Cardinals gather at Vatican for 1st meetings of pre-conclave general congregation

(CBS News) Catholic cardinals are holding the first of their official meetings on Monday since the retirement of the former pope Benedict, now known as Pope Emeritus.

During those meetings, the cardinals will set a date for their conclave to choose a new pope. The cardinals have begun to meet, but before they get down to the business of choosing a new pope, they've got plenty of other business to discuss.

The Catholic Church has been hit by the combined earthquakes of a retired pope, and the child abuse and other scandals. Its response has been deliberate and traditional, and will be a major topic of discussion in the coming days.

At the appointed hour, the cardinals began to emerge Monday from the nooks and crannies of the Vatican, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips. Some arrived in groups -- like obedient students on the school bus. Others, though, are staying elsewhere. But if they thought they could take a leisurely stroll to work, they soon learned that isn't going to be possible as media pressed in for a word about the deliberations.

With the papal election so wide open this time, people hang on their every word -- and there are few words. The unwritten rule here is, "never say you want the job." And if you find your name circulating on lists of potential candidates, say you're unworthy.

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet is seen by many as a compromise contender, but he knows what often happens to favorites in the conclave. "There is this famous saying, the one that gets in pope, gets out cardinal," he told Canadian television.

Some came by car. How many cardinals can you fit in a Fiat? Answer: two. And others came by taxi. They're not in Vatican City at this stage to vote on a new pope, but to discuss the many problems facing the Catholic Church, from the ongoing child abuse scandal to financial mismanagement.

Chicago Cardinal Francis George said the church has obvious troubles it cannot avoid. So, how much of a role will the scandals play in the discussions now, and have they essentially usurped the intended aim of these initial meetings?

"I don't think they've been usurped," George told Phillips, "but they do create context for our discussion. We follow the press, sometimes happily and sometimes not."

In this case, not happily. The cardinals say they have so much hard talking to do, many say these discussions could take a week or longer before they're ready to move to the Sistine Chapel to begin voting on a new pope.

For Mark Phillips' full report, watch the video in the player above.