Word on the street is (and has been for a while) that a godawful scandal has been brewing within the Vatican -- not just about the sexual predation but about the administration of the church in general.
Benedict was unable or unwilling to take it on. He decided to get out rather than plead ignorance.
Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian:
The convulsions that started with the second Vatican council of the 1960s have still not played themselves out. On the other hand, the pope will still be a Catholic. There are not going to be female priests, and only what absolutely has to change will change. The ban on contraception will remain: the best – and the least – that can happen is that it is quietly ignored, even by the hierarchy, and no longer used as the shibboleth of orthodoxy in any priest who wants promotion. Some things can't change, and we shouldn't assume that the new leader will take up the agenda of the Guardian or the New York Times.
But it's clear from the pope's resignation that he knows things can't go on as they are. The speculation warmed up last summer as "Vatileaks shed light on a Vatican gripped by intrigue and power struggles like a Renaissance court" according to Silvia Poggioli reporting for NPR.
The scandal has focused attention on the intrigues in the Curia — or government — whose name comes from the Latin word for royal court.
"In the past if there were power struggles in Roman Curia, it was much more about doctrinal interpretations, about gossip — he has a girlfriend; the other is gay," says Vatican analyst Marco Politi. This time, he adds, the stakes are much higher.
"There is a well-organized group of dissidents who want to overthrow the secretary of state," Politi says. ...WBUR
The retiring pontiff has decided to reserve the report for his successor, but the three cardinals over 80 years old who drew it up will be allowed to inform the cardinal electors about some of its findings during next week's consultations.
"The cardinal electors cannot decide to choose this or that name to vote for if they don't know the contents of this dossier," Tauran told La Repubblica newspaper.
"If it's necessary, I don't see why they should not ask for names," said Tauran, a former Vatican foreign minister who now heads its department for interreligious dialogue. ...Reuters
And finally this up-close report revealing the ugliness we may yet see:
The most recent blow to the pope's authority was the "Vatileaks" scandal, which erupted in January 2012 when the Italian journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi, received a trove of secret documents directly from the pope's apartment -- documents that proved beyond any doubt the disarray inside the Curia. The revelations pointed to widespread corruption within the Curia, including bribes demanded to secure a papal audience. Benedict asked three trusted and experienced cardinals -- Julian Herranz, Jozef Tomko, and Salvatore De Giorgi -- to investigate the matter, and they produced a report that was given to the pope a few weeks before his resignation. The report is classified, but that hasn't stopped rumors about it from swirling around the world.
The rumors suggest that church leaders have been routinely participating in at least two or three of the deadly sins. The most outrageous accusation is that inside the Vatican there is a "gay lobby" strong enough to influence the church leadership. It is not clear whether this accusation is actually written in the report by the three cardinals; however sources inside the Curia confirm to me that something like a "gay lobby" exists, just as they confirm the struggle for economic power around IOR, the Vatican bank.
The pope apparently knew all about this corruption before the report came out but didn't think he had the strength to fight the battle. Therefore he decided to resign as a "great act of governance of the Church," as his spokesman Father Federico Lombardi put it. Benedict couldn't solve the problems himself, so he opted to shock the Vatican and push for the election of a successor that will have a better chance to redeem the Holy See.
...The struggle for power inside the Curia, however, might be the strongest obstacle to a real and effective reform. ...Foreign Policy