is the pope catholic... enough?
On our first night together, he nursed a mug of sassafras tea while leading a four-hour tutorial on so-called sedevacantism, which holds that all the popes going back to John XXIII in the 1950's have been illegitimate -- ''anti-popes,'' he called them. As Hutton explained it, the conservative cardinal Giuseppe Siri was probably passed over for pope in 1958 in favor of a more reform-minded candidate. Hutton said Cardinal Siri was duly elected, but was forced to step aside by conspirators inside and outside the church. These shadowy enemies might have threatened ''to atom-bomb the Vatican City,'' he said. In another conversation, he told me that the Second Vatican Council was ''a Masonic plot backed by the Jews.''
The intrigue got only murkier and more menacing from there. The next day after church, over a plate of roast beef at a buffet joint off the highway, conversation turned to the events of Sept. 11. Hutton flatly rejected that Al Qaeda hijackers had anything to do with the attacks. ''Anybody can put out a passenger list,'' he said.
So what happened? ''They were crashed by remote control,'' he replied.
He moved on to the Holocaust, dismissing historical accounts that six million Jews were exterminated. ''Go and ask an undertaker or the guy who operates the crematorium what it takes to get rid of a dead body,'' he said. ''It takes one liter of petrol and 20 minutes. Now, six million?''