The announcement came as a great surprise to almost everyone. For the first time in 600 years a reigning Pope would step down. Pope Benedict XVI will no longer be the Pope effective February 28, 2013.
His stated reason is that he no longer has the strength needed to carry on as Pope. Benedict XVI said that he is leaving "for the good of the church." This Pope has proven to be every bit as conservative as many thought he would be. He seemed to believe that the reduction in the numbers of practicing Roman Catholics is not necessarily a bad thing; that a smaller group of more devout followers is preferable to a larger one who do not follow the Church dogma.
Consider me one of the large group of Catholics who do not follow all the Church dogma.
Pope Benedict XVI
(photo from the Associated Press)
I rarely endorse television documentaries, but there is a recent HBO documentary that goes deep inside the Catholic Church and the handling of the priest abuse scandals. If you have HBO and a DVR, I would definitely recommend that you look at "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God." (You can see a review here) The documentary deals with the sex abuse scandals, especially with the evil priest Father Lawrence Murphy of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. He sexually abused some of the most vulnerable...children attending a school for the deaf. Over two hundred separate cases.
In 2001, then Cardinal Ratzinger (who became Pope Benedict XVI) directed that every sex abuse case be brought to him. Therefore he knew more than anyone else about sexual abuse of minors by priests.
We will likely never know what went on behind Vatican's closed doors. But we do know that justice was not done. That abusing priests were shielded. And that is such a shame for men who profess to be God's chosen.
So what will happen now? The College of Cardinals will elect a new Pope and life in the Catholic Church will proceed. As for Pope Benedict XVI? I, for one will be glad to bid farewell.