Nightly News   |  February 22, 2013

US cardinals face scrutiny prior to Pope’s conclave

There still isn’t a frontrunner to succeed Pope Benedict, and some are asking that California Cardinal Roger Mahony – who was criticized for his role in shielding abusive priests -- skip the conclave. New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who is also attending the conclave, was recently deposed regarding his role in dealing with abusive priests in Wisconsin. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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>>> overseas now. six days from now pope benedict will step down. then it will be time for the cardinals to elect a new pope, and some american cardinals who will be heading to the conclave suddenly find themselves in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. nbc's anne thompson with us tonight, once again from the vatican with this story. anne, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. as pope benedict finishes his less than ten retreat, the vatican is preparing for this historic transition. with many questions such as who will lead the church far from answered. a week before pope benedict retires, and there is still no clear front-runner to succeed him. however, there is a long shot. new york's cardinal timothy dolan .

>> i'll do anything to get you guys in church.

>> reporter: praising circles for his persona. his efforts to revitalize the church and fighting the obama administration's contraception coverage mandate. but this week, dolan was deposed about how he dealt with abusive priests as archbishop of milwaukee. what impact is this going to have on cardinal dolan ?

>> i think it will have zero impact on cardinal dolan 's leadership within the conclave. because he is a known quantity. he is a known man of integrity. he is known as someone who can communicate the catholic faith positively.

>> reporter: here in rome, another american cardinal, roger mahoney , the retired archbishop of los angeles , is under fire for his role in moving and shielding abusive priests. not a conterder for the papacy, mahoney faces his own deposition tomorrow, after which he will come to the vatican to vote for the new pope. this week an italian cardinal told a local newspaper mahoney should stay home, and some american catholics agree.

>> all cardinals should be held to the highest standard. anyone whose hands are tainted should refrain from voting.

>> reporter: cardinals from ireland and belgium are also mired in scandal, but that's not likely to stop them from voting. the vatican says all cardinals must vote unless they are seriously ill or otherwise prevented from traveling. and one of the things we'll be watching for in benedict's final days is whether he moves up the start date of the conclave to choose his successor. brian?

>> anne thompson at the vatican in preparation for the vote there. anne, thanks.