Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he will abdicate his position on February 28.
During his papacy, Pope Benedict came under scrutiny for the Vatican’s handling of sexual abuse by priests in the United States and throughout Europe. In 2011, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Survivor Network of Those Abused By Priests (SNAP) filed a case against the pontiff in the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity in cover up by Vatican leadership in cases of sexual abuses of children by priests. David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP, told the Guardian “[Pope Benedict] has read thousands of pages of reports of the abuse cases from across the world. He knows more about clergy sex crimes and cover-ups than anyone else in the church yet he has done precious little to protect children.”
The pontiff also promoted an explicitly anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-reproductive health agenda during his eight years as Pope. For example, he expressed conflicting views on the use of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. In 2010, Pope Benedict suggested that the use of condoms might be acceptable in certain circumstances, such as in disease prevention. However, in 2009, the pontiff argued that condoms “increase the problem” of HIV/AIDS. Reportedly, he said, “you can’t overcome this problem of AIDS with just money. It helps, but if there is no soul, the money cannot help. You cannot overcome it just by distributing condoms. You will increase it.”
In addition to ideological controversy, the Vatican came under financial scrutiny in 2012 when the Pope’s personal butler released private documents of the pontiff in an attempt to expose the corruption of the church.
The Pope cited his advanced age as his reason for leaving the Vatican. He was elected to the position in 2005 follow the death of Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict will be the first Pope to resign since 1415 and the first to leave voluntarily since 1294.