the preparatory stages of the Council, Archbishop Lefebvre complained to Cardinal Ottaviani that there were certain progressivist theologians invited to the Council who should not have been invited: men such as Father Karl Rahner, Father Dominiqué Chenu, Father Henri de Lubac, Father Hans Küng. These men were considered theologically suspect in the 1940s and 50s. A theologian of dubious orthodoxy should not be allowed to take part in a Church Council as a theological advisor.
In response to Archbishop Lefebvre, Cardinal Ottaviani shrugged his shoulders and said regretfully that John XXIII wanted them at the Council. Cardinal Ottaviani knew the work of these revolutionary theologians intimately. Under Pope Pius XII, it was his Holy Office that condemned or warned against their writings.
It makes no sense for Cardinal Ottaviani to carry out an order so destructive to the Church unless he felt obliged to do so through obedience to the Pope. But if he knew that John XXIII was not Pope anyway, because of dirty dealings at the 1958 conclave, he would have no reason to tolerate these suspect theologians at the Council. In fact, Cardinal Ottaviani would have no reason to take part in the Council in the first place, since it was called by an anti-Pope. Countless similar objections to the Siri Thesis could be presented.
Cardinal Siri died in 1989. If the Siri Thesis is true, the papacy came to an end 17 years ago with no successor in sight.
Frankly, I believe the Siri Thesis to be a kind of explanation from desperation that asks more questions than it answers. I place no stock in it whatsoever, nor do CFN writers.
1. The Pope: Could He Be Cardinal Siri? by Louis Hubert Rimy, English translation by Heidi Hagen for “The Sanger de Crisco News notes” - No. 55 - December 1987, original text in French published in the bulletin SOUS LA BANNIERE No.06 JUILLET-AOUT 1986. Emphasis added.
Originally published in the September, 2006 Catholic Family News
Reposted Jan 1, 2013