By itself, Benedict’s advanced age [of 85] probably would invite speculation about what comes next, even though there’s no indication of a health crisis. This is, after all, a pontiff who departs next week for a six-day trip to Mexico and Cuba.
Yet it’s not just a birthday that has people thinking about succession. There’s also a mounting perception that for all of Benedict’s brilliance as a teacher, something isn’t working in the internal governance of the Vatican, and it’s not likely to be fixed on his watch. The tawdry “Vatileaks” scandal is the most recent symptom of a series of maladies — an inability to keep personal conflicts under control (the Boffo affair), to anticipate the foreseeable results of policy choices (the Holocaust-denying bishop debacle) and to tell even positive stories effectively (the pope’s role in the sex abuse crisis).