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Cardinals ordered to keep mum about pope process

(CBS News) VATICAN CITY - Six days after Pope Benedict stepped down, the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church appear in no hurry to fill it.

They let another day pass without setting a date for the papal election and now they have taken a vow of silence.

The cardinals' meetings and their discussions of the church's many troubles are so sensitive, they've been told not to talk about them to the outside world.

Full Coverage: Change at the Vatican
American cardinals cancel popular press briefings ahead of conclave

French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin tries to avoid questioning from media
French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin tries to avoid questioning from media
CBS News

Though donning a civilian disguise and trying to escape by bicycle -- as French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin did -- could not help them avoid the questions.

Pressure of another kind is rising as well.

Barbara Dorris of the group representing victims of priestly child-abuse presented a list of Cardinals the group finds unacceptable as papal candidates. Among them are three Americans.

Sean O'Malley of Boston was accused of not firing an official for sexual harassment. O'Malley said he reprimanded the official and threatened to fire him if it happened again.

Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., was accused of not warning parishioners when abusive priests were moved to their areas. The church said the warning wasn't a legal requirement.

And Timothy Dolan of New York was accused of paying off pedophile priests to leave the ministry quietly -- an allegation he first denied, but which court documents proved to be true.

But while preparations are underway in the Sistine Chapel to turn it into the world's most elaborately decorated polling booth, the voting and the fabled burning of ballots may not start for awhile yet.

Cardinals like South Africa's Wilfred Napier, who spoke to us despite the Vatican gag order, said the pre-conclave talks can't be rushed because, after all, the next pope is in the room.

"When we do reach the point of selecting a pope, we will have a much fuller idea of what kind of challenges he is going to have to lead the church into," Napier said, adding that he doesn't think anyone is feeling rushed to make a decision.

The new pope -- whoever he is, whenever he is chosen -- will find a secret report on the Vatican's troubles waiting for him left behind by the old pope. In prolonging their discussions, the cardinals are trying to ensure the report doesn't come as a shock.

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips returned to the CBS News London bureau as a correspondent in 1993. He has covered many major stories since then, including the war in the Balkans, the death of Princess Diana and the weapons inspection conflicts in Iraq.