Siri Thesis Under Attack

Part II

(Click here for Part I)

March 3, 2006


H. Spigornell


Perhaps "thousands of people around the world"

believe Cardinal Siri was elected Pope.

If the truth be known, we at this website are also cognizant of certain irregularities behind the ITV article and its attack on the Siri Thesis.  Before focusing on these, though, let us note that, despite the seeming simplicity of its style, the article is not simple, only glib.  Nor is it clear in the sense of being truthful.  While calling for “precision in language, exact definitions” and “clarity of understanding,” in order to dispel the current confusion which is now, as ever, the “enemy of the Church”, the ITV article in question does just the opposite: it obfuscates the truth, hiding, as we shall see, behind flawed renderings and analyses of Italian and English texts.  Under the guise of truth, the piece deceives. The situation may be compared to a dramatic spectacle featuring plays within plays, and actors sporting a variety of masks as they slip from role to role.


 Meanwhile, behind the scenes, we ourselves listen, watch, and report to readers who is who and what is really going on . . .


Take the issue of authorship: who actually wrote the anti-Siri Thesis piece in question?  Can we really believe the by-line?  No, we contend that the term “ITV Staff” is but a front for Dr. Robert Moynihan, the former Yalie and editor-in-chief of the magazine himself, and that in writing this article he has been aided and abetted by one “Silvio,” a “silver-tongued” con-artist who was until fairly recently one of those termed a Siri thesis “insider.”  Whereas we at this website have not met Silvio, we know of him and have spoken with him by telephone.  Acting jointly as “ITV Staff,” feigning ignorance of any prior, first-hand knowledge of, or participation in, the Siri research, he and Moynihan, in turn, stage their case against the Thesis using the revered persona of Hutton Gibson, and his newsletter.


The truth is that Silvio was actively involved in the Siri Thesis project since the year 2000, and Moynihan became interested in it well before 2004.  By then he had presumably learned the salient details from Silvio, who continued to be his source of information.  With all the world-wide publicity over The Passion of the Christ, the Siri project certainly became most newsworthy, even to skeptics, because of the quiet presence of Mel Gibson, watching from the wings.  Moynihan knew about this, of course, through Silvio.  In retrospect we can see the editor’s keen interest in the situation reflected in the March-April, 2004, issue, of ITV, so let’s switch our focus from the current issue to that older one for awhile.  Featuring a head shot of Jim Caviezel in his role as Christ on the cover, it spotlights the stupendous financial, artistic, and even theological success of the Passion.


 Yep, the “Lead Story” even tells us how JPII viewed it in the company of a longtime friend and Opus Dei member whose own son helped work on the film as an assistant director.


 Elsewhere in this issue the much ballyhooed controversy over The Passion is discussed: readers hear from prominent Jews, modernists, and secularists, as well as from more conservative Catholics who, unlike other factions, tend to treat the opposition with utmost respect.  All in all, however, the ITV reaction to the film is favorable: it is deemed a monumental success, a “cultural event” precipitating the “fierce gratitude of millions of Christians for Gibson’s vision, faith, artistry, and, yes, raw guts.”


 Less obvious, however, is the significance of three other articles in the same 2004 issue.  First we have “Before Latin Died,” which consists of two texts, one from the Irish Eccesiastical Review of 1959, the other a pastoral letter by Cardinal Siri that defends the liturgical use of Latin.  Surely no one reading this essay will doubt that ITV republished this in order to impress certain fans of the deceased Cardinal’s who are now living.  Lest the figure of Giuseppe Siri stand out too much however, causing too many other uninformed readers to wonder about his importance, ITV is careful to camouflage his presence by featuring even more prominently in the same issue articles about two Novus Ordo cardinals who are very much alive.


The same issue also features “A Philosopher Remembers and Reminds,” the reprint of an interview of Alice von Hildebrand that originally appeared in The Latin Mass magazine in 2001.  In the article, Dr. von Hildebrand tells us that her late husband Dietrich actually believed in Catholic conspiracy theories. (Yes, and ITV does not make them out to be deluded eccentrics.)  For much of the 20th century, she says, there was, in her husband’s opinion, a “systematic infiltration of the Church by diabolical enemies.”  She cites the testimony of ex-Communist — and reformed Catholic –– Bella Dodd, who spoke of the infiltration of Red agents into the seminaries.  As an active party member, Mrs. Dodd told the von Hildebrands “she had dealt with no fewer than four cardinals within the Vatican” who were working for the Party.


Such testimony helps us understand the takeover at the 1958 conclave because it shows us how the Church was being undermined even before that event.  Furthermore, von Hildebrand cites evidence implicating antipope Montini which appears in a book by the Italian priest, Don Luigi Villa.  At the request of the saintly Padre Pio, she says, Don Luigi spent years investigating the “possible infiltration of both Freemasons and Communists into the Church,” and the author told the von Hildebrands that he “does not make any statement that he cannot substantiate.”


In Paulo Sesto Beato? (1998), Don Luigi tells how the Protestant archbishop of Uppsala, in the aftermath of World War II, told Pius XII that Montini, his own secretary of state, had been corresponding with the Soviets, after the pope had forbidden such contact.  In the meantime, priests sent secretly behind the Iron Curtain were being “systematically arrested, tortured and either executed or sent to the gulag.”  When a Vatican mole was unearthed it turned out to be Alighiero Tondi, S.J., a close advisor to Montini.  As an agent for Stalin, he had informed on priests serving in the underground; and he had done this job very well indeed.


What Dr. von Hildebrand fails to point out is that Montini had also contacted Stalin during World War II; and that years later, after being exposed, Tondi himself married a Communist activist.  Following his wife’s death, in 1965, despite all the scandal, Tondi actually found employment in Rome with the help of no less a figure than Montini himself, now secure in his papal role.


Let us note that most of this information given by ITV was not new to Siri researchers, not in 2004, nor even in 2001, when the interview first appeared in “The Latin Mass”.  Thus, valuable as it is, the story is for us “old news.”  Years before the publication of Don Luigi’s more recent books, it had been featured in the Italian periodical Si Si, No No, and researchers for the Siri project had read the article sometime during the late 1990’s.  Their translations, and Italian originals for this, remain today in the “insider” archives for the Siri project. 


Needless to say, Silvio had ready access to this material.


Watching the drama continue to unfold, we have to wonder whether the appearance of this information in the March-April issue of ITV is merely coincidental; or whether Moynihan was letting us know that he knew what had already been done. Surely he had to have been very consciously piquing the interest of Siri researchers.


But that’s not all.  No, the March-April, 2004, issue of ITV, truly a blockbuster, also contains an article by Joseph Roddy from the January 25, 1966, issue of Look magazine that occupies a prominent place in the Siri archives (Wow. So much stuff in a single issue. What oh what – or who oh who—could have been inspiring its editor-in-chief?)  To be sure, the original title has been changed, from, “How the Jews Changed Catholic Thinking” to the much more discreet “Lifting the Veil.”  Otherwise the text has been reprinted in its entirety.


The article in Look (which folded not long after this article appeared), describes in detail the behind-the-scenes lobbying by various Jewish groups and individuals in Rome and New York during Vatican Council II.  These aimed to pressure the Council into declaring the Jewish people as a whole, past and present, innocent of “deicide,” a charge they say led to anti-Semitic outbreaks through the centuries.  Significantly they also demanded that the hierarchy forbid the proselytization of Jews — and some prelates agreed to this.  They seemed strangely deferential to Jewish demands.  As for the “deicide” charge, whereas the anti-Catholic Roddy evidently believes the Church to be at fault, ITV, in an “Introductory Note,” denies that this is so, and quoting Joseph Sobran, calls it “slanderous” to insinuate that the Church ever taught that “all Jews bear the guilt of killing Christ.”


Sobran’s comments, first published in The Wanderer, come in reaction to the controversy over the Passion film which, the ITV editor notes, raises the same “question over the Jewish responsibility for Christ’s death” that was debated during the Council.


It has simply now resurfaced.


ITV also asserts that, despite ambiguities leading to “sometimes erroneous interpretations” of decrees, Vatican II did nothing to change the essence of Church teaching, and insists that to say otherwise would be “rank heresy.”  Siri researchers, however, find in the Roddy article (which was in their archives long before the ITV reprinting) compelling evidence of how anti-Catholic groups can and do pressure weak and corrupt prelates into siding with them to the point of compromising their own faith –– and that of the laity.  Not that all others approved of what was happening during the Council.  At the time, Roddy notes, conservatives, appalled by the “undercover summit conferences” between cardinals and rabbis, claimed American Jews were the “new powers behind the Church.”  But “things looked even worse” to them when, on the Council floor, cardinals from Chicago, and St. Louis continued to defend the more radical Jewish demands even after these had been voted down.  


Roddy goes on to unmask the “double (or triple? or quadruple?) agent” F. E. Cartus, also known as Michael Serafian, Pushkin, and Timothy Fitz-Harris O’Boyle, S. J.  It was this entity who apparently leaked tidbits to the New York press that detailed Council failings vis a vis the Jews.  Under the pseudonym Cartus, he also wrote an article for the American Jewish Committee’s “intellectual monthly” Commentary; a footnote therein alludes to The Pilgrim, a book defending Jewish aspirations in the face of Christian dominance through the centuries  by Michael Serafian, who, as already  noted,  is the same guy as Cartus.


If this sounds like a literary merry-go-round, that’s because it is.


Whereas Roddy, writing in 1966, believed the true identity of the illusive agent to be that of “Timothy Fitzharris O’Boyle, S. J., a young cleric-turned-journalist”, our ITV editor, in a “final note” to their introduction, unmasks him yet further.  This double (or triple or quadruple) agent turns out to be none other than Malachi Martin, later a best-selling author — and “key” Siri source.  In his 1990 book Keys of This Blood, Martin tells us Cardinal Siri was elected pope at the 1963 conclave but withdrew because of a certain “little brutality.”  Not until the final year of his life did Martin admit, in a taped interview (discussed elsewhere on this website), that Siri was first elected in October, 1958.


Siri researchers, of course, knew about both the Roddy article and the many faces of Malachi Martin decades ago.


Finally, before leaving the ITV issue in question, let us return to the “Lead Story,” entitled “The Mind of Mel Gibson,” wherein Farley Clinton, playing the role of psychoanalyst, seems to out-Freud Freud, as he presumes to probe the psyche of the most famous lay Catholic around.  “For years,” he writes, “at least in Catholic circles in California, everyone has known that Mel Gibson is — at best — in two minds as to whether John Paul II is or is not the Pope.” 


Clinton goes on to say Gibson is “reported to doubt that any real Pope has reigned in Rome since the death of Pius XII.” And he is “reputed to be half-convinced, or more than half, that since 1958 two or three or four false claimants to the papal throne have been almost universally — but wrongly — acknowledged as Popes. . .”


Even more interesting, Gibson “is said to give credence, though perhaps with some reservations, to the story that at the Conclave,” of 1958, Clinton says, “it was Cardinal Giuseppe Siri who was actually elected” when an “ambiguous white smoke appeared then later turned to black. Siri supposedly withdrew under duress because of some dreadful threat against the Church. . .”


Clinton concludes, “Angelo Roncalli was indeed elected,” but adds that “in the minds of men close to Mel, Siri was ‘really’ always the Pope.”


There we have it folks, the news which until this ITV issue appeared early in 2004, few fans in this country would have suspected — not even in California –– despite what Farley Clinton says.  Some years previously an Italian newspaper had run a story wherein Gibson denied John Paul II was the pope, but it failed to appear over here.  Nor was there any mention of the Siri connection in this other article.


As for Clinton’s opinion of the story that the Cardinal from Genoa was elected pope in 1958, it’s quite clear; he calls it “outrageous nonsense.”  For him anyone so deluded as to believe such stuff would be beyond the Pale, unlike, say, those followers of Marcel Lefebvre in Brazil who were reconciled en masse with Rome some years ago.  Clinton notes that their traditionalist beliefs passed muster with Rome so long as they accepted John Paul II as pope –– and the fact that a “general council met between 1962 and 1965.”


Hint, hint. . .


But would Mel Gibson do as those Brazilians did?  Would he ever accept the current occupant of the papal chair as legitimate?  From what Clinton has heard, he thinks Gibson “would not have admitted the first point” — not as of 2003 at least.  While in Rome to shoot his film, Mel “at times gave the impression of being intermittently anxious or embarrassed about what he ought to believe.”  Temporarily it may be easy for Clinton to rationalize, as he does in his piece, that Gibson is surely no worse than C. S. Lewis, the Anglican who wrote The Screwtape Letters, and Franz Werfel, an unbaptized Jew at the time he produced The Song of Bernadette.  Both produced masterpieces of benefit to Catholics.  He notes that Gibson’s film is “external to himself,” a “reality that ought to be recognized, judged and appreciated on its own merits without reference to any incidental errors in what he thinks about this or that aspect of the Church.”


Freud would love this.


Still, since Mel Gibson has become “the leading spokesman for the Catholic Church in the United States,” might his views not, in the long run, pose a problem for Vatican devotees like Clinton?  Therein lies the dilemma.  We can almost read Clinton’s mind: wouldn’t it be wonderful if Mel were to convert, were to become reconciled to the current “pope” and bring all his followers along with him?  Hallelujah!  Earlier, remember, we noted that Clinton considers Gibson to be “in two minds as to whether John Paul II truly is or is not the Pope.” Can we not conclude that he would just love to see the movie star become of “one mind” –– one, that is, with John Paul (and his successor)?


It should also be obvious that Farley Clinton’s viewpoint in this piece reflects the ongoing editorial policy of Robert Moynihan.  Why Clinton had to be the “author”, and not his editor-in-chief, brings us yet further into the many twists and turns of our unfolding drama.  For in retrospect, knowing what we do, we can see that back in 2004 Moynihan was playing two roles simultaneously.  While backing Farley Clinton, and undoubtedly telling him what to write, Moynihan was also making overtures to Siri “insiders,” through Silvio, of a most insinuating nature.  He actually said he was personally interested in the thesis and suggested he might convert.  For the time being it was all hush, hush — it had to be.  According to Silvio his friend Bob was coming round, but he could not go public too fast or too soon.  For someone in his shoes, that could be risky — downright dangerous.


We wouldn’t want to lose our Bob!


Then, out of the blue, that spring of 2004 came the astounding news from Dr. Robert Moynihan himself that his blockbuster issue had reaped surprising rewards: certain clerics, having seen Siri’s essay defending the liturgical use of Latin in ITV, had contacted the editor, and admitted to being “underground” followers of the Cardinal from Genoa.  Whereas Moynihan gave few details, other “insiders” naturally felt very excited indeed –– and grateful to both him and Silvio.  In fact, it could be said that the duo took center stage in what would ultimately prove to be a charade.


Or farce...


At the time, however, nobody on the “inside” dared question their roles — not audibly.  Having read too much spy fiction — and non-fiction –– we at this website wondered about  the “underground” bit, but not being in the inner circle, we were not consulted on the matter.  We only heard the news second hand.  For most “insiders”, though, Silvio sounded too convincing.  He always managed to “get things done.”  Thus he set the stage for Moynihan to be injected via telephone into a top-level meeting that took place in May of 2004.  From Rome, the ITV editor conversed directly with the big star himself in California, providing insights into the “underground scene” he had discovered.  After suggesting ways to make contacts in Europe, he even volunteered to do some of the work.   So did Silvio.


Ultimately, though, they would fail to resurrect any “underground” church in the heart of Italy.


To be sure, the September, 2004, issue of ITV did contain the important interview with Rev. Charles-Roux (previously discussed in this essay).  But he was already known to us; as we’ve noted, Gary Giuffré had interviewed him back in 1993.  Silvio had apparently corresponded with the priest earlier in the spring of 2004.  Not until January of 2005, however, did we hear about this — from Silvio himself.  By then his largesse was extending even to the lower ranks of Siri researchers.  Knowing we had helped others before in deciphering hard-to-read handwriting, he let us in on an important letter he said he had written to Rev. Charles-Roux.  In this, he said, he had asked the priest to confirm Siri’s election as pope in 1958.  Whereas we never saw the original letter, we did get, via e-mail, a copy of the priest’s reply, and we were able to make out most of the tiny printing.


To Silvio’s query, Rev. Charles-Roux wrote that in his view, “for what it is worth, you are perfectly right.”  However, he felt that “all one can do in these matters and in these times of spiritual epidemic,” is to keep a “quiet and solid witness.”  For Silvio, the reply, noncommittal though it was, seemed of the utmost importance.  Why? “Well because he confirms that the Siri thesis is correct!” he wrote us in an e-mail.  He also promised to send us a copy of his own letter, but never did.


By now Silvio’s influence over the project had peaked such that, in the eyes of such “insiders” as Hutton Gibson he had upstaged the original prime mover of the project i.e., Gary Giuffré. While lacking the latter’s expertise, it was Silvio who was invited to attend a top-level meeting with priests and laymen in Europe that January of 2005.  Giuffré was not.  Why was this?  What had Silvio accomplished?  Without pretending to know everything, we can note that he had acted as liaison for Moynihan, whereas Giuffré, due to basic differences in outlook, had trouble dealing with the editor.  Silvio was much more flexible — or slithery, depending on your viewpoint.  Flitting from pillar to post, not unlike the pigeons he races for sport, he “got things done.”  In addition he had prompted the webmaster of Novus Ordo Watch to publish information about the Siri election and subsequent coup.  By the end of 2004 he had also posted translations of such essays by Siri as “La Roccia,” or “The Rock.”  Unfortunately the English translations of these were somewhat rough.  The fact that his family hailed from Calabria may have helped him understand Italian, but his renderings in English lacked polish.


Without knowing his connection to these translations, we had, back in the late fall, made the mistake of sending a critical note about them to the webmaster of Novus Ordo Watch.  In return,  we were surprised, very early one morning, by an irate phone call from Silvio himself, saying they had to be just fine because he had done them himself.


In February, 2005, Silvio had the same webmaster post a document which would prove crucial to the later ITV article: the translation of a Silvio Negro article from the Corriere della Serra of October 28, 1958.  The heading for a section of this was “Il caso di 1939,” or “The Case of 1939.”  We maintain that the mistranslation of certain key words herein skewed the meaning in a way that will be discussed in full later.  At the time of posting, the webmaster did in fact ask whether the one section pertained to the year indicated, i.e. 1939, but Silvio insisted twice that no, it mostly referred to events that had occurred a day or two prior to its writing in 1958.


Even if Silvio did not translate the piece himself, he was certainly directly responsible for it.  Yet as it turned out, his days as a promoter of the Siri Thesis were numbered, despite the fact that a “flow chart” circulating the internet that spring of 2005 showed him at the center of the ongoing research.  Nor did anyone in the know question the continuing rapport between him and Moynihan; Silvio even had his own article on the “living rosary” group published in ITV.


Nor did many “insiders,” until now, seem to mind that Moynihan, while supposedly on our side, gave so much space in his magazine to Cardinal Ratzinger, whose past record, and more recent sponsoring of declarations regarding the Old Covenant vs. New, could hardly be called “traditional.”  The January, 2005, issue of ITV featured His Eminence as a “person of the year,” and Moynihan was said to visit Ratzinger’s offices regularly.  While Mel Gibson was in Rome that winter, Moynihan, we hear, tried to maneuver the film star into a meeting (plus photo op session?) with the pope-to-be.


 He failed then, but the attempts would continue.  During the late spring of 2005, Mel, again in Rome, would, at Moynihan’s behest, be invited to join Benedict for ice cream (and photos?).  Again the film star would decline.  


After John Paul died, Moynihan stopped pretending to back the Siri Thesis.  He could no longer mask his true sentiments.  Alas!  No longer could he be of “two minds.”  He had to be “one” with his pontiff.  In April he was scheduled to attend a top-level meeting of “insiders” in this country — but, having to cover the papal funeral and conclave for ITV (and CNN, we hear), he was able to bow out in advance.  Silvio went instead, but in a new transitional role.  While not yet abandoning the idea of a hijacked conclave in 1958, Silvio, now said he thought Agagianian, or perhaps some other cardinal had been elected — probably not Siri.  Nor did he offer this quietly as his humble opinion.  No, Silvio lobbied actively against Siri diehard Gary Giuffré in an attempt to bring all other “insiders” around to his new way of thinking.   


Within the month Silvio had defected from the Siri Thesis altogether, and with him taken his entourage of “insiders”, including a disgruntled Hutton Gibson.  At a meeting Silvio hosted himself at his home in Canada, our new guru proclaimed himself to be simply –– a sedevacantist.  For inspiration he would now turn to none other than Dr. Elizabeth Gerstner, a well-educated but over-the-hill traditionalist who had also some years ago helped to sponsor the pontificate of a certain Linus II.  How Silvio justified this in light of his new skepticism regarding the Siri Thesis we do not know.  Also, is Dr. Gerstner now a sedevacantist?  Has she abandoned Linus?  Whereas we do not know the answer to these secrets, some members of Silvio’s circle may, since they subsequently rendezvoused with their newly-acclaimed doyenne at her home on the Isle of Wight.  As for Silvio, he continues to sing her praises.  Unlike Moynihan, he cannot afford to back Benedict — that would be too radical a move if he wants to keep Gibson-the-elder in tow.  Even now, after being quoted at great length in ITV, the grizzled trouper is probably not yet ready to join up with Papa Rat.


Hence the sedevacantist option for the interim.


It seems odd that no one connected Silvio’s defection from the Siri Thesis with Moynihan’s obviously close ties to the new pontiff, whose picture seems to dominate the pages of ITV lately — even quite a few covers.  In January 2006, Ratzinger-Benedict would emerge once more as an ITV “person of the year.”  As if by magic, within days of the election, Moynihan had also come out with a book about the new pope that highlights the latter’s own wondrous words of wisdom.  To think he had been dabbling in the Siri Thesis while compiling and editing this.  Such stress this must have put on his “two minds”, two-faced though he already was (and would remain).  Any more we cannot say, since, although, browsing through the bookstore in a major air terminal last fall, we saw his book for sale, and perused it briefly, we did not buy it.


Back in 1996 we did purchase a copy of Windswept House — ordered it in advance, in fact, before it arrived in local stores, after we heard it was the latest work of “faction” (fiction based on fact) by the enigmatic Malachi Martin.  Sure enough, it proved to be a gold mine for conspiracy buffs like us. The character Traxi Le Voisin, for instance, is obviously based on none other than Gary Giuffré.  Located in Texas, Traxi heads a group of traditionalists who do not think John XXIII and successors true popes.  He thinks “the true Pope — Pope Pius XIII — must be hiding somewhere in the world.”  Well, Giuffré actually said this once in a letter to Martin.  Then there is the character, “Gibson Appleyard.”  Since the Italian for “apple” is “mela”, that name too is quite suggestive. .


Still more intriguing is an incident that transpired in Rome a few years later between an Italian contact of ours and a relative of his who, while a layman, occupies an exalted position in the Vatican bureaucracy.  Sitting in his office, the official pointed to a copy of Windswept House, recently published in Spanish, on his desk, and told our man that “they” knew about such groups in the U. S. as that described in the book.  Considering the fact that the main lay group therein is an obvious take-off on that led by Gary Giuffré, and that our Italian contact had, through us, done some work  for him,  this was disconcerting to hear.


 Even scarier, though, scarier indeed than any work of “faction” produced by Malachi Martin, was what followed: the Vatican official, addressing our contact, his very own relative, said, “We know who they are, and we will exterminate them.

To Part III…

Copyright 2006 by Judith M. Gordon

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