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We’ve been looking at a lot of Catholic conspiracy theories, and so far they’ve largely been products of the Catholic “right.” Lest we be accused of crass partisanship, we’re presenting a two-part series on a conspiracy theory more commonly associated with “liberal” Catholicism and secular culture.

On August 26, 1978, Cardinal Albino Luciani was elected to the papacy and took the name Pope John Paul I. 33 days later he was dead, from what appeared to be a heart attack. Thanks in part to confusion regarding the details surrounding his death, conspiracy theories began to brew.

In 1984, British author David Yallop published In God’s Name, an investigation into death of John Paul I. He claimed that the pope had been murdered, and the evidence he provided detailed a vast web of intrigue, financial corruption, assassinations, and a secret society named Propaganda Due. It was a bestseller with wide international appeal, and the story Yallop outlined entered into popular culture, appearing in modified form in the plot of the film The Godfather Part III and even inspiring an underground pop-music classic, “Hey! Luciani” by The Fall.

Join us as we dive into this complicated narrative and attempt to sort fact from fiction.


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D.W. Lafferty, PhD, is a Catholic husband, dad, and independent scholar from Ontario, Canada. He works in higher education and has published articles on the literature of Wyndham Lewis, the conspiracy theory of Douglas Reed, and the life and legacy of Engelbert Dollfuss. Online, he tweets as @rightscholar.

The Death of Pope John Paul I (Part 1)
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