Amid reports of divisions among cardinals, Vatican reverts to ingrained preference for secrecy

(CBS News) Loose lips are too much for the Vatican. From now on, the cardinals gathered in Rome to choose a new pope won't be saying much in public, as a media blackout has been ordered. There is still no date for their conclave to begin the voting.

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The Vatican has reverted to its ingrained attitude of secrecy, imposing what amounts to a gag order on all cardinals -- especially the Americans -- even though they have not given anything that amounts to inside information.


The cardinals still had to run the press gauntlet on Thursday. The Americans were the naughty school boys on the bus, even if not all of them were suitably repentant. Cardinal Timothy Dolan even did his regular evening radio broadcast Wednesday night.

"How flattering that thousands and thousands of journalists are now in Rome to cover" the conclave, noted Dolan. "The interest that the Church generates in the world, we need to capitalize on it, don't we?"

One of the last of the 115 cardinal electors to arrive in Rome clearly hadn't received the no-talking memo either, saying upon arrival, "I'm new here. I just arrived yesterday."

The gag order was imposed because of leaks to the Italian press, whose Vatican experts have been reporting alleged inside information, including what appears to be widening differences between the Rome-based cardinals and the "others," who want more time to discuss issues such as mismanagement in the Vatican and the sex abuse scandals.


"If we really want to address the issues, we would have to chose a pope and give him some help in putting together the kind of team that he would need to look at those governance issues," Cardinal Wilfred Fox Napier of South Africa told CBS News.

The Americans had made a point of not breaching the secrecy oath they took when the deliberations began, but the first casualty of the Vatican reaction was the regular press briefings at the North American College, which were cancelled Wednesday.

A support group for victims of abuse by priests is keeping the issue to the fore, having named a "dirty dozen" of cardinals they deem unworthy, the group held a news conference in Rome Thursday to put forward three whom they do like.

Barbara Doris, abuse victims campaigner, said, "The common link amongst these three men is their courage. They've done things that few, if any bishops or cardinals have tried. They've tried to think outside the box, and at times, they've been bluntly honest about the failings of other church members."

Making SNAP's list of "promising" cardinals, were Cardinal Christopher Schoenborn of Austria, Cardinal Luis Tagle of the Philippines, and the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin. The first two are among those seen as likely strong contenders. SNAP admitted that Martin was a "long-shot" as it has been hundreds of years since a non-cardinal was elected pope.

The pressure group is unlikely to influence the cardinals, and the leaks indicate that serious consideration is being given to the idea that an American might be an acceptable candidate.

CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey said a couple of the Americans have come to the fore as potential winners. Considered good administrators, they've got a good record of dealing with abuse cases and they're pastors.

He said Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. was one of those being mentioned, and while they may not be considered front-runners at this stage, Pizzey noted that even the fact that there is talk about the possibility indicates the cardinals from outside Rome are putting forth ideas of their own.

"They're not being railroaded, as it were," said Pizzey.

For Pizzey's full report, watch the video above.

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