Cardinals begin pre-conclave meetings at Vatican


More than 100 cardinals from around the world are taking part in pre-conclave meetings. They'll discuss the present state of the church, but it's forbidden to talk about possible replacements for Pope Benedict XVI.

The Catholic Church has been under fire with reports swirling that Benedict's surprise resignation had something to do with a gay conclave discovery and the recent child sex abuse scandal.

The first day of discussion was rocked by revelations of scandal, with Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien admitting that he had engaged in sexual misconduct not befitting a priest, archbishop or cardinal.

O'Brien last week resigned as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh and said he wouldn't participate in the conclave after four men came forward with allegations that he had acted inappropriately with them.

Some Southern Californians have an issue with embattled former Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney taking part in the selection process since he admittedly played a huge role in a child abuse cover-up.

Mahoney told the Catholic News Service he's amazed by the controversy and insisted the criticism is unfair.

"What I did in those years was consistent with what everybody did, in the Boy Scouts, in public schools, private schools, across the country," Mahony said.

Mahony also said he was personally invited by the Vatican to attend the conclave.

As for a date for the conclave, which is the secret vote to elect a new pope, that could be set as early as Monday. Church officials believe the ceremony could happen before March 15.

Pope Benedict XVI officially stepped down from power on Thursday, becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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