Yes, Pope Benedict XVI came into the Vatican with the reputation as God’s Rottweiler. Yes, he was an archconservative who seemed to care a lot more about liturgical orthodoxy than the plight of the church’s progressives. Yes, he never escaped the shadow of the superstar and sanctified pope who preceded him. And yes, he largely failed in his placeholder pontificate to establish an emotional connection with the billions of people he led as the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
But Benedict’s astonishing announcement Monday morning that he would be the first pope since Pope Gregory XII in 1417 to resign the papacy spoke directly to his less acknowledged, but perhaps more enduring and important legacy: transparency advocate.