I would argue that this article by Andreas Widmer is the best present analysis of Pope Benedict’s decision to resign. See if you agree:
The Vatican moves very slowly — they measure time in centuries, not years. Thus the news from Pope Benedict of his impending resignation during the last stretch of his seventh year as pope struck the public like lightning.
“Shocking! Unbelievable!” was the sentiment that came to mind when I (and I presume you) first learned of Pope Benedict’s abdication.
This reaction is a natural initial response — but there’s a lot more to the story. Read more…