NBC Whines About Vatican 'Secrecy' And Media 'Clamp Down'

In a report from the Vatican on Thursday's NBC Today, correspondent Keir Simmons fretted over Church officials limiting press access to cardinals as they prepare to elect the next Pope in Conclave: "The U.S. cardinals have been told to stop talking, to close ranks. Since Monday, they've been holding news conferences....The last, abruptly cancelled before it began, the Vatican imposing immediate clamp down in spite of hopes that the Church will modernize."

Introducing the segment, co-host Matt Lauer declared: "...secrecy has become a top priority for Vatican officials." A sound bite was featured in the report of Reuters Vatican senior correspondent Phil Pullella ranting: "I think it will backfire because it shows fear, it shows fear of the truth, it shows fear of dealing with the outside world."

The headline on screen throughout the segment declared: "Cardinal Concern; Vatican Worries About Leaks as Conclave Gathers."

Simmons hyped claims of contention among the cardinals: "...the front page of an Italian newspaper, Corriere Della Sera, reporting news about the U.S. cardinals, it says they have been blocked from independently briefing the media, saying the tension among the cardinals escalates....Amid the tension, the cardinals spent Wednesday night in prayer..."

Considering how nasty the media coverage of the Church has been in recent weeks, particularly on NBC, is it any wonder why cardinals talking to the press at such a critical and sacred time might be discouraged?


Here is a full transcript of the March 7 report:

7:16AM ET

MATT LAUER: Now back to the Vatican, where as we said, we could be getting closer to a date to begin the Conclave. But this morning, secrecy has become a top priority for Vatican officials. NBC's Keir Simmons is there. Keir, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Cardinal Concern; Vatican Worries About Leaks as Conclave Gathers]

KEIR SIMMONS: Hey, Matt, good morning. There were rumors this morning that a date for the Conclave might be announced, but in it's only official briefing for the day, the Vatican has just said that they haven't set a date yet. But take a look at this, Matt, the front page of an Italian newspaper, Corriere Della Sera, reporting news about the U.S. cardinals, it says they have been blocked from independently briefing the media, saying the tension among the cardinals escalates. The U.S. cardinals have been told to stop talking, to close ranks. Since Monday, they've been holding news conferences.

UNIDENTIFIED CARDINAL: No one really wants to rush this if it can't be rushed.

SIMMONS: The last, abruptly cancelled before it began, the Vatican imposing immediate clamp down in spite of hopes that the Church will modernize.

PHIL PULLELLA [REUTERS VATICAN SR. CORRESPONDENT]: I think it will backfire because it shows fear, it shows fear of the truth, it shows fear of dealing with the outside world.

SIMMONS: But it is the Italian newspapers where many leaks have seemed to appear. Even today, La Stampa has more details.

PULLELLA: The American cardinals are doing penance for the sins of others. It was the Italians who leaked things to Italian papers.

SIMMONS: Amid the tension, the cardinals spent Wednesday night in prayer, but no clue yet of who might be chosen or even when. Ordinary Catholics from the U.S. among Wednesday's congregation.

DANIEL DAVIS [U.S. SEMINARIAN]: I'm going over to the prayer service because, like just to kind of show my support and solidarity for our cardinals, just because they have a very, very heavy responsibility on their shoulders, electing a new pope.

SIMMONS: In the Sistine Chapel, work is underway to prepare for the vote, the Conclave. Here the cardinals will cast their ballots, the papers burned in this stove after each indecisive vote. And all this will be done in secret. But first, they must set a date for the Conclave to start, and so far, even this simple diary date is still shrouded in mystery.

Meanwhile, take a look at this photograph, this is the former Pope Benedict XVI walking in the gardens of Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence where we expect him to be for a few months. An Italian newspaper, another Italian newspaper, got this photograph.

Meanwhile, Savannah, we hear that the last cardinal who will be able to vote in the Conclave is expected to arrive here this afternoon. So perhaps some progress.

GUTHRIE: Alright, Keir Simmons at the Vatican for us this morning, thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC