A lengthy excerpt from a soon-to-be-released book by America’s Vatican correspondent, Gerard O’Connell, made some waves at the weekend. Among other things, the excerpt detailed the tallies from the first round of voting in the 2013 conclave that eventually elected Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, who took the regnal name of Francis.

Titled, The Election of Pope Francis: An Inside Account of the Conclave That Changed History, the book is being published by Orbis, and has an April 24th release date. It promises to be, “a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of history in the making,” and to reveal, “what actually happed inside the secret conclave.”

In the excerpt published by America last Thursday, O’Connell reports the Archbishop of Boston, Seán Patrick Cardinal O’Malley OFM Cap., garnered ten votes on the first round. It was a surprising number, especially since the conventional wisdom is that the election of a Roman Pontiff from the United States is a practical impossibility, owing to the position of the US as the world’s sole superpower, coupled with the diffuse notion that US Catholicism is thoroughly soaked in the country’s Puritan cultural groundwater.

So, the titbit of information predictably set off a round of speculation: could an American be pope, after all?

I haven’t seen an advance copy of the book, and I do not expect to — though I am looking forward to reading it — so I can’t say what O’Connell makes of his own report. Nevertheless, there are lots of reasons to believe the report is accurate, and lots of other reasons to believe the information reported means something significant, but very different from the topic of speculation.

Basically, the numbers offer a clue to a plausible explanation of the dynamics that may have yielded the result in the first round of voting in 2013.

There were eleven voting Cardinals from the United States. Assuming Cardinal O’Malley didn’t vote for himself — a reasonable assumption — the ten votes of the other US Cardinals may all have gone to O’Malley. The purpose of such an exercise would have been to telegraph to the other voting Cardinals that the red hats from the US would be voting as a bloc — and possibly that their bloc was up for grabs, and leaning toward a candidate with a profile not entirely unlike O’Malley’s.

Full story at The Catholic Herald.