Speaking to a new generation of priests

(CBS News) ROME - Earlier today, CBS News dropped in on the Pontifical North American College, where many of the Roman Catholic Church's most promising young Americans are sent to study.

"Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley sat down with three men on their way to the priesthood.

The seminary started in 1859. They called it "North American" because, with the Civil War looming, they didn't know if the United States would survive. Today, about 250 Americans are hand-picked for the West Point of Catholic seminaries.

Full Coverage: Change at the Vatican
Formal talks done at the Vatican, all that's left is the conclave

Below is the interview with Geoffrey Brooke, Jr., of Missouri, Tom MacDonald of Massachusetts and Gregory Gerhardt of Texas.

Pelley: Why did you decide to become a priest?

MacDonald: Personally I was very much reluctant to follow the call because of celibacy. And I ran from the call pretty hard and tried to date my way out of out of the priesthood. But the hound of heaven caught up with me.

Gerhardt: It was at 14 years old I came home telling my family, telling my pastor, "I'm gonna be a priest." And there was a, "Well, hold on. Slow down, slow down. You know, you've got four more years of high school left."

Pelley: What would you like to see in the next pope who will lead the church through your early careers?

Brooke: One who will continue to work to not only just to proclaim that message but also to have the message in a way that it opens and stirs up the heart of the believer.

Pelley: You wanna see somebody who can light up a room.

Brooke: Yeah. Absolutely.

MacDonald: I'd like to see a pope continue the beautiful legacy of John Paul the II and Benedict the XVI.

Pelley: But you've mentioned two popes who have a reputation for being doctrinally conservative. And this is something you'd like to see carried on?

MacDonald: The church's mission is to transmit a message, to transmit a gift it received from Christ. So it's not in our job description, as it were, to change that message.

Pelley: The concerns about the sex abuse scandal, the concerns about transparency within the church, for example. Are these things that the next pope is going to have to address forcefully and frontally in order to bring the church in the direction you believe it should be in.

MacDonald: Yes, very much so. And I think honestly that America is in a great position to lead the church in that respect. The United States has gone through this scandal. We've gone through the crucible, the devastating revelations of the wrongdoing of priests and the wrongdoing of certain bishops. But I think we've learned a lot from that. We've grown a lot from that.

  • Scott Pelley

    Correspondent, "60 Minutes"