Former FBI Consultant Claims:
U.S. Intel Docs show
Cardinal Siri elected
Pope Gregory XVII in 1958
FBI consultant Paul L. Williams cites declassified U.S. intelligence
documents allegedly showing that Cardinal Giuseppe Siri was elected
Pope Gregory XVII at the conclave that, two days later, produced
In 2003, former FBI consultant Paul L. Williams, author of Osama's Revenge, published a book called The Vatican Exposed: Money, Murder, and the Mafia (Prometheus Books). Although the book deals with alleged Vatican corruption in terms of money and power and has a decidedly liberal flavor, Williams also--almost as a side-note--includes some straightforward, objective information on the papal conclave of 1958. In what cannot be called anything other than a stunning series of claims, Williams, who is not a Catholic traditionalist, asserts:
In 1954 Count Della Torre, editor of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, warned [Pope] Pius XII of [Cardinal Angelo] Roncalli's Communist sympathies. Other members of the "Black Nobility" expressed similar concerns.
Nor did Roncalli [later known as "Pope John XXIII"] escape the attention of the FBI and CIA. The agencies began to accumulate thick files on him and the questionable activities of other "progressives" within the Vatican, including Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini (the future Paul VI).
Pius XII had appointed Cardinal Giuseppe Siri as his desired successor. Siri was rabidly anti-Communist, an intransigent traditionalist in matters of church doctrine, and a skilled bureaucrat. . . .
In 1958 [on October 26], when the cardinals were locked away in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope, mysterious events began to unfold. On the third ballot, Siri, according to FBI sources, obtained the necessary votes and was elected as Pope Gregory XVII. White smoke poured from the chimney of the chapel to inform the faithful that a new pope had been chosen. The news was announced with joy at 6 P.M. on Vatican radio. The announcer said, "The smoke is white. . . . There is absolutely no doubt. A pope has been elected." . . .
But the new pope failed to appear. Question began to arise whether the smoke was white or gray. To quell such doubts, Monsignor Santaro, secretary of the Conclave of Cardinals, informed the press that the smoke, indeed, had been white and that a new pope had been elected. The waiting continued. By evening Vatican radio announced that the results remained uncertain. On October 27, 1958, the Houston Post headlined: "Cardinals Fail to elect pope in 4 Ballots: Mix-Up in Smoke Signals Cause False Reports."
But the reports had been valid. On the fourth ballot, according to FBI sources, Siri again obtained the necessary votes and was elected supreme pontiff. But the French cardinals annulled the results, claiming that the election would cause widespread riots and the assassination of several prominent bishops behind the Iron Curtain.
The cardinals opted to elect Cardinal Frederico Tedischini as a "transitional pope," but Tedischini was too ill to accept the position.
Finally, on the third day of balloting, Roncalli received the necessary support to become Pope John XXIII. . . .
--Paul L. Williams, The Vatican Exposed (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2003), pp. 90-92
The footnote numbers included in Williams' text point to the following references (adapted from p. 243 of the same book):
 Department of State confidential biography, "John XXIII," issue date: no date, declassified: February 15, 1974; see also Avro Manhattan, Murder in the Vatican, p. 31.
 John Cooney, The American Pope, p. 259.
 Department of State secret dispatch, "John XXIII," issue date: November 20, 1958, declassified: November 11, 1974.
 The announcer's words appeared in the London Tablet, November 1, 1958, p. 387.
 Houston Post, October 27, 1958, pp. 1 and 7. [Editor's Note: Novus Ordo Watch has a copy of this original article, incl. a picture of the smoke that emerged on October 26, 1958, two days before John XXIII claimed the papacy.]
 Department of State secret file, "Cardinal Siri," issue date: April 10, 1961, declassified: February 28, 1994.
Such are the claims of Paul L. Williams, former consultant of the FBI and "seasoned investigate reporter." So far we have been unable to get copies of the cited declassified intelligence documents, and thus we cannot verify whether Williams' claims about what these documents say are accurate. However, the mix-up in smoke signals of the conclave of 1958 is verifiable historical fact, recorded in the newspapers which reported on the conclave day of October 26, 1958, such as the New York Times and the Houston Post.
Mr. Williams' claims are very significant for the Catholic Church because it is not possible for anyone, including "French cardinals," to "annul" an accepted papal election. Nobody is able to take a valid papal election away from the Pope -- only the Pope himself can resign, and even then there are restrictions as to the validity of a resignation: "Resignation is invalid by law if it was made out of grave fear unjustly inflicted, fraud, substantial error, or simony" (1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 185). It is not possible validly to elect another Pope if a true Pope is already reigning.
Please note: Novus Ordo Watch does not recommend Mr. Williams' book The Vatican Exposed. However, the information extracted from it regarding the conclave of 1958 seems to be based on the objective findings of the U.S. intelligence community and hence sufficiently reliable.