From a reading of the first part of this article, one should be able to see here something of genuine value the Siri theory followers have contributed to the discussion as regards how to explain the state of the Church today, something which in all justice must be given recognition and appreciation in the years to come, and all of this is so despite the one single fatal flaw which this theory suffers from which I get to now.
It didn't happen. Not that it couldn't, as indeed it did happen with Pope Silverius, and it could one day happen again. Nor am I claiming that Cardinal Guiseppe Siri was not Pope Pius XII's heir apparent, or did not receive the sufficient votes within either conclave (1958 or 1963) to become Pope or take (however briefly) the name of Gregory XVII behind the closed doors of the conclave. Grant that I am not able to weigh the evidences put forth to prove anything of these events at those conclaves, one way or the other, but for the sake of this discussion (and in general) I am perfectly willing to go along with the claim that events indeed transpired at those conclaves as described in what sources they can muster.
Rather I contend only that in our particular situation today, the root source of our present ecclesial problems has not proven out to be any "Pope Gregory XVII" holding on to the papal Chair (like Pope Silverius) thus depriving all other ones elected thereafter from really being Pope, so long as he lived. It's a good theory, an excellent one in fact, but one which has unfortunately proven false. Did he ever actually accept the office, or having accepted it, did he not resign? Would not he and all persons present know whether or not he was going to take and keep hold of this new office to which he had been elected, or whether he would instead refuse the offer, or even relinquish it? How can a man be said to be "gloriously reigning" when in fact he never does so much as a single papal act, and that utter inactivity occurring not merely over some superlatively short period (as it was for John Paul I who scarcely had time to turn around before he died), but over the entire course of a truly long pontificate of thirty-one years (from 1958 to 1989)? If he had truly accepted the office, and not lawfully resigned, he would have reigned as pope, and it would have had to happen much as follows (time to suspend your disbelief again, as with Project Harvest Moon):
Back at the 1958 conclave, Cardinal Siri won a greater than two-thirds plus one majority at an early balloting, and accepted the post of Pope, taking the name of His Holiness Pope Gregory XVII. The white smoke was prepared and bells rang to celebrate that event and the Catholic world rejoiced to have a pope once again ("Bianca! Bianca!"). On his way to the balcony however to greet and bless the eagerly waiting crowd in St. Peter's plaza, another cardinal intercepted him and informed him that a hydrogen bomb planted underneath his feet would go off and kill off all the cardinals of the Church and destroy the Eternal City if he accepted the papal chair. Instead of either daring the "bad guys" out there to go ahead and make the Church's day, or else simply resign outright, thus ending his papacy of about five minutes, he merely pretended to resign while in fact continuing to hold within himself the actual papacy to which he had been elected.
Presumably in the interest of secrecy, or of "not getting blown up," he chose to go along with the pretense that he had resigned, and with the charade of the election of Roncalli, and even subsequently to similarly participate in the charade of electing Montini at the conclave in 1963, and Luciani and Wojtyla in 1978, all the while knowing that these events were mere charades since in fact he was the real and true pope. He even pretended to go along with the Novus Ordo and to recognize the Vatican leaders as though they were popes, all in the interest of this charade.
Nevertheless, the true pope was Gregory XVII throughout the remainder of his life. At first, not knowing who he could trust with his heavy secret, he did little. But then, in 1962, one of the new cardinals, appointed by John XXIII (his name, which will not be reiterated here, was already on the list of those to be made cardinals, and many of John XXIII's first batch of cardinals including this one were from that list) approached Gregory XVII privately and, having heard about what happened in the conclave, offered to be one of Pope Gregory's cardinals. Pope Gregory accepted, making this Vatican cardinal also a true cardinal "in pectore." The two of them proceeded to select a few reliable priests and secretly made them bishops, appointing them over new, larger dioceses, in the beginning consisting of entire continents.
These bishops in turn either found or ordained dozens of reliable priests who began saying Mass for small secretive groups of Catholics who were already by then suspicious of what was going on at the Vatican. Another Vatican "cardinal" joined him in 1965 (but passed away in 1973 of old age) and six of the 31 bishops he consecrated during his long reign were also appointed to serve as cardinals by the time he passed away in 1989. In that time Pope Gregory XVII wrote some 57 papal encyclicals, 6 motu proprio's, 15 papal bulls, and hundreds of papal audiences. During his pontificate, he permitted the founding of two new religious orders and built a new Roman Curia staffed with some 27 personnel who all kept their secret offices on a boat which frequently sailed up and down the Tiber river, which is also where His Holiness held all of his papal audiences ("Pastor and Mariner," how about that!)
On May 16, 1989, the cardinal who had joined Pope Gregory in 1962 was elected pope by a conclave of himself and the remaining five of the six bishops Pope Gregory had made cardinals (the sixth had been killed in a car crash in 1982). He took the name of Innocent XIV. In his short reign which lasted only until August 12, 1993, Pope Innocent XIV managed to increase the number of bishops from 30 to 87, cardinals from 5 to 11, curial members from 27 to 41, and he wrote 18 encyclicals, no motu proprio, and 2 apostolic bulls.
On August 31, the conclave of 11 elected one from their number (one of the five surviving cardinals made by Gregory XVII) who took the name of Paschal III. His Holiness Pope Paschal III continues to reign gloriously to this day, though as of now (2005) his health grows rather weak and delicate, and it is not expected that he will live more than about two years or so. Perhaps if he rallies he might manage to hang on for another five. The Church now has over 200 bishops, some 1500 priests or so, more than 35 cardinals, eight new religious orders, and more than a hundred persons (including secretaries and the like) staffing the Roman Curial offices, which were transferred from the boat to slightly more permanent facilities located in an Italian suburb near San Marino. Some 26 saints have also been canonized since 1958 by Popes Innocent XIV, and Paschal III (Pope Gregory XVII canonized no saints though towards the end of his life he finally permitted the beautifications of several to begin moving forward again). His Holiness now feels that it is almost time for the true Church to reveal Herself to the world at large… - OK, once again that's enough.
All of that (or at least something very like it) would have to have happened in absolute secret. Given that it would be nice to know just where they got their congregations from, in view of the total airtight secrecy of it all. Or maybe it goes like this: "The traditional priests, some pretending to be sedevacantists, others SSPX or 'independent,' and even some pretending to be indultarian, all say Mass in union with H. H. Pope Paschal III" whose name they whisper (where only God can hear) in the "una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro" in the Canon of the Mass. I don't doubt that every traditional priest, even what few priests take the Siri theory position, would, to a man, deny taking the name of Paschal III (or whoever any actual living successor might be), although perhaps some few might have used the name of Pope Gregory in the Canon of the Mass while Cardinal Siri was still alive.
Again, like Project Harvest Moon, how is it that no one, not even one single crackpot, crank, or crazy, let alone anyone with any substantive evidences, has ever emerged claiming to have been any part of such a thing as this. No one is saying "Pope Gregory appointed me to be the Bishop of Australia," or "I served as a member of the Holy Office under Popes Innocent XIV and Paschal III from 1990 until 2001," or "Pope Gregory made me a cardinal in 1986." Most of all, not a single soul has ever come forth claiming to be the successor of Pope Gregory XVII. Surely if any such successor had existed, it could not be concealed any more than my fictitious "secret black project Harvest Moon" could be utterly concealed. Not even the Siri Theory's greatest adherents, such as Hutton Gibson, seem to know anything about where or who this supposed real pope is or who any of his clergy are. Surely, one would expect that the secret pope's most loyal disciples would at least be privileged to know the name taken by the current office-holder (Paschal III in my fictional account), even if everything else must still be kept secret for some reason. And once again, the account as I gave it no doubt contains its similar "germ of truth" in that Cardinal Siri was elected and did take the name of Gregory XVII, but having at least made the appearance of resigning before he could be pope for more than a few minutes, that constituted a lawful resignation, and that (along with one's death) is the only way a pope can cease being pope.
Finally, we now have yet a new problem with the Siri theory. As long as Cardinal Siri was alive, one could claim that the Vatican claimants could not be popes because the papal chair was still filled with His Holiness Pope Gregory XVII. I suppose by some extension one might claim that even once Cardinal Siri was dead, John Paul II might still have managed to not become pope since he did not take the papal coronation oath and do all the other papal ceremonies, nor indeed even repeat what little he did along those lines upon his election in 1978. Vigilius did, after all, repeat what ceremonies as were appropriate for a papal election/acceptance/coronation at the time once Pope Silverius died, and only then began ruling as a true pope of the Church. Perhaps if only John Paul II would have done the same thing in 1989 he could have finally become an infallible pope as well. But perhaps not. We don't know what would have happened in Vigilius' case had he just continued ruling after Pope Silverius' death; that experiment has not taken place.
At least we can say that the Siri theory really was at least something of a valid scientific theory, since it makes specific predictions which allow it to be falsified. The ability for a theory to be falsified is also what allows a theory to be a real theory of real value and not mere tea-leaf-reading. A tea-leaf-reading fortune teller could say to you "Something very important will happen to you in the next year," without the slightest fear of contradiction. You or someone you care about greatly might die, you might get married, or have another child, or meet a new friend who will go on to be of long standing, or a career change or promotion or personal discovery may take your life in a new direction, or any of a zillion other such things. And even if none of those things happen within the next year, each day is necessarily important while the sun shines bright.
By contrast, a good theory would have something specific to claim: I posit a "theory of gravity" which claims that when I let go of this rock it will fall to the ground. If, upon being released, the rock indeed falls to the ground, then my theory is vindicated. On the other hand if, upon being released, the rock instead turns into a tomato and jumps a mile into the sky, then my theory is proven false, and it's time to go "back to the drawing board." The Siri theory has this same value. There are events that could happen that would prove it true, and contrary events that would prove it false.
Now at last we have those events, and the verdict is in. We have Benedict XVI newly elected in this year (2005), with no Pope Gregory XVII alive to make a prior claim to the papal Chair, and no evidence whatsoever of anyone else having succeeded him (as I have illustrated above), and nevertheless the man elected is no more a pope than his immediate predecessors. By the Siri theory, the 2005 conclave should have given the Church a true Pope. It didn't. The Siri Theory, whatever its value as a kind of intellectual scaffolding to serve as a placeholder for the truth about the present situation, has been falsified. His resignation and/or rejection of whatever nominations he may have received at either or both of the 1958 and 1963 conclaves was as much accepted by the Holy Ghost as by all the other Cardinals in the room. It is time for those who looked to that theory to now seek another "a priori" basis for understanding what it is that has happened to Holy Mother Church, some different impediment to filling the papal Chair which is more permanent than Cardinal Siri himself could have ever been. I believe that "more permanent" thing is the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium.