Amy Davidson wonders how the outgoing Pope will influence the selection of his successor:
According to the Vatican’s press briefing this morning, [Benedict] will not take part in the formal selection; he will retreat to Castel Gandolfo, and, once there is a successor, to a cloister within the Vatican to live out his days. Can he have a favorite? (One of the complaints about him has been that he tends to.) And what would it mean for the cardinals to openly argue about what they want in their next Pope—a Benedict or an anti-Benedict—while he is alive? This is a Pope whose doctrinaire conservatism has had an ossifying effect; this is a moment when we will see what other voices there might be left in the Church.
Any hint of papal meddling in the selection of a successor will be viewed with deep suspicion. You might analogize the situation when you consider the way presidents, no matter what their party, are keen to protect executive privilege in their dealings with Congress. Some things transcend the normal alignments of ideological attitude and familial bonds, and the right of the College of Cardinals to select a new pope is one of those things.
Bainbridge, meanwhile, calls Benedict’s resignation maybe “the bravest thing he’s done in office”:
The Catholic Church faces crises that require action: The Vatican Bank scandal, the ongoing fallout from the pedophile priest scandal, declining numbers of priests, and the secularization of Europe. The Church could not afford another lengthy period of inaction and indecision while waiting for a dying Pope to pass away. It needed a younger man. Now.
(Photo: This combo made with twelve file picture on February 11, 2013 shows Cardinals likely to succeed to Pope Benedict XVI who announced today he will step down at the end of this month after an eight-year pontificate. Top row from left : Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodrigues Maradiaga, Argentine Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Brazilian Joao Braz de Aviz, Philippines’ Luis Antonio Tagle, and Nigerian Peter Turkson. Bottom row from left: Austrian Cristoph Schonborn, Hungarian Peter Erdoe, Italian Angelo Scola, Canadian Marc Ouellet, Nigerian Francis Arinze, Nigerian John Onaiyekan, and USA’s Timothy Dolan. By Desk/AFP/Getty Images)