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CBS Goes Out of Its Way to Find the Radical Feminists in St. Peter's Square

Mark Phillips, CBS News Correspondent; Marion, Women's Ordination Activist (no last name given); & Erin, Women's Ordination Activist (no last name given); Screen Cap From CBS's 13 March 2013 Special Coverage of Papal Election | MRC.orgDuring CBS's special coverage of the papal election on Wednesday, correspondent Mark Phillips singled out two dissenters from Catholic tradition in the middle of crowd of hundreds of thousands in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, mere minutes after the white smoke went out of the Sistine Chapel's chimney, and before Pope Francis emerged onto the balcony over the piazza.

The two activists, who wore pink "ordain women" pins, not only sought to change the Catholic Church's teachings on the all-male priesthood, but spotlighted "LGBT issues [and] reproductive health care" – a thinly-veiled reference to abortion and contraception – as issues that need to be drastically changed inside the Church. [audio available here; video below]

Phillips granted an international platform to the two women, whom he merely identified as Marion and Erin. After pointing out the "ordain women" pins that they were wearing, the CBS journalist asked Marion, "What are you looking for from this man that's going to walk out onto that balcony?" Her reply was filled with oft-used code words from the left:

MARION: We're looking for a man that is open to dialogue and inclusion; a man that remembers that his job is to be like Jesus Christ – the original; and to include women – to go out of his way to include women. And to accept that the Church needs to be healed, and that one half is being excluded-

He then turned to Erin and tossed a similar softball question: "You're wearing the pin that says 'ordain women', and presumably, that's what you want. You want even women – to go as far as women priests in the Catholic Church." Phillips followed up by setting up his second guest to spout her pro-abortion and pro-homosexual activist talking points.

Later, anchors Scott Pelley and Norah O'Donnell spotlighted a recent CBS News/New York Times poll that found apparent support for women's ordination among Catholics in the U.S. In general, CBS has been boosting Catholic dissidents since Sunday, beginning with correspondent Barry Petersen's slanted report on priestly celibacy on Sunday Morning.

Pelley himself questioned the "doctrinally conservative" legacy of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI on Monday's CBS Evening News. The following day, on Tuesday's CBS This Morning, Anthony Mason and Gayle King brought on the president of a prominent dissenting organization of American sisters.

The relevant transcript of Phillips, Pelley, and O'Donnell from CBS's special coverage of the papal election on Wednesday:

SCOTT PELLEY: Mark Phillips is down in that huge crowd. People have come from all over the Eternal City. They have filled the square and all the streets around it. Mark, what do you see?

MARK PHILLIPS: Well, I see the crowd getting larger and larger. And I see Marion and Erin, who are two women who were in the crowd, and they've had an interest in this whole thing. The next pope is about to be announced. You're wearing pins that say, 'ordain women', which is a bit of a hint. (Marion and Erin laugh) So, what are you looking for from this man that's going to walk out onto – onto that balcony – we hope quite soon?

MARION: We're looking for a man that is open to dialogue and inclusion; a man that remembers that his job is to be like Jesus Christ – the original; and to include women – to go out of his way to include women. And to accept that the Church needs to be healed, and that one half is being excluded-

PHILLIPS: Very high expectations. Erin, you're wearing the pin-

ERIN: Yes-

PHILLIPS: That says 'ordain women'

ERIN: Yes-

PHILLIPS: And presumably, that's what you want. You want even women – to go as far as women priests in the Catholic Church.

ERIN: Of course! Yes. I mean, that's my dream, as a child – is to see a woman up there on the altar. But, you know, a first start would be, as Marion said, [an] opening dialogue. That's so important. Our – our church has been – you know, really needs some healing from the abuse and the scandal, and there's so many people that have been marginalized from our church.

But we're really looking for a reformer – so, someone who's willing to meet the people of the Church, where they're at, and – you know, for us, as part of women ordination worldwide, really hoping for someone, again, to open dialogue, talk with women – be with us in community.

PHILLIPS: The woman's issue in the Church, of course, is a large one. But there are other challenges the Church has been facing-

MARION: Yes, absolutely-

PHILLIPS: We all know about the abuse scandal, of course, and the terrible things there. But also, in terms of the organization of the Church, what have you – is it just talk about communication? Is that – you want a church that you feel is more accessible to you?

ERIN: Transparent, accountable – those are very important words for the people of the Church – you know, when it comes to women's issues; when it comes to the sex abuse crisis; when it comes to LGBT issues, reproductive health care – the Church really needs to – to be transparent and open, and welcome women's voices into those issues.

PHILLIPS: Well, we're all here in anticipation and in suspense, to see whether the man who steps out there answers some of the questions that you've been posing.

MARION: Let's hope so-

ERIN: Yeah. We'll see soon. (laughs)

PHILLIPS: That's it from here, Scott.

PELLEY: Mark, thank you. The world's Catholics – 1.2 billion people, the largest religion on Earth, waiting to hear what they will have in a new papacy. Will the Pope come from the old world or the new? Will the Pope be doctrinally conservative or more liberal?

Norah O'Donnell and Delia Gallagher, let me pull you into the conversation that we were just hearing with Mark Phillips. The Church in America is a very different place than – than in much of the rest of the world. We did a CBS News /New York Times poll recently that indicated that a majority of Americans wanted to see – a majority of American Catholics, I should say, wanted to see women in the priesthood.

NORAH O'DONNELL: There are 60 to 70 million Catholics in the United States, and many Catholics want the Catholic Church to address and understand the aspirations of women in the Church. And these aren't just women Catholics that are saying this. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri of Argentina said that women must be given more leadership positions in the Vatican. He said – quote, 'They must have a much more important role in the life of the Church.' So, they're talking about ordaining women as deacons, so that they could participate more. That's one of the challenges, I think, the new pope will face.

PELLEY: And yet, Delia Gallagher, many of the cardinals who were mentioned prominently as candidates – leading candidates for the papacy are not in favor of expanding the role of women.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CBS NEWS VATICAN CONSULTANT: That's correct. I mean, there's two discussions: one is the question of women priests – actually making – women, and giving them a priestly role; and the other is a question of women having decision-making power in the Vatican, and that is something which I think most of the cardinals – because, indeed, Benedict XVI was open to appointing women to positions of power in the Vatican – not the highest positions, which is where the problem lies, because in order to be president of a council, or in order to have the decision-making power, you have to be a bishop, and therefore, you have to be a priest. So, the two are related to a certain extent. Yet, I think, at the Vatican, they make – they make attempts, at least, to include women. And it's a very long and slow process, but it has been done. Pope Benedict has said, in the past, that he wanted to make more room for women, and a greater role for women in decision-making things at the Vatican. But it's a different argument from making women priests, which has theological implications that – that are very, very much more complicated, let's say.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.