In 1987 the claim that Siri had been elected in 1963 and again in both 1978 conclaves was put forward. Two men had interviewed Siri in 1985, but he was evasive. When asked if he was Pope, he answered: “I am bound by the secret.” This is proof he was not Pope, because all are bound to conclave secrecy, except the Pope who has been elected.
Gary Giuffre began a series of articles under the title Exile of the Pope Elect. In these he proposed that Siri had been elected, but before he could freely accept or reject the papacy, the enemies of the Church intervened and threatened major persecution of Catholics, if he accepted. What happened then is that a new ballot was proceeded to in due course and eventually someone else was elected. These elections are invalid, because Siri was not free to reject the Papacy and remained Pope-Elect. This was the proposition until 1990, when it changed
Shortly after Pope Michael was elected, a new theory was presented in an article from Giuffre, fifth in his series, and in a sermon by Father Peter Tran Van Khoat, who had met Siri in 1988, when he went to Rome for the canonization of the Vietnamese martyrs and the consecration of bishops by Archbishop Lefebvre at Econe. They proposed that Siri had been elected on October 26, 1958, when white smoke came from the chimney at the conclave. Further they propose that he had accepted, but was forced into immediate exile. He took the name Gregory XVII. Finally they proposed that before his death he had appointed secret cardinals.
Above All A Shepherd, Ugo Groppi and Julius S. Lombardi, 1959; pgs. 172 reports: “On Tuesday evening [Oct. 26, 1958] the crowds in the square saw smoke pouring out of the stovepipe of the Sistine Chapel at 5:08 p.m. It appeared white to some and dark to others. But what made everybody in the square feel that the big moment had arrived was the brevity of the signal and the scantiness of the smoke…Someone telephoned the Osservatore Romano to announce that the newly-elected Pope was Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani. The call had been made from the Loggia delle Dame above the entrance of the bronze portal leading into Vatican City. The information was worthy of attention because from this vantage point it would not have been impossible to hear, if the voices were loud enough, something being confidentially discussed behind the windows of the conclave enclosure. The news of Cardinal Ottaviani’s ‘election’ was sent out by the press agencies but then prudently stopped.”
Pope John XXIII, by Reverend Paul C. Perrotta, O.P., 1959, page 81: “If a two-thirds majority plus one has been achieved, the ballots are immediately burned, but if it has not been achieved, the ballots are put aside to be burned with those of the succeeding ballot, which is immediately taken. This is what happened in the first ballot on October 26, and it was the same with the second ballot. Whereupon, the morning sessions ended and the two sets of ballots were burned together. It is recalled that there was much confusion outside when the smoke of that burning began to rise from the chimney outside the window of the Sistine Chapel. The smoke looked white as it first arose, and great excitement prevailed. But the smoke soon turned black and it was evident that no pope had been elected.”
And so we can verify the first assertion, white smoke went upon October 26, 1958. What we cannot verify is any of the rest of the hypothesis. First of all, Father Tran Van Khoat aka Father Khoat Van Tran as he calls himself now, placing his names in traditional American order, cannot be trusted. We personally interviewed him on the subject in 1988 and again in 1989, and he presented Giuffre’s position, but provided no other information. Recall he had already met with Siri, but did not claim he was Pope, but only pope-elect. Since everyone else relies on Khoat’s testimony, their reports are equally unreliable.
There is talk of an FBI report released under the Freedom of Information Act. Some question its validity.
However, the facts are Siri never claimed to be Pope, therefore he could never appoint cardinals of any kind. Thus, when he died on May 2, 1989, his claim to the papacy died with him. Some claim that the confusion in the 1958 conclave invalidates the election of Angelo Roncalli two days after the first white smoke went up the first time. This claim has some merit, since Roncalli was not capable of being elected, because he was a heretic prior to his apparent election. If Roncalli was not Pope John XXIII, then the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican was never a Catholic gathering, etc.
Those holding to the Siri Hypothesis also hold that the papacy was vacant on July 16, 1990. And so the conclusion is that the Papacy was vacant, when David Bawden was elected as Pope Michael.