An Imminent Scandal? Or Fear of Assassination?
Now getting back to possible reasons for his sudden resignation other than merely his advanced age and ill health: even certain Vatican insiders feel there was something “mysterious” about the announcement, and that it was “lacking some information”. And after all, as pointed out by influential Roman Catholic journalist Robert Moynihan, at least one other option was open to Benedict: “For example, one wonders whether the Pope, realizing that he is getting older, and more tired, might not have decided to announce that he would cancel all meetings, move to a convent in the Vatican (as he is doing), devote himself to prayer, and appear in public only rarely. In this way, he would have remained Pope, but carried out the work of the office in a very different, and physically less demanding way. Would that not have been possible? Does every Pope have to be as physically active as was John Paul II at the beginning of his pontificate?” 
It is clear then that there are good reasons for doubting the “solely due to advanced age and ill health” reasons that Benedict gave. There really does seem to be something more behind it.
One possibility some have put forward is that a scandal was about to break over Benedict’s own head, one so great that he felt the best course of action was to resign first. However, whether in office or not, such a scandal would break anyway, and being out of office would not alter the fact that whatever it was, it occurred while he was in office. So this possibility remains very unlikely.
Another possibility is a fear of assassination. Many Roman popes have been murdered while in office, the last one being John Paul I, who reigned for just over a month in 1978 and was then killed. There is the very real possibility that Benedict’s reign had become life-threatening to him in a way that had nothing to do with his age and health, and he knew it. There are always those within high places in the Vatican who have their own agendas, and if these do not tally with the incumbent pope’s agenda, he is removed by what Vatican historian Avro Manhattan used to call an “accelerated demise.” Chief among these conspirators have always been the Jesuits, the real power behind the Papal throne. If, for example, Benedict’s conservatism with regard to Roman Catholic doctrine had become a liability to powerful liberals within Vatican circles, or if his liberalism with regard to economic and political matters had become a liability to powerful conservatives within the same circles, he could very easily be removed.
Certainly the Vatican at this time is torn asunder by power struggles behind the scenes. Ex-Roman Catholic priest Richard Bennett has written, correctly: “Serious major problems have been stirring up intense turmoil within the Vatican. Many ask the question: how will Benedict XVI be able to survive? It may be that he is fearful for his life in a number of ways. Regarding corruption in financial matters [which is dogging the Papacy at the moment – S.W.], it is undoubtedly on his mind that Pope John Paul I was only one month in office when he died while addressing Vatican bank corruption charges at the time…. Ratzinger was a key figure in the Vatican at the time and certainly knows the facts. He would also know of strange deaths of other popes.” Yes indeed, the fear of being murdered could well be behind Benedict’s decision to resign. Powerful and very ambitious forces are at work in the Vatican, jostling for positions (including the supreme one), and they would stop at nothing, not even murder, to get their way. An 85-year-old Benedict would be no match for them.
It must also be borne in mind that powers well beyond the walls of the Vatican are always intensely interested in who reigns as pope of Rome, knowing well his immense power over so many hundreds of millions of people. Both the CIA and the KGB, for example, back in 1978 when John Paul II was elected, were working behind the scenes to ensure that “their” pope was chosen.
It is by no means a stretch, therefore, that Benedict, viewing the sinister plots and schemes that are always swirling like a polluted fog within the walls of the Vatican, decided to step down voluntarily before he was “assisted” to do so. And in the election of the next one, we can be absolutely certain that there will be intense and sinister behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing by the intelligence agencies of various governments, and in particular the world powers. We can be absolutely certain, in fact, that this began long ago already. It remains to be seen who will be anointed in the end, and which way he will lean with his considerable political weight so as to tip the scales in favour of this country or that, this ideology or the other. Time will tell, but the machinery has been set in motion. As I wrote at the time of Ratzinger’s election to the position: “There is nothing truly secretive about the process, and the Holy Spirit is certainly not guiding the cardinals as they like the world to imagine: even before John Paul II died, and increasing the moment he breathed his last, immense political games were afoot. The choice of a new Roman pope affects the destinies of entire countries, the balance of power between the superpowers, and thus the very course of the world. At the time of the election of John Paul II in 1978, two opposing blocs were at work behind the scenes, one pro-Soviet and the other pro-American. John Paul II was favoured by America, but two popes before him (John XXIII and Paul VI) had been favoured by the Soviet Union…. So there are great intrigues, all kinds of political power plays, wheeling and dealing on a vast scale, behind the scenes at the election of a pope.”
But then again, at 85 and unwell, why should such forces behind the scenes bother to murder him? He may not be long for this world anyway. So, while the fear of murder is a possible reason for resignation, it may seem a somewhat unlikely one in Benedict’s case. But then it depends, essentially, on whether or not those behind the scenes want to wait, even a short while.