In an interview with New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer worried about the age of the newly elected Pope Francis: "...there was some stunned silence for a second. I think some had expected a younger man, he's 76....When you looked at that image of the new pope standing with some members of the Church hierarchy, visually, Cardinal Dolan, it didn't exactly scream a modern Church." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
At the same time Lauer was worried about the Church not projecting a more "modern" image, NBCNews.com offered a "to-do list" for the new Pontiff that included typical liberal demands:
5. Should women be priests? And should priests marry? Francis will have to address growing debate within the church about the celibacy requirement for priests. A priest in Australia admitted last year that he had been married for a year and said "there are more like me." Benedict also delivered a veiled rebuke to an Austrian priests' group that wants the church to allow women to be ordained and to get rid of the celibacy requirement.
6. Modernization. Majorities of Catholics in the United States have said in surveys that they want the pope to lead the church in a more liberal direction. A New York Times/CBS News poll of Catholics last week found that six in 10 support gay marriage, and seven in 10 want the church to allow birth control. Three-quarters supported abortion in at least some circumstances. In Argentina, then-Cardinal Bergoglio clashed with the president over a 2010 law allowing gay marriage. "It is a move by the father of lies to confuse and deceive the children of God," he said.
Here is a transcript of Lauer's March 14 exchange with Dolan:
MATT LAUER: In our time together you've always encouraged me to speak frankly and I hope you understand what I'm about to say in the tone it's intended.
TIMOTHY DOLAN: Please, sure.
LAUER: I think when he stepped out on to the Loggia yesterday, there was some stunned silence for a second. I think some had expected a younger man, he's 76. Some had expected someone who at least visually seemed to epitomized a more modern Church. When you looked at that image of the new pope standing with some members of the Church hierarchy, visually, Cardinal Dolan, it didn't exactly scream a modern Church. Do you understand what I mean?
TIMOTHY DOLAN: I do, Matt, and I appreciate your candor.
By the way, I just enjoyed, here with Natalie, watching the events from last night because I hadn't seen them. We were behind the scenes, literally, so didn't get to see much. So thanks for showing them again.
I know what you mean, but we always say this – the long-term people who watch the Church universal, and I'd count you among them – you have the balcony moment, but then the real pontificate begins today. And that's where we're going to begin – that's where we're going to begin to watch. We cardinals noticed some things immediately that he was doing differently. I don't know if we've got time to go into them. Would you like me to list a few?
LAUER: Just give me one.
DOLAN: Very simple. When the protocol calls for all the cardinals to come up. As soon as he's elected pope and changes, they put the white chair out up on an elevated platform. He's to sit there while we come up to express our love, gratitude, and allegiance. When the emcee said Holy Father up here, he said, "No, I'm standing down here." Alright, so he greeted each of us as brothers, down just on, literally, on the same level we were.
You heard this story? When we left to go over to St. Martha, where we've all been staying, where he's been staying with us. They had his limo ready, he got back on the bus with us, like he had been doing for the whole conclave. Those are little signs that send signals, Matt. You mentioned an important signal last night on the balcony. You mentioned some of the pluses and minuses of that. But, boy, let's watch close, because I think we're going to see a lot of renewal.