One of the consistent meme's running around the web right now is how shocked everyone is that the pope has resigned (for example, this story from Reuters).
I'm actually a bit shocked–that anyone is shocked. Benedict spoke openly, both during the waning years of Pope John Paul II's papacy and after his own election, of the possibility of the pope resigning. After all, the pope is "only" a bishop, and bishops, according to canon law, are required to submit their resignations on their 75th birthdays. Benedict–elected at 78–always foresaw the possibility of his own resignation, especially since he was elected three years after the mandatory retirement age!
Benedict is doing his finest service to the church right now, demystifying the office of the papacy, reminding us all that it is an office, not a person, as Joshua McElwee has succintly pointed out in a brief story at NCR. He is not "abandoning the flock," as one Italian parliamentarian has put it. On the contrary, his resignation is an act of pastoral care and concern, both for the church as a whole and for himself.