Siri Thesis Under Attack

Part III

(Click here for Part II)

May 15, 2006


H. Spigornell


Perhaps "thousands of people around the world"

believe Cardinal Siri was elected Pope.

As noted previously in this essay, ITV, in its February, 2006 issue, attacks the Siri Thesis, for the most part indirectly, using the persona of Hutton Gibson as he sounds forth in a recent issue of his own newsletter “The War Is Now.”  Such a strategy allows Moynihan (and staff) to use the respected traditionalist as a kind of human shield, behind which he himself, while directing the attack, maintains a certain immunity, since many would-be detractors might not go so far as to rebut either article lest they implicate Mel’s beloved father.


Thus, it is the “elder Gibson,” says ITV, who argues that the Siri thesis “simply isn’t true and must be discarded”.  It is Gibson, the reader is led to believe, who maintains the whole thing “is built upon one key point,” the issue of the smoke that appeared but a “brief time” on October 26, 1958.  Furthermore, a “key piece of evidence” regarding the event, we learn, “is an article by Silvio Negro” (not to be confused with our current Silvio, whom we will designate henceforth as “Silvio M.”) that ran in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera two days later.  Gibson, says ITV, has managed to debunk the thesis altogether by showing how Siri researchers mistranslated and misinterpreted this.


Significantly, ITV neither reprints nor directly endorses either the original article by Silvio Negro, or the translation used by Gibson, which was done the previous year by Silvio M.  Working in Rome as they do, Moynihan and staff presumably know Italian well and are perfectly capable of producing their own translation — and of interpreting the piece for themselves.  This, however, they do not do.  No, in their article they let Hutton Gibson take center stage in a curious sort of one-man show.  While Silvio M. craftily prompts from behind the scenes, Gibson stands out front in full view, rendering himself vulnerable to any counter-attack, though, as noted already, most fans would refuse to join in on any such thing out of deference to both him and his illustrious son.  Moynihan must realize this.  As we’ve suggested, there is a certain safety, cowardly or not, in standing behind such a venerable patriarch.


Thus ITV purports to be echoing Gibson when it denounces the Siri thesis as “false, built on shoddy scholarship and inadequate fact checking.”  In his newsletter, they say, Gibson reveals that Siri proponents, misunderstanding Negro’s article, wrongly “concluded he was writing about the 1958 conclave,” when he was actually referring to that of 1939.  The all-important act of passing a note to inform Vatican radio of a papal election thus occurred in that year.  It was then, not in 1958, that Monsignor Santoro, who passed the note, was conclave secretary.  The newly elected pope in question was therefore Pacelli, or Pius XII, not Siri, as some researchers claim.  This one error, concludes ITV, as it continues to paraphrase Gibson, negates the entire Siri thesis, which was “based on a simple misreading of an Italian newspaper article.”


By reducing evidence for the Siri Thesis to a single sentence in a single article, then, and exposing an error in interpreting this, the opposition — Moynihan, Silvio M., and friends –– seek to quash the whole thing.  Moreover, Silvio M. himself, in e-mails resounding throughout cyberspace, has had the audacity to demand that all researchers who have not interpreted the Negro article according to his dictates immediately admit the error of their ways in terms which imply that he is absolutely correct in his analysis of the situation.


The problem, however, is that Silvio M. and friends, while partially correct on one or two relatively minor points, do not put these in their proper context.  They are not in fact accurate, logical, or truthful in their overall analysis.  On the contrary: their strategy smacks not just of “shoddy scholarship”, but of out-and-out fraud.


It is absurd to contend that the Siri Thesis is based on a single newspaper article — or a misreading thereof.  Such a gross over simplification, indeed, constitutes a phony sort of Anti-Thesis, one which threatens to consume, or neutralize, the entire traditionalist movement like some gargantuan Beast straight out of the Apocalypse.


For, in the final analysis, after abandoning the Siri Thesis, what other options are left for the likes of Silvio M.?  Temporarily he may be inclined to dilly-dally in the shadow of Elizabeth Gerstner, with or without Linus II, but that cannot last, anymore than can his misty ties to sedevacantism.  Ultimately, as we see it, he has no choice but to join forces with Moynihan, backer of Ratzinger.


 Indeed, if the April, 2006, issue of ITV, which features a head shot of Papa Ratzinger on the front, is any indication, this has already happened, since two- thirds of its back cover is consumed by an advertisement for Silvio M’s own book design and printing company.  Fittingly, the top two lines of print in the colorful ad claim that the service they offer includes, and we quote exactly, “Everything . . . from soup to nuts!”  These are even depicted on the page.  We kid you not.  Considering the photographic detail on both covers, though, we do have a question: if Ratzinger, being on the front, that is, at the beginning of the issue, could be seen to symbolize a kind of primordial pea soup, where does that put Silvio M. in evolutionary terms, i.e., what does that make him: a pecan, a cashew — or just your proverbial nut?


Returning to the nitty gritty at hand, however, let us note that one error made by ITV is to imply that the Silvio Negro article as a whole refers to what happened in 1939, for this is far from true.  Neither is Hutton Gibson correct when, in his newsletter story, he says that the last four (or six?) paragraphs of Negro’s piece pertain to the conclave of that year.  As proof he gives the subheading for these, which in English goes “The Case of 1939.”  Trouble is, such headings, as anyone who has ever worked for a newspaper knows, are not usually inserted by the reporter who wrote the story, but, rather, by an editor, and a perusal of the Corriere della Sera issues for that week shows that these were sometimes loosely placed.


 Under the heading, “A Festive Air,” which shows up in another Negro piece, for instance, we read that a Chinese cardinal with several broken ribs and a plastered arm could not leave his bed the morning of October 26, 1958.  Does this mean Italians of the day delighted in the misery of elderly prelates, Asians in particular?  Hardly.  For the actual “festive air,” the reader simply needs to drop down a paragraph, or two, or three, and read about the exultant reaction of the crowd assembled in St. Peter’s square upon seeing white smoke coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel at 11:53 AM that morning.  From this we can see that subheadings do not necessarily apply to what immediately follows, much less the entire section, or article.


As for “The Case of 1939,” we doubt Gibson realizes that the same subheading appears in different places of the same story in different editions of the same newspaper.  Whereas in the version quoted by him (and Silvio M.), the heading comes before the final six paragraphs, in another edition of Corriere della Sera it is inserted before the last three.  Moreover, in neither version do all the paragraphs beneath it refer to 1939.  Most, like the story as a whole, concern the first two days of the 1958 conclave.  The article, in fact, was written the evening of the second day and published on the third.  Only one paragraph names the year 1939 explicitly, and this is the shortest of the sixteen, consisting of a single sentence.  Even more interesting is the fact that this same sentence refers to not just 1939 but to 1958 as well.  Indeed that is the point being made.  Negro is pointing out that a particular thing happened in both conclaves.  The description that follows is not meant to refer to just one –– but to both!


While seemingly tedious, such word-for-word scrutiny is unfortunately necessary to rebut the Siri Thesis detractors and explain what the Negro article is all about.  As we’ve said, their strategy has been to over-simplify, to reduce the whole to what they see as its lowest terms.  Never have they addressed the complexity of the whole article.  No, they prefer simply to rant and rave, hoping to drown out the voices of reason.  We instead choose to analyze the text itself and show how it is put together.


The process has not been easy, we admit.  In recent months we consulted several Italian translators, two of whom are also university teachers.  Two of these concluded that the final crucial paragraph of the story, that which includes the Santoro incident, refers to the year 1958 alone.  It is true that they did not know Monsignor Santoro was secretary of the ’39 conclave — a fact we had only just learned –– but the text of an article, even in translation, should stand on its own.  One name should not change the interpretation of an entire paragraph.  If it should seem to, then something surely is amiss.


Our third translator, a native Italian who lives 300 miles from us, did in fact conclude that the final paragraph referred to ’39, but she had taken extra time to do her job — over three weeks for six paragraphs — and had done background research.  Unlike the others, she had learned what Santoro had been, and when, and told us so.  Over the telephone, she gave us her interpretation as to when the incident occurred because we asked her. Later in an e-mail, however, she noted that Negro’s article is “comparing the 1958 case with the 1939,” and that the comparison does extend into the final paragraph.  More on this later.


In regards to translating, we should also note that the process involves two main steps: first, the reading and understanding of the text in the original language; second, for our purposes, rendering this into good English.  The fact that recently, and some years back, we had four or five well-educated Italian speakers, all, but one, university teachers, read this paragraph and interpret it as referring to 1958, cannot be disregarded, even though they did not produce a finished translation in English.  They did not know about Santoro, but then, neither did we at the time.  Regardless, they cannot all be dismissed as total incompetents, no matter what is charged by ITV and Silvio M.


The irony is that Silvio M. himself interpreted the Negro text the same way as we did until the fall of 2005.  And, unlike us, he supposedly speaks Italian like a native, his parents being Calabrian.  Moreover, until now, he was the only translator to have published an English version of the entire article.  The one we had formerly was rough and incomplete — in no way ready to be published.  We would not have ventured to do so without working further on the text.  The paragraphs quoted by Hutton Gibson out of Gary Giuffré’s unpublished manuscript were also just that: unpublished.  As such they could not be construed to be in final form.  Anything not yet published can still be revised.  Moreover, let us add that Gibson admits in his newsletter that he had obtained the manuscript surreptitiously.  (His readers know he has a problem with that word, but it seems appropriate here).


To repeat, Silvio M. was — until now –– the first and only one to actually publish an English translation of the Negro article in any way, shape or form.  Yes, he had his own version of this posted on back in February of 2005.  When the manager of the website, asked him if he was sure the last section referred to the 1958 conclave and not to that of 1939, Silvio M. insisted –– twice –– that it was indeed about the more recent of the two.  This fact is alluded to in the note following the translation as it appears today on that website.  Only much later in the year did the great Silvio M. change his interpretation of the story.  In other words, assuming he spoke truthfully to the webmaster, his initial reaction was the same as that of the translators we consulted who did not know that Monsignor Santoro was conclave secretary in 1939.


Yet he rants and raves in ALL CAPS e-mails about others who do not agree with him . . . now.


What neither Silvio M., nor anyone else we know of, has done is to analyze the last crucial paragraphs in light of some very important points made earlier in the Negro article.  Remember, this consists of sixteen paragraphs in all, most of which do not come under the subheading of “The Case of 1939.”  Until very recently, we ourselves tended to overlook earlier sections, to the detriment of any overall analysis.  To our regret, we showed our former Italian translators only the final six paragraphs.  Having at last taken the earlier part into account, however, we can now say that the article is far more complicated than we previously thought.  It is constructed much more tightly than we originally assumed — and is much more subtle in that the ending cannot be fully understood apart from the beginning.  Although we can no longer interpret the piece so simply as we did at first, we find it even more intriguing, and think our readers will too.


Take the matter of headlines.  While focusing at length on “Il Caso di 1939,” a subheading which, in our photocopy of the front page of the Corriere della Sera (Milan edition) for October 28, 1958, measures less than a scant one-quarter inch high and one column wide, our opposition overlooks the huge banner headline for the same issue.  This consists of two lines of thick, bold type, each measuring about an inch high and extending the entire width of the paper.  It reads: “THE CARDINALS HAVE NOT YET ELECTED THE POPE, BUT THERE COULD NOT HAVE BEEN EIGHT BALLOTS CAST SO FAR.” Knowing what we do now, we suggest that this must have had a BIG impact on certain readers of that day.  And for those who did not immediately understand its significance, Silvio Negro spells it out in the accompanying story.


 He begins by discussing how many votes it would take to elect a pope, and how it might be difficult for a current candidate to get a two-thirds (plus one) majority.  Then, in the third paragraph, he alludes briefly to the eight ballots presumably cast so far, only to ask, at the beginning of the fourth paragraph: “But have there, then, really been eight ballots cast in these first two days, or instead is it not more likely that there were only four?


 It is interesting that, unlike us, Silvio M. buries his translation of this all-important sentence towards the bottom of his third paragraph, which he continues for another two sentences, thus rendering the punch line less obvious to readers.  In so doing, he also deviates from the Italian version in the newspaper — from our editions thereof, at least.  If he has another one, we haven’t seen it.  Furthermore, as we have said, he fails to start a new paragraph even with the next sentence, which tells us that the ballot question was “very much debated today by the journalists covering the election of the Pope. . .”


 This of course is important in that it reveals that Negro was not alone in wondering what had transpired inside the conclave.  Whereas the reporters came to no unanimous decision regarding the number cast so far, Negro says the majority concluded there had to have been eight ballots primarily because the Constitution of Pius XII regulating papal conclaves specifies that there should be that many.


For our benefit, Negro goes on to quote from this document at length.  While he does not elucidate in detail, it’s easy for us to figure out what it means.  Basically it requires that at each of two daily sessions, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon, the cardinals in conclave must vote TWICE –– UNLESS A POPE HAS ALREADY BEEN ELECTED ON THE FIRST BALLOT. When the voting for each session is completed — and, barring an election, this should consist of two ballots –– the stove is lit and, as the ballots burn, the smoke goes up the chimney.  We repeat: the ballots are burned only at the end of each session of TWO ballotings, unless a pope has been chosen.


For conclave-watchers, this has explosive implications.  It means that, if the rules for that conclave in 1958 were being followed, any smoke, or fumata, seen flowing from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel after the first balloting of either the morning or the afternoon should be interpreted as being positive — REGARDLESS OF HOW WHITE IT LOOKED, OR HOW LONG IT LASTED.  The very fact that any smoke came at all at this point in the session meant — or should have meant –– a pope had been elected.


Given such rules, then, timing becomes crucial.  Negro goes into great detail about when things had to have happened that morning of October 27, 1958.  The bell announcing the start of the proceedings did not sound until 9 a.m.  After this, those inside the conclave heard “a Low Mass” which would have lasted at least half an hour.  Next came the voting, but is it possible that TWO ballots could have been cast, and the stove lit, before the fumata appeared at 11 a.m.? This was almost an hour earlier than the smoke of the previous morning, which had come shortly before noon.


Despite what other journalists might say, Negro obviously thinks there could not have been enough time for two ballots the second morning, and goes on to explain that the preparations for each session in themselves take about ten minutes.  Then each of the approximately 50 cardinals, many quite old, must proceed to the altar, stop to pray, go to the chalice to pronounce the customary oath, put his ballot on the paten, pour it into the chalice, then return to his place.  He figures all this requires a minimum of two minutes apiece — which in all would take an hour and a half.  Then comes the verification of the number of ballots, the laborious counting of them, the proclamation of the result, and lighting of the stove.  All in all he finds it impossible that all this could have been done TWICE in one and one-half hours.


Nor was this merely a local issue.  No, the New York Times reported on October 27th that the fumata that morning had come “an hour earlier than yesterday’s,” giving rise “to a report that only one ballot had been cast”.  This, in turn led to a report that “Nicola Cardinal Canali was about to be moved out of the conclave to a hospital.  All this proved to be incorrect.”


 Negro also notes the “rumor” that a cardinal had taken ill during one of the sessions.  As for a connection between this and the subsequent early smoke, he says the one was used to justify the other, as some had suggested that their eminences gave up voting a second time because one of their own became ill.  This rumor, however, was denied by sources inside the conclave.  Yet we might ask ourselves: even if this had been true, how could one cardinal’s illness justify all the others’ refusal to vote according to the rules laid down by Pius XII for electing a valid pope?


The New York Times article mentioned above also relayed the official explanation for the early smoke that second morning of the conclave. An unnamed Vatican spokesman, referring to the Constitution of Pius XII regulating conclaves, was quoted as noting that it requires two ballots in the morning and two in the afternoon.  According to the official word, then, there was no reason to suppose that “the Cardinals deviated from this procedure.”


In other words, everything was on the up-and-up because they said so.


But did Silvio Negro believe this to have been the case?  Considering his own story, we think not.  Furthermore, his doubts were not confined to the proceedings of just one voting session, for, remember, in his article he did not ask if there were only eight ballots cast so far this time, or only seven.  No, he said, “But have there, then, really been eight ballots cast in these first two days, or is it not more likely THAT THERE WERE ONLY FOUR?”  In other words, Negro did not hesitate to suggest that there was something irregular about other sessions as well.  For details as to which, we need to read on, all the while attending to any clues as to discrepancies or irregularities that he might provide.  By contradicting the official version of how many ballots had been cast, he might very well have put his job — and himself — on the line; therefore, further hints as to what could really be going on could prove to be more subtle.


He goes on to report, for instance, that at least two other cardinals inside the conclave really were sick — the New York Times lists seven.  This could be seen as a reason why the sessions might take longer, not shorter, than normal, since the patients were apparently polled from their beds.  So many old cardinals of diverse nationalities also meant more traffic at the turnstiles: medical records, copious amounts of mineral water, extra fruit, and special soup and chicken for a Chinese cardinal.


 While all this might sound rather innocuous, the next tidbit provided by Negro does not.  (Let us also note that we have by now come to the section sub headed “The Case of 1939,” and that the text up to this point refers only to the 1958 conclave.)  After discussing the variety of things that have passed through the turnstiles, Negro says a Swiss Guard stationed by one of these was recently fired.  There is a “rumor” (Silvio M. uses the word “buzz” but we consider this much too slangy and inappropriate for a 1958 conclave story) that he was caught illegally allowing a mother bringing clothes to her son, a “mechanic” working inside, to pass through the turnstile.  Negro insists this was not the case, that the turnstiles had nothing to do with it.  The new strict commander, he says, fired the young man for an act of insubordination.  What this is, he does not say, but it is hard for us to conclude that this incident was trivial or irrelevant to the story as a whole.  Indeed, a UPI story for October 27th reveals that the Guard had been “watching over the conclave.” Besides being expelled from the force, he was actually at some point “placed under arrest for laxity in performance of his duty.”


Next Negro turns to Prince Sigismondo Chigi, hereditary marshal of the Conclave, who, by the way, held this post in 1958, NOT 1939, when his father, Ludovico, held it. (The fact that Negro mentions only the son is just another indication that this section concerns only 1958).  Part of Chigi’s job, Negro says, is to be present at the opening and closing of the turnstiles.  While being sworn in Saturday night, he wore his formal costume, but he was not so attired at 5:58 p.m. Sunday evening. When the fumata believed to be good appeared, he was with the conclave commissioner, the “consistorial lawyer” Corsanego in the Loggia della Dame, a room in the Vatican Palace.  Whatever they were doing, it appears that neither was expecting the white smoke — or any smoke at all.  Caught off guard, they had to run to change into their formal attire before returning to the conclave door for the opening ceremonies.  Only then did they learn of the “false alarm,” but exactly what this was, or how they found out about it, Negro fails to say.


 In yet another article, written for the Corriere della Serra earlier the same day, Negro quoted Prince Sigismondo Chigi, whom he had interviewed the previous evening, as saying in regards to the two fumata of October 26, “Not even I, who have assisted at three conclaves, or rather at four, have seen smoke of colors so varied and suspect as this time.  This morning the smoke was yellowish, then a light white, then was suddenly interrupted, then . . . black at the end.  This evening . . . it was almost painful to try to ascertain the color, perhaps due to the floodlights in use . . . which can perhaps cause misjudgment of the color.”


 The same piece also contains Negro’s own description of the first day’s fumata.  In the morning he saw “a notable effusion of dense and very white smoke, which disappeared into the blue sky, and which suddenly stopped.  It was certainly white smoke, and many believed it to be good.  ‘It’s white, it’s white,’ yelled the throng from all around.  ‘Long live the Pope.’”


Minutes later, “the smoke returned . . . still white, but mixed with black; the black, at the end, took the upper hand . . .”


Later that same day, at 5:58 p.m. , when “not less than 200,000 people” crowded St. Peter’s square, the first smoke “was decidedly white; the emission stopped for a bit and then resumed, always the same color.”  As the crowd, “in larger numbers than in the morning,” pushed closer, Vatican Radio announced: “‘The new Pope has been elected.”’  At this point, though, the white smoke, “a thin pillar” rising in the sky, turned dark, first gray, then black, giving rise to uncertainty.  But soon more “very white and imposing smoke emerged and was blown by a gust of wind.”


 “A white smoke, dense, voluminous, covering the roof of the Sistine!  Now there is no more doubt that the Pope has been chosen,” announced Father Pellegrino of Vatican Radio “with a festive voice” –– until the smoke turned black again.


 The aftermath of this incident found the poor announcer for Vatican Radio far less exultant.  In the third paragraph from the end of the main article by Negro under discussion –– which, remember, was written the following evening –– we find Padre Pellegrino assuring the public that the mistakes of the previous day would not happen again.  Instead, he would hereafter get “irrefutable confirmation” before announcing the election of a pope, he said. 


 Somewhat tongue in cheek, Negro remarks that Pellegrino had been betrayed by an enthusiasm that “does credit to his cassock,” when, yesterday, he had “reasoned as though the Sistine Chapel’s stove were capable of understanding and will, as though it could realize what was happening on the roof,” and the “anxieties and doubts” being generated, and, moreover, that it could remedy these with “irrefutable” manifestations.


 Lest anyone think otherwise, let us note that this enigmatic paragraph, replete with innuendo, refers, like those before it, only to the 1958 conclave.  Not until the next paragraph, the second to the last in the article, is there mention of 1939.  Furthermore, this consists of a single sentence, in which Negro says Padre Pellegrino “. . . can take comfort, the same thing as yesterday also happened in 1939: the smoke which should have been black appeared, instead, white in the beginning, even exceptionally white, dense, almost chalky, then streaked with black striations at the end.”


Once again we point out that these words pertain to both 1958 and 1939, since a comparison between the two is being made.  Indeed, we could state the converse; that what happened in 1939 also occurred in 1958.  What we have here is a composite description, in which the common elements of two occasions are extracted and put into words which pertain to both. The one we have here can be better understood if we add just three words in parentheses: “. . . the same thing as yesterday also happened in 1939: (on both occasions) the smoke which should have been black appeared, instead, white in the beginning, even exceptionally white, dense, almost chalky, then streaked with black striations at the end.”


Which two conclave sessions are being compared?  Since the 1939 conclave lasted but one day, and the evening fumata signaled the election of Pius XII, we conclude that the above sentence, describing fumata which “should have been black” refers to the morning session of that conclave –– and to the morning session of October 26, 1958, which for Negro, writing the following night, was “yesterday.”  The smoke for this has already been described in this essay, and Negro’s description fits both of the occasions.


With the next, final, paragraph of Negro’s article we come to the controversial part which, as noted above, has been interpreted as referring to either 1958 or 1939, depending on whether the reader knew when Monsignor Santoro was conclave secretary.  After much scrutiny (pardon the pun), we have come yet to a third conclusion, one which considers to a greater degree than previously the comparison made in the preceding paragraph and which also resolves the discrepancy between the two interpretations. 


 Now, we said earlier that our translator noted in an e-mail that Negro’s comparison between the conclaves of 1939 and 1958 extends into the final paragraph, and we concur. We think Negro is continuing the comparison, or composite description, just made, on to the end of his article.  After all, when he tells us that the same thing “as yesterday” also occurred in 1939, he does not specify that this applies only to a morning session (or sessions), rather than to the whole day (or days) of voting.  It seems only logical, therefore, to assume that his comparison goes on to include the evening of both days already being discussed.


The final paragraph begins: “In the evening, then, at the positive smoke which appeared after the first ballot…”  The transitional word “then” (which Silvio M. omits from his translation) expresses the continuity between this sentence and the previous paragraph-- and what is being described therein, i.e. both sessions, morning and evening, of the two days under discussion.  Which days are these?  One, as we’ve said, is obviously “yesterday,” i.e., October 26, 1958; the other, March 2, 1939, the only day of voting for the conclave that elected Pius XII.  In his final paragraph, then, we think Negro goes on to describe, in composite form, what occurred in the evening of those two conclave days.  Thus we have, encapsulated for us in this paragraph, his take on TWO SESSIONS, ONE THAT OCCURRED IN THE EVENING OF THE ONE-DAY CONCLAVE OF 1939, THE OTHER IN THE EVENING OF THE FIRST DAY OF VOTING IN 1958.


It’s quite simple, really.  To clarify, all we need do is add the same sort of implied words as those above in parentheses to the first sentence of our final paragraph:  “In the evening (of both days), then, at the positive smoke which appeared after the first ballot and, therefore, ahead of time — something which can also occur this time in either the morning or in the afternoon — the smoke was white like that of the morning, but less dense, and not lacking the final black striations; so opinions immediately became heatedly divided.”


To repeat, we have here the continuation of a composite description, one which, in this instance obviously refers to the evening of the first and only day of voting in 1939, and to the evening of the first day of the conclave of 1958, when, as we have seen already in Negro’s article, the white smoke “taken for good” appeared.  A key phrase in the first sentence of the final paragraph is “in anticipo’, or “ahead of time.”  Another Italian translated this as “sooner then expected,” and both meanings fit.  Significantly, the London Times of March 3, 1939, reports that Pius XII was elected on the first ballot of the evening; consequently the fumata, which appeared at about 5:30 p.m., came somewhat sooner than expected.  But is Negro here suggesting that on the evening of October 26, 1958, the smoke also came after the first ballot?  Remember what he implied earlier in the essay, that more than once during the four sessions of this conclave so far the cardinals had cast only one ballot.


Could this be one of those times?  Surely it has to be.  The very fact that he is comparing the evening session of October 26, 1958, with the only evening session of the 1939 conclave is revealing, because, as we have noted, the London Times tells us that Pius XII was elected on the first ballot of that session.  If Negro insists that the same thing that happened then, also happened now, i.e. in 1958, what does this tell us?


Let us go on to examine the phrase “something which can also occur this time, either in the morning or in the afternoon.”  Whereas Negro, in the stringy style of Italian journalists, separated this from the rest of the sentence with commas, we use dashes in order to emphasize the fact that it is parenthetical.  Writing the night of October 27, after two days of voting, Negro uses both the past and present tenses for his article.  The composite description itself is mostly in the past; for this one phrase only he switches to the present, as if deviating from his main subject to focus momentarily on other sessions of the current conclave as well, particularly that of the morning of October 27th.


 For those of us who have studied his earlier comments regarding the timing of that session’s fumata, this raises a red flag — a BIG red flag.  Whereas the smoke that morning of October 27th was definitely black, it also came sooner than expected, and if his hunch is correct, truly ahead of time, since by voting only once, as Negro thinks they did, the cardinals would have shortened the session.  Positioned as it is in the sentence, the phrase is provocative indeed, since it also calls to mind the writer’s earlier remarks regarding other possible one-ballot sessions during the current conclave.  Considering the context of the composite description, along with the timing of Pius XII’s election, we have yet another reason to wonder if the same thing, i.e. a positive fumata after the first ballot of the session, could not have also occurred the previous evening, i.e. in 1958, just as it had in 1939.


Interestingly, the Italian correlative conjunction “sia . . . sia” that appears in the phrase and which we have translated as “either . . . or” can also be rendered in English as “both . . . and.”  Part of the headline for Negro’s earlier article that appeared in the Corriere della Serra of October 27-28th, in fact, includes this same conjunction, and here the more inclusive meaning is apropos:  “BOTH IN THE MORNING AND IN THE AFTERNOON THE NEWS WAS SPREAD AROUND THE WORLD THAT THE ELECTION OF A PONTIFF HAD OCCURRED.”


Applying this rendering of the Italian to the phrase under discussion in Negro’s later article, we get:  “. . . something which can also occur this time both in the morning and in the evening . . .”  Knowing that the potentially recurring “thing” is a one-ballot session, and knowing Negro’s view as to what happened the morning he wrote this (October 27), we might wonder whether he intended the more inclusive meaning of the conjunction, in order to join that morning with the previous evening.  To repeat, does he mean to suggest that the white fumata that appeared at 5:58 p.m. October 26th also came after a single-ballot session?  If so, of course, this has to mean a pope was elected then—and also the next morning, when Negro figures there was time for only one ballot.


Still another clue can be found back in the paragraph about Prince Sigismondo Chigi.  For him and his companion, commissioner Corsanego, lounging in the Loggia della Dame, the smoke that evening of October 26th certainly came sooner than expected.  Did they have a basis for thinking the smoke should not have come when it did?  In discussing what happened, and when, the following morning, Negro mentions bells, and low Mass.  Were there similar signals the evening before that indicated how far along they were in the proceedings?  Was there food being passed, for instance, or other signs of when they had eaten their midday meal?  Could things have been running late?  Was there really time for two ballots to be cast?  The smoke came at 5:58 p.m., only half an hour later than that which in 1939 signaled Pacelli’s election, and he was apparently elected on the first ballot of that evening.  Furthermore, he was said to have been a shoo-in.  With all the controversy surrounding the 1958 conclave, not to mention the sick cardinals, it could have taken longer for balloting to occur.


As for the exact description of the smoke in this pivotal paragraph, we need to consider the subjective element.  Reviewing the data, we find the journalist’s observations were not exactly the same as those of Prince Sigismondo Chigi, as quoted in Negro’s earlier article.  Having assisted at three other conclaves, the prince said never had he seen smoke so variable and “suspicious” as this time.  While the reporter described that which appeared at 5:58 p.m. on October 26, 1958 as “decidedly white,” the prince said it was “almost painful to try to ascertain the color, perhaps due to the floodlights in use. . .”  Both then and in 1939, nightfall brought a diminished state of clarity.  The smoke in 1958, lasted longer, but even Negro, in noting the initial five minutes of white smoke described this as a “thin pillar” rising into the sky.  It next turned dark, then white again, then black.  With such changes, brief descriptions of the smoke would also vary according to the phase of the fumata being described.  Not all witnesses of course, viewed the whole sequence from the same vantage point.


 Certainly the confusion was much greater that first evening of voting in 1958 than it had been in 1939.  Consequently the final clause of that first sentence in the last paragraph of Negro’s article, “so opinions immediately became heatedly divided,” seems as true or truer for the later conclave.


 The same could also be said for the next sentence: “The radio, however, very calmly declared that the smoke was white, and invited the people to go to the piazza to receive the new pope’s blessing.” Whereas it is true that this did happen in 1939, it also did in 1958, when the news media abounded with such quotes from the announcer for Vatican Radio as this one provided by Negro:  “‘A white smoke, dense, voluminous, covering the roof of the Sistine; now there is no more doubt that the pope has been elected.’”


Let us also note that the “new pope” alluded to in the above sentence is not named.  If Negro is describing the election of 1939, why not say who it was?  As worded, the statement fits our composite quite well, since it could indeed refer to more than one man.  The anonymity of the term “new pope” is also apropos because the identity of the one elected the evening of October 26th, 1958, could not have been known by those outside the conclave at the time Negro was writing this crucial story.


We have already quoted the Corriere della Serra headline saying that news of a papal election had been disseminated from Vatican Radio to the world at large in both the morning and afternoon of October 26th.  Well, on October 27th, the New York Times also reported that not just once but TWICE the previous day Vatican Radio had (supposedly) goofed.  The first time followed the brief white smoke of the morning.  The second, more extended pronouncement, one repeated over a period of at least half an hour, came that evening.  Of this the Times said: “The Vatican radio announcer again stated that a new Pope had been elected.  Again the news was flashed to the world.  Again the crowds in St. Peter’s square shouted and ran.  And again gloom and disappointment reigned.”


 This being the case, we might ask why Silvio Negro says Padre Pellegrino, the priest in charge of Vatican radio, should, after having made two gigantic booboos in one day, “take comfort” in what the rest of his own article, the one we are examining, has to reveal.  That after all is what Negro states in his lead into the final two paragraphs.  He says Pellegrino should be comforted by the fact that the same thing as “yesterday,” which, we have noted, should include the previous evening, also occurred in 1939.  Is Negro here merely being sarcastic, or, worse yet, sadistic?  Does he bear some grudge against poor Padre Pellegrino, that he would simply want to “rub it in” without truly saying anything in the priest’s defense?


Or is there something more here, a subtle hint that there really were extenuating circumstances that influenced Pellegrino’s final call of that all-important voting day?


Now we come to the final sentence in this pivotal paragraph, the one which our opposition says proves they are right and the Siri thesis wrong, all because it describes an incident that occurred not in 1958, but in 1939, when Monsignor Santoro was conclave secretary.


 Rather than jump to conclusions, however, perhaps we should instead examine closely what is being said. . .  Read the sentence, in other words.  After saying that Vatican radio calmly invited the crowd to go to the piazza to receive the blessing of the new pope, Negro says: “And this happened only because the Secretary of the Conclave, who was then Monsignor Santoro, not trusting at all in the stove, had Prince Chigi summoned to one of the turnstiles and passed a letter in which he told him to warn the radio that, in any case, the smoke was white and positive.”  Because Santoro was secretary in 1939, says our opposition, all this had to have happened only at that conclave, not in 1958.


But is not such a conclusion just too simplistic?  It seems to us that what is called for here is a more precise analysis, one based on our contention that Negro’s comparison in composite form between the two conclave sessions continues into this paragraph.  Its first sentence, as already discussed, contains a parenthetical statement which deviates briefly from this.  We contend that here we have a similar instance.  Set off by commas, the relative clause “who was then Monsignor Santoro” is parenthetical in that it is not essential to the integrity of the sentence as a whole.  If it is removed, a complete thought remains.  It constitutes a kind of “aside,” resulting from a sudden shift, mid-sentence, from the composite to one of its components.  Thus, while hearing about the passing of a note, a thing which we understand happened both times, we learn that, by the way, Monsignor Santoro was “then” “conclave secretary.”  This is put in such a way that we might ask:  “What about now? If he was secretary then, who is secretary now?”


It is true that Msgr. Alberto Di Jorio was elected to the position before the conclave began.  This is reported in the Corriere della Sera for October 10, 1958, along with the news that Cardinal Benedetto Aloisi-Masella would be camerlengo.  Silvio Negro also mentions Di Jorio’s appointment in his own story published in the same issue.  Later, at the end of the conclave on October 29, Di Jorio again made the news when John XXIII rewarded him for his service as conclave secretary by making him a cardinal.  According to the New York Times of October 29th, the “new Pope did so by removing his own Cardinal’s biretta from his head and placing it on that of Msgr. di Jorio.”


Negro, however, wrote the main article under discussion in this essay before the above incident took place, while the 1958 conclave was still going on.  Nowhere in that article—nor in his previous one for that day (October 27), does he mention Albert Di Jorio by name, despite what he wrote much earlier in the month. In pondering all this, we should no doubt keep in mind that, as the Times points out in one of their articles on the ’58 conclave, what happens during a conclave — any substitutions, however temporary, that were made, for instance — “can only be surmised or deduced from precedent.”


Whereas all mention of Di Jorio that we found in the Corriere della Sera also give his full name, i.e. Msgr. Alberto Di Jorio, Negro, oddly enough does not do the same for “Monsignor Santoro” in the article under discussion. Contrary to journalistic protocol, he calls him just that, Monsignor Santoro, just once, without ever telling us his first name.  Having been informed that Msgr. Vincenzo Santoro was secretary of the 1939 conclave, we can only deduce that Negro is referring to this official in the final sentence of his controversial article.


One name Negro does mention in a way that fits our composite is that of “Prince Chigi.”  As noted, there was a Prince Chigi acting as Marshal of the Conclave in 1958 — and another Prince Chigi holding that office in 1939.  Earlier in his article Negro tells us about Prince Sigismondo Chigi, the current marshal in 1958.  There is no mention of his father, Prince Ludovico Chigi, who served as marshal during the 1939 conclave.  Ordinarily if a journalist names a man by his full name, “George Smith”, for example, at one point in a story, then later refers to “Mr. Smith”, the reader assumes he means “George”, not some unnamed, possibly deceased uncle or father.  So, going by the rules, we should not assume the final sentence applies ONLY TO AN INCIDENT THAT OCCURRED IN 1939.  We are not dealing here with a subordinate clause, or parenthetical appendage, but, rather, with the main clause of the all-important sentence.  This goes: “And this happened only because the Secretary of the Conclave . . . had Prince Chigi summoned to the turnstile and passed a note in which he told him that, in any case, the smoke was white and positive.”


Considering all this, it seems to us that the best way to interpret this sentence is by continuing to see it as a composite, to add in parentheses the following words:  “And this happened only because (both times) the Secretary of the Conclave . . . had Prince Chigi summoned to the turnstile and passed a note in which he told him that, in any case, the smoke was white and positive.”


This way the term “Prince Chigi” becomes a composite of both the father, the Marshal of the Conclave in 1939, and the son, who held that office in 1958.  For those who object on the basis that Monsignor Santoro was secretary in 1939, we ask: where is the other evidence that he passed a note that year?  Whereas Silvio M. has hinted over the internet that he has found it, we have not seen it.  We have found what may be a clue as to what occurred, but that comprises but another bit of circumstantial evidence of the sort that we have pieced, and will continue to piece, into some sort of picture.


What is the evidence?  Well, the same New York Times article, referred to above, which says that John XXIII, in the first act of his pontificate, made Alberto Di Jorio, secretary of the conclave, a cardinal, also notes that this represented “a return to tradition, since in the past all Popes were wont to reward the secretary of the conclave.  However, Pius XII omitted to do so.


This has to be significant.  For some strange reason, the conclave secretary of 1939, whom we know to be Monsignor Vincenzo Santoro, had not been given the customary honors afterwards.  Unlike others in that position he had not been promoted. This, of course, suggests that whereas those in charge liked how Di Jorio had done his job in 1958, the same could not be said for Santoro in 1939.  Indeed, so far researchers have been unable to find out what happened to him — not even when he died, or if he did so before the ’58 conclave.  Such lack of notoriety suggests that after the 1939 conclave, his career came to an impasse.


 Whatever Monsignor Santoro had done wrong, he presumably did it during that one-day-long conclave, since if had he done it beforehand, he would surely not have been allowed to be secretary.  Let us also note that 1939 was the first time a conclave was given official coverage by Vatican Radio.  In light of this, it seems plausible that overly enthusiastic officials would have wanted to make sure the broadcasters got the correct news.  Could Santoro, therefore, in the heat of the moment of Pius XII’s election, have passed a note announcing this to the outside that was frowned upon by the old fogies within?  Did his career suffer as a consequence, despite the fact that actual news of the election that he would have relayed was, in his case, both accurate and non-controversial?  Any note passed after the election would not have violated the secrecy, i.e. integrity, of the conclave itself, but it could have gone against protocol.


But why bring this up now?  If Monsignor Santoro had erred, why should Negro embarrass him further by writing about it after so many years?  The New York Times, it is true, had alluded to him briefly, but they had not given his name, nor any details.  These, of course, were surely meant to be held in confidence.  Only a veteran reporter like Negro would probably have known about them at all, and we might assume that ordinarily he would keep such things to himself.


Ironically, though, it is also true that, even if not sanctioned by those in authority, the passing of a note to alert Vatican Radio following the papal election of 1939 could have set a kind of precedent.  Like it or not, the broadcast media, with its instantaneous world-wide coverage was a thing that had to be dealt with.  Such a scenario made accuracy in reporting a paramount issue.  But, even admitting this to be the case, why mention Monsignor Santoro by name at this point? If he was not rewarded for his service, why rub it in now?  And why, turning to the current conclave of 1958, should Negro make such a production of Padre Pellegrino and his big goof — or goofs, rather, over Vatican Radio?  Why would the journalist say the padre should take comfort in recalling something that also happened in 1939 if this was not actually the case?


 In answer to these questions, let us first say that we do not think it was Negro’s primary intention during the conclave of 1958 to discuss that of 1939 in and of itself.  Why should he, when this was old news, and, barring the Santoro incident, non-controversial at that?  No one doubted that Pius XII had been elected on the third ballot of the first and only voting day.  Any confusion that occurred that evening was minimal.  Because the story had so many elements in common with the 1958 event, however, it provided the means for a clever writer like Negro to devise a fascinating sort of smoke screen, behind which he could operate.  By describing two events at once, he could send the discerning reader signals regarding the real story, that of the 1958 conclave, in a way he could not –– or would not –– ordinarily have done.


 Except for the bit in this final paragraph, we have found no evidence that the Prince Chigi who served as marshal in 1939 (Ludovico) actually got a note from Monsignor Santoro during that conclave.  With that of 1958, however, there is abundant evidence that communication did occur between the Prince Chigi (Sigismondo) who was then marshal and those inside the Sistine Chapel.  In Negro’s earlier article of October 27-28, the Prince is quoted as saying: “‘Certainly, confusion reigned inside the palace among the many individuals present; it is definitely true that it was necessary to ask for confirmation of the unfinished election, and this was done after about ten minutes, by means of communications which, naturally, I cannot reveal.’”


According to a piece entitled, “Prince Reached Cardinals” in the New York Times, “The Prince disclosed that he had used a prerogative of his office by making contact with the Cardinals.  Presumably he asked them which color that they had intended to give to the smoke.”


A Reuters notice in the same issue reports:


At the height of today’s confusion, Prince Chigi della Rovere-Albani tried to shout into the medieval device that provides the only link with the outside world for the Cardinals in the walled-up conclave area.


Anxious prelates flanked the marshal as he stood beside the device which consists of revolving drums with part of a side cut away.  The device is used to pass food and parcels into the conclave.


The prince apparently managed to attract the attention of an attendant inside the conclave.  About forty minutes after the appearance of the smoke an “authoritative” message reached newsman (sic) saying that no Pope had yet been elected.


So here we have the almost comical image of a prince who only minutes before had been relaxing in the Loggia della Dame, now flanked by “anxious prelates,” shouting desperately through the turnstile into the Sistine Chapel for an answer to his dilemma: was it white smoke or black?  And amazingly, despite the entourage, IT TOOK HIM ABOUT HALF AN HOUR TO GET AN “AUTHORITATIVE” ANSWER.


 Let’s backtrack: when the smoke started Prince Chigi was in the Loggia della Dame.  Once summoned, he rushed to dress, then headed to the entrance to the Sistine Chapel.  All this, we assume, took about ten minutes, since according to Chigi’s testimony in the earlier Negro article, it was then that he found it “necessary to ask for confirmation of the unfinished election.”  According to the Times piece, the whole process, from start of smoke, to final confirmation, took approximately forty minutes.  This leaves about 30 for his inquiry.


Why in heaven’s name did it take so long for him to get confirmation from inside the conclave that was “authoritative”, i.e. “irrefutable.”?


We say “irrefutable,” because this is the term Padre Pellegrino used earlier in the Negro article as the standard for future broadcasts.  Speaking as the official announcer for Vatican Radio, he said, “We will tell you the Pope has been elected only after getting an irrefutable confirmation.”  As noted above, Negro’s response to this was somewhat tongue-in-cheek.  He said Pellegrino had the previous day been betrayed by “an enthusiasm that does credit to his cassock,” that he had reasoned “as if the Sistine Chapel’s stove could be capable of understanding and will,” that, comprehending “the anxieties and doubts” generated therein, it could resolve these with “‘irrefutable manifestations’ ”


From this we infer that Padre Pellegrino would no longer expect to get such “‘irrefutable confirmation’” from only the stove and its smoke signals.  No, he obviously implied a source of information other than just that — a note, perhaps, one signed by the right official inside the conclave.  According to what Prince Chigi said earlier, it was his prerogative to find out such information.  Padre Pellegrino was surely entitled to request that he do so.  But why all the fuss about the confirmation being “irrefutable?”  Was there such a thing as “confirmation” that could be, or had been, refuted?  If so, could this have contributed to the confusion over the events of the previous evening?


Returning to Prince Chigi, we should recall that Negro says he learned of the so-called “false alarm” only after he had dressed and was either on his way to or actually back at his post near the main entrance to the Sistine Chapel.  The exact nature of the revelation regarding the “false alarm” he does not reveal, but whatever it was, it had a dramatic effect on Chigi.  Nor does it appear to have been merely the fumata itself, for ten minutes into the proceedings the smoke was still coming, variable or not.  At the time he was summoned, Chigi had apparently assumed a pope had been elected, since he had changed immediately into his formal attire.  Now, however, back at his post, he started shouting through the turnstile, as though desperate for an answer.  Moreover, he apparently kept at it until he got his confirmation — a negative one.


 But why?  What had caused this sudden change in outlook.  How did the Prince come to know about the “false alarm?”  Could it be that he was indeed handed a note which had been passed through the turnstile at the time the smoke first appeared, or shortly thereafter, while he was still in the Loggia della Dame?  Remember the last sentence of Negro’s final paragraph.  According to this, the conclave secretary, not trusting the stove, had Chigi summoned to one of the turnstiles, and there handed a note in which he was told to alert the radio that, in any event, the smoke was white and positive.  Now, note that the order to Chigi comes in two parts: first, he was summoned.  Did not that in fact happen?  Whereas it seems obvious that the official would have heard of the smoke regardless, this in itself does not preclude the possibility that he also received a special sort of summons.  Significantly, according to Negro, the note specified that the Prince be summoned to his post at a particular turnstile, and this in fact is where Chigi actually did go.


Our information does not tell us either how the Prince was summoned or how the word was given that he should be summoned.  Someone inside the conclave could have shouted the demand through the turnstile; or a note to this effect could have been passed.  Such a note could have been written on the same, or a separate, piece of paper from the rest of the message.  If there were two notes, these could have come through together or separately.


For someone at the other end to act on these possibilities, however, would require a coordinated effort, first to receive the summons regarding Prince Chigi; next to fetch him; third to relay to him the rest of the message.  Remember that we cannot assume all of this came at once.  Regardless, because the Prince was elsewhere when the smoke started, and then took more time to dress, it is unlikely that he was the first to hear any cry, or see any note as it passed through the turnstile.  So who did? The answer to that should be obvious: the Swiss Guard on duty at that post — probably the same young man who was peremptorily sacked the following day.  Negro points out that, contrary to rumor, this did not occur because he had allowed illicit contraband to be passed through the turnstile.  No, he was fired for an act of insubordination.


So how does this fit our proposed scenario?


First, knowing about the crowds in the area of the Sistine Chapel that day, we can assume that the Swiss Guard did not stand alone, that he surely would have been flanked by clerics, reporters, and other curious onlookers.  When the summons for Chigi came, he would not have had to leave his post; someone else, such as a priest or minor official would have gone to fetch the prince.  Meanwhile, given his job, the Guard would have been the first to receive any note, or notes, being sent through the turnstile.  He might also have been the first, or among the first, to read this — unless, of course, someone of higher rank took it from him.  Even so, the Guard and others close by could have also caught a glimpse.


Second, given the technology of the day, we assume that the Swiss Guard and other officials near his post would have had access to a telephone, as would, of course, the announcer for Vatican Radio.  Nor would it be too difficult to imagine Padre Pellegrino, seeing the white smoke, but remembering his rush to judgment that morning, calling up to consult Prince Chigi.  If the prince was not there yet, whoever else took the call — the Swiss Guard, perhaps, or some other enthusiastic person — might have, in the heat of the moment, taken the initiative and relayed to Pellegrino the message as written: yes, we have word from the inside!  The smoke is white and positive!  We have a pope!


As for Padre Pellegrino, it was the news he had been waiting for, his moment of moments.  “Habemus Papam!” His cry echoed throughout St. Peter’s Square — then on to the world at large.  Soon, he said, the Cardinal deacon would appear to announce his name — and the pontiff himself would then emerge to bless the crowd.


On and on. . .


Meanwhile, when Prince Chigi, having reached the turnstile, actually read the note, he probably balked big time.  If our scenario is correct, he would have seen in the contents a source of the “false alarm” but, still worse, the words would have conjured up a specter from the past.  Think about it.  According to his own testimony as given in the earlier Negro piece quoted previously, Sigismondo Chigi had served, though in a lesser capacity, in at least three previous conclaves.  That meant he was there in 1939, assisting his father.  Now, if Monsignor Santoro really had sent a note to Ludovico asking him to inform Vatican Radio of the positive smoke, and the old man had complied, then he, like the conclave secretary, might have been made to suffer because of it.  And, having been there, Sigismondo could have shared in his chagrin, however minor it might have been. This might have pricked the pride of an hereditary Marshal.


But how do we know that a note similar to that passed in 1939, and signed also “The Secretary of the Conclave” ended up in the hands of Prince Sigismondo Chigi in 1958?  We don’t, for sure.  We are simply taking our proposed composite description, and the analysis thereof, to what could be called its ultimate conclusion.  This scenario, of course, also presupposes the “irregularities”, described much earlier in this essay as going on inside the conclave that evening of October 26, 1958 . . .  If clerics really were fighting at the stove, if there really was what Rev. Charles-Roux calls a “shoving match” at the stove, with one side trying to relay to the world outside the news of a papal election, the other attempting to prevent this, it seems reasonable that some of the resisters would also try to send a message through the turnstile, especially if this had already been done in 1939.


Exactly how to do this, however, would present a dilemma symptomatic of a much larger problem, that of authority.  If we are correct, the resisters were defending the new, validly elected pope, the true source of ecclesiastical authority.  While secreted in conclave, his enemies had usurped his position, and, with this, the normal channels of power.  All these were now under their control, including the officials in charge of the conclave itself.  According to the rules, any communication to be sent out had to be signed by the conclave secretary or another high official.  But they were all apparently in on the fix.  (The fact that Roncalli would give Di Jorio a red hat-- from his very own head, no less—in but another two days tells us one thing for sure: in no way would that cardinal-to-be have signed this note).


Given this bizarre set of circumstances, the resistors would have had no choice but to improvise as best they could.  First they would try to appeal to Prince Chigi, the official on the outside whose prerogative it was to communicate with those inside the conclave, and who hopefully was not yet in on the fix.  He was the one who would have to forward the news of an election on to Vatican Radio.  While lacking credentials, they would still have tried to rely on precedent.  Was this not the means by which those outside the conclave could interpret what was going on inside?  Remember what the Times said: “What has been happening inside the conclave can only be surmised or deduced from precedent.”


As for what precedent could apply here and now, when nothing like it had ever happened in all of Church history, the answer covering the broad scope of things would have to have been, none.  Oddly enough, however, in a smaller, more immediate sense of the word, a tiny window of opportunity did present itself in the form of the bold move made by Monsignor Santoro in 1939 to pass a message through Prince Chigi to Vatican Radio.  For like it or not, this had set a kind of precedent.  It was the first time radio had been included in such official proceedings, and, as we all know, the mass media would continue to play a bigger, if not better, role in papal politics.


While their identities remain unknown to us, the resisters were probably seasoned clerics who had perhaps even assisted at the 1939 conclave and knew about the note passed then.  To oppose the usurpers by firing up the white smoke when their bosses wanted either black, or better yet, none at all, required strength of will, to be sure.  For most of the others inside, then, this fumata would have been truly “in anticipo,” i.e., “in advance,” or “ahead of time.”


What happened next? We propose that, in the heat of the moment, at least one of the resisters decided to appeal to Prince Chigi, using the method utilized in the previous conclave.  Knowing Ludovico’s part in that, perhaps they hoped against hope that the son would, figuratively and literally, get the message and, like his father, pass it on to Vatican Radio.


It’s possible that the writer tried, as best he could, to mimic that of 1939, and sign it “The Secretary of the Conclave,” not out of any intent to commit an act of forgery, but rather, out of desperation.  If the regular officials in the current conclave had disgraced their office by helping to suppress the true pope, did not the latter’s defenders have a right to use official channels in order to get the truth out?  Who knows?  The writer might even have signed the note “Monsignor Santoro.”  The fact that Negro does not use the name “Vincenzo” opens a multitude of possibilities.  We cannot say for sure that there were not others with that name working inside the conclave, “Santoro” not being uncommon in Italy.  We cannot even eliminate the remote possibility that Vincenzo himself was there, since nobody we know of has yet found proof of his death, or the time it occurred.


Also, whereas Vincenzo himself would have signed his own name in full, a priest who had known, and perhaps served under him, might, out of respect, sign it simply “Monsignor Santoro.”  That was how he would normally have addressed a superior in real life.


 Here we need to make a point regarding the Italian word “allora”, or, in English “then,” found in the relative clause of that final sentence: . . “the Secretary of the Conclave, who was then Monsignor Santoro. . .”  Depending on the context, this could also be translated as “at the time” or even “at the moment”.  As we stated above, writing during the conclave as he did, Negro would have had no way of knowing what possible changes or substitutions had been made behind the scenes.  Thus, farfetched as it may sound, Di Jorio could conceivably have taken ill and a Monsignor Santoro, whether the elusive Vincenzo or someone else with that name, have taken his place, becoming secretary-for-the-evening.


 Regardless, writing the night of October 27th, Negro would have had no way of knowing from his vantage point exactly what had happened inside the conclave, since all this was secret and, to paraphrase the Times again, could be deduced only by precedent.  Indeed, given the precedent of the note sent to Prince Chigi in 1939, the journalist could have figured such a message might also have been sent this time by the secretary (or a stand-in?), whoever that happened to be.


 Nor can we know whether or not the mysterious writer actually signed the note as “Monsignor Santoro”, or even simply as “The Secretary of the Conclave.”  Given the precedent of 1939, though, the name, even if not actually written, would have been, in a sense, implied in any such message. Given the circumstance, even the memory, or thought, of the name would have rung a bell for anyone like Prince Chigi who knew what had happened at the previous conclave.  Assuming the writer did too, the name, whether stated or not, would also become for him a kind of symbol, a signal to Prince Chigi that, no matter how strange it seemed, they were simply trying to get the truth out, just as Monsignor Santoro had in 1939.


That the message reached Vatican Radio at all, however, seems to have been in spite of Prince Chigi, not because of him.  To repeat, we think either the Swiss Guard, or a third party, must have forwarded the word to Padre Pellegrino, though the latter, being anxious not to repeat his mistake of the morning, might very well have initiated the telephone call.  Because the message was intended for Prince Chigi himself, and technically should not have been leaked by an inferior, the act of relaying the contents to Pellegrino did represent one of “insubordination,” the grounds for the Guard’s dismissal according to Negro.  Any other guilty parties, if priests or religious, would have also been chastised, but a Swiss Guard would have been especially vulnerable as a scapegoat.


Also, let us recall that Negro says that, rumor to the contrary, the guard was not fired for allowing contraband to be passed through the turnstile of which he was in charge.  This, if we think about it, would have had to have gone from the outside-in.  No way could he have controlled what passed from the inside-out.  For that he was not responsible.  His crime was that, rather than wait for Prince Chigi to arrive, he had either read the note himself or allowed a third party to do so, and then passed it on.


So the word did get out.  Who knows how many prelates or reporters milling about overheard the news being shouted over the telephone to Padre Pellegrino?  We assume it did spread, since onlookers outside the conclave had taken no oath of secrecy.  Those who heard about it, of course, included Silvio Negro.  Indeed, he might even have been there when the note arrived, a kind of “Silvio–on-the-spot” (as opposed to “Silvio-Miss-the- point”).


Imagine how Prince Chigi must have felt, when, after finally reaching his post, he read the note.  As we suggested before, this must have hit him like a specter from the past — only worse.  For then, in 1939, the Santoro signature would at least have been official.  Now it was probably not.  To repeat, there is no way Msgr. Alberto Di Jorio could have signed it, and subsequently been rewarded with a cardinal’s hat straight from the head of Roncalli himself.  Whereas the Swiss guard, or whoever else aided and abetted that young man, might not have realized who should have signed the note in order to make it legal, Prince Chigi would have known better.  He probably feared that it had set off a “false alarm.”  As for how well he understood the ramifications of all this, and realized exactly what was happening inside the conclave, however, we cannot know.  We can, however, speculate that the turmoil inside might have manifested itself in other ways: cries, shouts — even another note or two through the turnstile.


 Regardless, given Chigi’s nightmarish dilemma, it seems obvious that he opted to play it safe, although even doing this would have proved, for the time being, problematic.  While realizing the note to be irregular, neither could he immediately assume that the message itself was incorrect.  That is, while suspicious, he could not say that a pope had not in fact been elected.  Even going by the rules, he would not, at that point in time, have known for sure either way.  As he saw it, his only option was to initiate an inquiry, one which included the grueling process described in the New York Times: flanked by “anxious prelates,” the story goes, Prince Chigi shouted into the turnstile in order to attract the attention of officials inside.  In all the confusion, it took him about half an hour to get “authoritative”, i.e. irrefutable confirmation from Monsignor Di Jorio or some other high official that no pope had been elected.


But why did it take so long?  If we start with the point in time when the fumata started, we come up with approximately 40 minutes for the duration of the process — one of the most pivotal periods of such duration in human history.


How would the drama would have played out, had Prince Chigi chosen to play the hero in 1958 instead of the consummate official?  We cannot say.  All we know is that he chose to back those perceived to be in control of the conclave.  We do not know his frame of mind, nor how much he learned about what was going on inside during those 30 minutes.  Neither can we comprehend what he considered his choices to be, nor presume to dictate what he should have done.  Consequently we stop short of comparing his choice with that of Pilate’s capitulation to the Sanhedrin.  The end result, nevertheless, is certainly comparable, in that Christ’s Vicar would now be made to suffer his own passion, crucifixion, and burial.


Significantly, Negro offers to Prince Chigi none of the consoling words we read regarding Padre Pellegrino, whom he calls a “credit to his cassock” for relaying the message that a pope had been elected.  Pellegrino had, after all, taken the precaution to seek confirmation for this by calling down to Prince Chigi.  He had not wanted to err as he had that morning.  Not being a true bureaucrat, he had simply listened to — and believed –– someone else who spoke to him on the ‘phone rather than wait for the official word from the marshal himself.  But how would the Padre — or the Swiss Guard, for that matter — have known not to trust just any one, or any message coming from within the conclave?  Were they to blame for not suspecting it might be “refutable?”


No, if our scenario is valid, Padre Pellegrino did not err in saying what he did over Vatican Radio.  While imbued with enthusiasm, he was still a credit to his cassock.  He should therefore have surely found comfort in Negro’s own words that the same thing that happened in 1939 also happened in 1958, since if we take this to its ultimate conclusion, the Padre was correct in announcing that a pope had been elected.  That, after all, is exactly what happened on the first ballot of the evening of the first voting day of the 1939 conclave — and also, similarly, in the conclave of 1958.


 Interestingly enough, Paul Williams in his book The Vatican Exposed asserts FBI sources say the same thing, that a pope, Giuseppe Siri, was elected on the third ballot of the 1958 conclave, when the famous confusion over the white smoke occurred.  Moreover, he says Siri was elected again on the fourth ballot, which would have come the morning of October 27th, when the smoke came at 11 a.m.  This, of course, is the session Negro pinpoints early in his article written later the same day as having been way too short for two ballots.  And, as we have said before, a fumata following the first ballot of a session would, according to the rules, have to be positive, despite the color or duration.


 Much of what Williams says here is strangely consistent with the scenario described in this essay, despite the fact that no other researchers, including a contact of ours in Washington, D.C. has been able to find the mysterious files he alludes to.  This does not mean, of course, that they do not exist.  Whereas the enigmatic Williams can hardly be called a traditional Catholic, the plethora of information found in his other books, on topics ranging from Al Qaeda to Mother Teresa, do suggest some sort of insider connections.


 There also remains the question of where he came up with the fact of the papal elections on the third and fourth ballots, since to our knowledge these have not been written about in English anywhere else.  Some of Williams’ information obviously came from the series by Gary Giuffré published in the Sangre de Christo Newsnotes in the late 1980’s and early ‘90’s.  Williams, for instance, quotes the headline “Cardinals Fail to Elect Pope in 4 Ballots” that appeared in the Houston Post on October 27, 1958.  A photocopy of this, with pictures and part of the news story, accompanied Giuffré’s article Number 65, which ran in July 1991.  Oddly enough, however, Williams fails to note that this headline contradicts the other information about the ballots cited in his book, since it states that there were FOUR (not THREE) ballots cast that first day of the conclave.  We might add that to our knowledge, Giuffré has not addressed in writing the issue of a papal election occurring on the third and fourth ballots per se.


Why was there only black smoke following the short session that morning of the 27th?  The answer must be that by then the usurpers had eliminated the resistors and taken control of the stove.  Therefore, when a pope was elected again, people on the outside, not seeing the positive fumata, would not have had a clue — except for those like Silvio Negro who noted the discrepancy in timing.


 Nevertheless, the effect of sending up black smoke when it should have been white must have been demoralizing for the old cardinals locked away in secrecy. For while unable to see this, they surely heard about it.  Their sense of helplessness would have been intensified if the usurpers also told them that the attempt of the previous night had failed, and that any further shenanigans would only serve to discredit the election process in a world already hostile to the Church.  Indeed, given the extensive media coverage, would it not make them the laughing stock of the world?


 For men accustomed to the dignity of protocol and the necessity of moving in official channels, such a situation would have been agonizing.  Those not in on the fix would have felt marginalized, isolated from the channels of power, unsure of whom they could trust.  Along with the papacy, the usurpers had seized the outward chain of command.  Because they appeared to embody ecclesiastical authority, their opposition would seem to be out of line — i.e. illegal.  Add to this, threats of assassination or nuclear annihilation, and the result would have been utterly devastating, making any cardinal opposed to all this despair of ever managing to get the truth out.


Lest we share in their sense of hopelessness, though, we should remember that, to some extent, the news did emerge.  Not only was it broadcast over Vatican Radio, it also continued to circulate in the minds, and on the lips, of those who, like Silvio Negro, had heard a myriad of scattered facts, mixed with rumor and innuendo.  Italians, after all, are not known for their reticence.  Whereas Negro himself would live only about another year, dying at the age of 62, others in the know would go on to talk and even write about that pivotal time much longer.


 One such person was the late Italian journalist Gabriella Montemayor, who in the early 1990’s wrote I’ll Tell My Cat.  For those of us who think the variable smoke that evening of October 26, 1958 came after the first ballot, and understand the significance of this, her words are especially interesting:

Siri was alleged to have been elected at the conclave of 1958, from which, instead, came out Roncalli.  The three well-known smoke signals, white, black, and then, finally, white, had aroused not a little perplexity and the same comment throughout the whole of the Italian peninsula: Who had been elected at the first white smoke?


Everyone in Genoa insisted, even from the first day: It most certainly was Siri.  Could he have abdicated?  Had he been forced out?  Was it politics or the Holy Ghost?  The mystery remains yet today.


Copyright 2006 by Judith M. Gordon


   Noto Bene: We have posted, here, a translation of the first of the two following articles from the Corriere della Sera for October of 1958.  We will post a translation of the other articles as soon as possible.  We have transcribed the articles from our photo copies of the newspaper articles in question, and present them here for your reading pleasure.  They are in PDF format so you may download them and/or print them from the clickable links below.

1) Corriere della Sera, for October 28, 1958. This PDF contains the front page article, in Italian, by Silvio Negro, dated October 27, 1958, "night", which has been the subject of this third part of our essay. This PDF also contains another article by the reporter, Giovanni Russo, which gives further details.

2) English translation of the above article in PDF format, and also posted to its own web page.

3) The "Informazione" edition of Corriere della Sera, for "27-28 October 1958", in Italian, which contains another front-page article by Silvio Negro. This article includes an interview with Prince Sigismondo Chigi, and additional information mentioned in our essay above.

Although we have repeatedly gone over our transcriptions, comparing them with our photocopies, there still may be some small errors, especially in punctuation, since parts of our photocopies are very difficult to read. We extend our apologies in advance.

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