Top Opinions About Pope Benedict’s Resignation

TIME Ideas rounds up the most thought-provoking pieces about the Pope’s abdication

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Pope Benedict XVI leads an evening vigil at Etzelsbach chapel on September 23, 2011 in Steinbach, Germany

Pope Benedict’s surprising abdication inspired some thoughtful commentary on his legacy and the papacy in general. Did we miss one? Share those that caught your attention in the comment section.

“The Pope’s Legacy” in America: The National Catholic Review

Who: Rev. James Martin, Jesuit priest and editor-at-large

The Idea: While John Paul II felt that staying in his position in the face of his declining health was a testament to the suffering of the human condition, Pope Benedict XVI determined that his advanced age was preventing him from doing his job properly in a time of “rapid changes.” Neither decision is wrong, but just a different interpretation of God’s plan. Father Martin goes on to say that while Pope Benedict will likely be remembered for his “newsworthy” acts — most notably his efforts to strengthen the orthodoxy of the church — his books on Jesus will provide his “lasting legacy.”

Sum-it-up Quote: “Far more people will most likely read those moving testaments to the person who is at the center of his life—Jesus of Nazareth—than may read all of his encyclicals combined.”

(MORE: Benedict XVI Retires: How They Will Pick a New Pope)

“Church in Crisis: Pope Benedict Polarized More Than Unified” on Spiegel Online International

Who: Peter Wensierski, German journalist

The Idea: Germany rejoiced when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was chosen as the Pope in 2005. Now, eight years later, Wensierski argues that the country’s Catholics are glad to see him go. Wensierski points to a recent study that found that even the most loyal Catholics in Germany don’t trust their own bishops. He also claims that the church in Germany has been divided between those who want reform and fundamentalists who “wanted to turn the clock back to before the Second Vatican Council.” Pope Benedict, Wensierski says, wasn’t able to bridge the gap, but he hopes the next pop will “begin resolving the deep crisis facing German Catholics.”

Sum-it-up Quote: “With all due respect to the first pope to voluntarily step down in hundreds of years: In the eight years he held office, the pope did more to polarize than to unify Catholics in his country of birth.”

“Why the Pope Will Be Remembered for Generations” on CNN

Who: Timothy Stanley, Oxford University historian and author

The Idea: To many, Pope Benedict XVI seems conservative. But Stanley points out that in the Catholic Church, “there is no right or left but only orthodoxy and error.” Benedict, he says, was a crusader for Catholic orthodoxy in a time when the world itself is struggling to strike a balance between tradition and modernism. In many ways, Benedict is the most modern Pope of generations (case in point: he’s on Twitter). But while many Catholics decry his efforts to “turn back the clock” on some aspects of the religion, in fact Benedict was trying to protect the traditions he felt had become “undervalued”.

Sum-it-up Quote: “The divisions and controversies that occurred under Benedict’s leadership had little to do with him personally and a lot more to do with the Catholic Church’s difficult relationship with the modern world.”

(MORE: The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI: Is It Health? Or Politics? Or Both?)

“The Pope Could Still Right the Wrongs” in the New York Times

Who: Jason Berry, author of Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church
The Idea: When it came to the Catholic Church’s abuse scandals, Pope Benedict XVI made several apologies and met with some victims, but he didn’t make the necessary moves to prevent more abuses from occurring, says Berry. To truly “right some of the wrongs of the recent past,” Berry says the Pope should force out Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, and other leaders who perpetuated the abuse.

Sum-it-up Quote: “Benedict did not do enough as pope to right the church’s ship; he recoiled from using the powers of the pope as, literally, a one-man Supreme Court to force out these who engineered this train of disasters. But he still has time for one last act…force out Cardinal Sodano.”

“He Didn’t Finish What He Started” on Slate

Who: Michael Brendan Dougherty, national correspondent for the American Conservative
The Idea: All of Pope Benedict’s initiatives remain unfinished on the eve of his resignation, says Dougherty, because of the “wrecked church he inherited and his limited powers within it.” To his disservice, Benedict believed in the concept of “collegiality,” which “assumes that other cardinals and bishops have authority and even some autonomy from the Pope.”

Sum-it-up Quote: “[Benedict] was elected to right the ship after a time when it was led by a man nearly incapacitated by illness. Perhaps Benedict feared leaving the church rudderless again. But he leaves his work incomplete.”

PHOTOS: The Path of Pope Benedict XVI