For the first time in 600 years, a pope has retired. In all seriousness, that is stunning news, something more truly historical than another snow storm in New York, even if it won't get as much coverage. A story of this magnitude deserves wild speculation. So, in the spirit of revelation that can't be contested, I'm offering a few, er, theories about why the pope is stepping down. If they don't get accepted as explanations, perhaps they could be fleshed out into screenplays.
The money angle.
1. The pope began selling pieces of priceless art, using the money to feed the poor. Appalled, the cardinals maneuvered to force him out before the Vatican came to look as dowdy as a Church of Christ building.
2. He's fallen in love and is, like King Edward in 1936, sacrificing his position for marriage.
Apostasy - a loss of faith is, of course, an even juicier angle than romance.
3. Benedict was previously head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This office had earlier been known as the Congregation of ... the Inquisition. As in The Spanish Inquisition. Seriously.
One rather fancies the notion that as protector of church secrets from before the time of the Inquisition, he probably had access to documentation that could undermine any number of church claims. Or proof of abuse to much beloved figures of history. Or even geniuses who had been completely shut down by the Church but who have since been proven by the advances of modern science - or perhaps even geniuses who are ahead of where we are today. That is to say, Benedict may well have discovered evidence that even Dan Brown would have dismissed as ludicrous. Let's assume, in any case, that he knows things. And as he nears the end of his life, his conscience is making him feel compelled to announce what he knows, a terrible revelation that could shatter the church. As church officials learned of this, they intervened, getting him to turn away from the church rather than turn on it.
4. He has scheduled an appointment to be cleared at a Scientology office, hoping to exorcise demons that have haunted him since his youth.
5. Caught up in the heat of a recent inter-faith conference, he agreed to be baptized by Mormon missionaries as a show of solidarity with Protestant churches.
6. Wantied to rename the New Testament as the "Not Really that New Testament" and add an "Actually Quite New Testament" that would include a number of more contemporary sermons the pope enjoyed as well as a number of Buddhist koans, bumper stickers and really interesting t-shirt sayings he'd seen worn by Vatican tourists.
7. He could think of no reason to ban women from the priesthood.