In a column this week for the Italian weekly L’Espresso, Vatican analyst Sandro Magister questions the veracity of a supposed conclave “diary” of an anonymous cardinal that was published by journalist Lucio Brunelli in the Italian magazine Limes, which claimed Pope Benedict XVI was elected by a majority after a tight race with other cardinals.

Brunelli’s revelations, which were reported around the world, were based on the supposed “diary of an authoritative cardinal” that described the results of the four ballots during the conclave, despite the vow of secrecy that is meant to safeguard such details, and claimed to have “no sensationalist intentions” and to be “rigorously historical.”

Nonetheless, Magister examines the text closely and finds important inconsistencies, for example, the fact that the supposed “prestigious cardinal” refers to Cardinal Camillo Ruini as the “former apostolic vicar of His Holiness for the Diocese of Rome.”  Magister notes not only that the Ruini’s correct title is “Vicar General” and not “Apostolic Vicar,” but also that “above all the ‘former’ is completely wrong.”  With the death of a Pope, his vicar does not lose his post, but continues to manage the diocese of Rome.

These and other errors lead Magister to doubt the text is “rigorously historical” and to believe instead that it is “militant” hoax to “demonstrate that Ratzinger’s victory was not at all ‘plebiscitary,’ that it was in question up until the last moment, that it was unduly favored by the fact that Ratzinger was the dean of the college of cardinals, that the time is ripe for a ‘new’ pope, perhaps a Latin American, and that Benedict XVI should accept these as limiting factors.

In his extensive analysis, Magister speculates about who might be the author if this version of the conclave and he contrasts it with well-known information that is much more solid—although always uncertain—that indicates that, as the media had reported at the time, Cardinal Ratzinger’s victory was not only clear-cut, as evidenced by the brevity of the conclave, but also ‘plebiscitary.’

“As for anonymous diaries, the greatest caution must be exercised here,” Magister writes.  even more so when these are currents of opposition directed against the present pontiff.