Benny Hex, nee Joseph Ratzinger, was a ground-breaker. He was the first pope to resign since 1415, he was the only pope to retire within the Vatican walls, he was certainly the only pope to be a member of the Hitler Youth, and I think he was the only pope to speak modern German as a native language.

SIDEBAR: Benedict may be the only pope to retire, defined as “resigning because of old age.” You can see the full list of Papal renunciations here, and I couldn’t find another who met that criterion.

The most interesting one on the list is Benedict IX, who was the Grover Cleveland of popes, in that he served three non-consecutive terms as pope, starting when he was no older than 19 or 20. (Bertrand Russell suggested in The History of Western Philosophy that Benedict IX may have been as young as 11 or 12 when he became pope.) He’s the only man (or maybe I should say “the only male,” since he may have been a boy rather than a man) to hold the papacy more than once. He made the “renunciation” list because he resigned from his second term, basically having sold the papacy to a relative.

What a guy!

The other two times they basically ran him out of town. One of his successors, Pope Victor III, referred to Benedict’s “rapes, murders and other unspeakable acts of violence and sodomy. His life as a pope was so vile, so foul, so execrable, that I shudder to think of it.”

(Modern historians caution against accepting all the accusations against Benedict IX as factual since they were advanced by his enemies and rivals, who were numerous and bitter.)