With Pope Benedict suddenly announcing his resignation today, we've looked at his legacy and the process for choosing his replacement. Now—forgive us—we delve into the inevitable conspiracy theories that "explain" his resignation:
- His Nazi History. Benedict has acknowledged he was forced to serve in the Hitler Youth during a "dark time" in his childhood. Now the Atlantic Wire has dug up Twitter users like Melanie Karin, who writes, "Resigning for health reasons! Yeah. That's it. Not because of anything scandalous like ... having a Nazi youth past."
- Sex Scandal. Not only has a sex-abuse scandal rocked the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict is said to have personally approved an accused molester's transfer to therapy. One tweeter directed a curious Piers Morgan ("As a Catholic, I'm not buying this") to see an HBO documentary on the subject, Mea Maxima Culpa.
- The Prophecy. Of course, there's a prophecy. A bishop named Malachy may have proclaimed in 1140 that the 111th pope—the one after Benedict—will reign during the downfall of the church. But as the National Review explains, Malachy's predictions were likely invented for political reasons.
- Fatal Illness. "Italians are great conspiracy theorists, so they are all looking for other reasons why he may have quit," says a Telegraph reporter. "I think the most popular reason that people were coming up with was that they just think perhaps he is much more ill than we have been told."
- Weight of Scandal. Not exactly a conspiracy, this theory holds that church scandals (like "Vatileaks") have been hard on Benedict's health. "It is difficult to imagine the degree of intrigue that is present in Rome," a longtime friend tells Der Spiegel.
See how one of Benedict's policies led to a topless protest. (Read more Pope Benedict XVI stories.)