American pope "fully possible," says Vatican consultant

(CBS News) As the Catholic world awaits the appointment of a new pope, and Cardinals begin to gather in Rome for to choose Pope Benedict XVI's successor, Cardinal Sean O'Malley's name has surfaced as one possibility, opening the door for an American pope.

Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, the director of the Pontifical North American College in Rome and a CBS News consultant, told "CBS This Morning" the prospect of an American pope is "not a long shot."

"The field is wide open," Monsignor Figueiredo said, "The cardinals of the United States have begun to take measures to deal with" some of the major questions facing the Church today, "including the sexual abuse crisis and also questions regarding bringing people back to the church, so I believe that's fully possible."

Speaking to the possible appointment y of Cardinal O'Malley or another so-called "reformer" within the Church, Figueiredo referred again to the scandal over Church officials efforts to hide the abuse of young parishioners, and O'Malley's perceived tough stance on the matter.

"The sex abuse scandal was a terrible scourge in the church," Figueiredo told "CTM" co-host Charlie Rose, adding that the the new pontiff will need to be someone who can "continue to uncover these sexual scandals, deal with them effectively and remove those who have caused these scandals."

"Certainly someone like Cardinal O'Malley who has dealt with the crisis in Boston head-on," he continued, "is needed to take the Church forward for the good of the Church and the good of the world."

For more from Monsignor Figueiredo and how the cardinals in Rome are beginning to debate their momentous decision, watch the video above.