Why did the Pope resign? Recently I had the opportunity to talk on-air with progressive talk show host Arnie Arnesen of WNHN , and after the show we began discussing the resignation of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. The resignation was sudden  and almost unprecedented (the last voluntary resignation was in high medieval times).
There has since been lots of speculation about the cause (example here ; another sample here ). Benedict’s stated reason is his waning strength, but that hasn’t stopped the rumors. As Cardinal, Ratzinger was Pope John Paul II’s enforcement officer — he rode herd on the many sex scandals and their “containment.” Was he involved in crimes of concealment? Almost certainly, but there’s little direct public evidence. Is there new explosive documentation that could lay the dead cat of scandal at his personal door? Nothing has been revealed so far that’s worse than what we’ve seen  (search for “Munich”), and Ratzinger has weathered those storms.
Still, why so sudden? Is there something about the timing?
Fr. Marcial Maciel and the Rhode Island courts
At that point in our discussion Arnie pointed me to a couple of links I hadn’t seen involving a Rhode Island court case against the so-called “Legion of Christ ,” a Catholic group with very close ties both to John Paul II and Ratzinger, and its notorious (and sexually prolific) founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel. I bring up Arnie Arnesen because she personally knows one of the principals in the lawsuit and has additional information. I’ll add her contribution below the news pieces.
So what’s the news regarding Maciel? This isn’t complicated, but it has a couple of pieces. Those are:
- Who is Marcial Maciel and why is he notorious?
- What are his ties to John Paul II and to Ratzinger (both before and after his election as Benedict XVI)?
- What is alleged in the lawsuit against Maciel?
- What’s going to happen on February 15? (Yep, a deadline, and just around the corner.)
I’ll deal with each piece in order so you can put them together easily. As I say, it’s not complicated, I promise.