February 27th, 2013
08:41 PM ET

Was Benedict XVI the right man for the job?

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

Rome (CNN) - Thirty-five years before a German intellectual named Joseph Ratzinger ascended the throne of St. Peter and took the name Benedict XVI, a very different intellectual named Laurence Peter coined a rule which he named after himself: the Peter Principle.

Put simply, the Peter Principle says that people who are good at their jobs get promoted, and if they're good at their new jobs, they keep getting promoted - until they get to a job they're not good at, where they stay.

As the troubled papacy of Benedict XVI limps to a close, it appears very possible that the rule describes Ratzinger's eight years at the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Call it the Throne of Peter Principle.

"He was just the wrong man for the wrong time, which is nothing to do with him as a person," said Christopher M. Bellitto, author of the book "101 Questions and Answers on Popes and the Papacy."

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"He was not a manager. He was a lousy administrator," said Bellitto, chair of the history department at Kean University in Union, New Jersey. "Sometimes someone is a great mayor and a lousy governor and I think that's probably what happened with Benedict."

The Vatican was battered by one highly public crisis after another while Benedict was pope.

The sexual abuse scandal that first flared in the United States when John Paul II was pope caught flame under Benedict, burning across the country and into Europe.

Just this month, two top American cardinals, Roger Mahony of Los Angeles and Timothy Dolan of New York, were called on to give legal testimony over lawsuits related to abuse of children, and the leader of Scotland's Catholic Church, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, resigned after allegations he had acted improperly toward four men studying for the priesthood decades ago.

The sexual abuse crisis wasn't the only problem Benedict faced.

His own butler leaked private papers from his apartment and gave them to a journalist. The Vatican Bank has tried - and failed - to achieve international standards to prevent money laundering.

Pope Benedict welcomed back into the fold Richard Williamson, an excommunicated bishop who, it turned out, doubted the scale of the Holocaust. The Vatican was forced to admit it hadn't known of the bishop's views on Auschwitz before the lifting of the ban - although an interview where Williamson outlined them was posted on YouTube.

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Just a year and a half after Benedict became pope, he infuriated many Muslims by quoting a medieval Byzantine emperor who said: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The Vatican was quick to say that it was the emperor's view that Islam was evil, not the pope's, but the gaffe is emblematic of the problem with Benedict, Bellitto said.

"This was a tone-deaf papacy. This has not been a savvy papacy," he said.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, author of "Inside the Vatican," said Benedict's greatest strength was that he was an intellectual and a teacher - but that was also his greatest weakness.

"The last two conclaves, what they did was they elected the smartest man in the room," he said: John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

"Both were intellectuals, both were scholars, academics," Reese said.

"Maybe it's time to not elect the smartest man in the room, but to elect someone smart who will listen to all the other smart people in the room, and not just in the room but in the church - someone who brings people together, who builds a team," Reese said.

But Benedict has his defenders.

Thomas Peters, a Catholic activist who blogs at AmericanPapist, said there are powerful forces at work when cardinals gather to elect a pontiff.

"We believe the Holy Spirit guides the choice of the pope," he said.

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And he argued that the idea of a Vatican in disarray under Benedict XVI was false.

"I think there's a meme out that the church is a dysfunctional bureaucracy," he said, then rejected it: "It does make the trains run out time."

Benedict has appointed able administrators who are making the Vatican machinery function more swiftly, Peters said, describing an "American renaissance of administrator cardinals and archbishops."

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, who has known Joseph Ratzinger for more than three decades, said the job of being pope is an enormous one.

"You must know circumstances that are moving at the speed of light. It is necessary to have a very clear mind, a good capacity to govern the church. There are about 5,000 bishops, half a million priests, 1.2 billion Catholics," he said.

Barragan participated in the conclave that elected Benedict, and the man was up to the job, said the cardinal.

"He has a clear mind, he is man of faith, a loving man," Barragan said. "Benedict was the right man. He was."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI

soundoff (727 Responses)
  1. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Ratzinger's biggest problem was he was more concerned with doctrinal adherence than he was with what was happening to the Church. His years running the Inquisition did not prepare him to fill the Shoes of the Fisherman, given the financial and legal scandals the Church was going through. He also appeared to be more interested in the trappings of the office than in actually trying to manage a world wide organization that the Roman Catholic Church is.

    August 21, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  2. Emmi

    The other one step down dut to age. He appears to be in better shape. So why not!

    July 11, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  3. Michael A Ruzicho

    I think he was a great Pope except he was to quiet.

    May 19, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
  4. Epidi

    Whomever followed Pope John Paul had awful big shoes to fill. Perhaps he just wasn't up for the task.

    March 13, 2013 at 6:39 am |
    • PA MichB

      I don't think the decision to make Benedict the Pope was deliberated on long enough – it was rushed (similar to the McCain decision to pick Palin) and later was a source of regret. Benedict reminded too many people of the past of German citizens and he had no business taking the oath. His views were outdated and he lacked the kind of leadership the Church needed. It still needs this and the current Pope was "elected" simply on his race and the hopes of keeping the Hispanics happy at least since they represent the most faithful in numbers.

      June 10, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  5. Jesus Christ Son of God

    This is a job? Raping alter boys and taking money and funneling it to pay for legal bills and decorate the vatican?

    March 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • KillerDillerMiller

      No that was Penn State er............Ped State

      March 8, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  6. US lass1

    What confuses me is, I believe his job before Pope was basically disciplinarian of the clergy. That is why he had the nickname, "God's rottweiler." If he was disciplinarian before Pope, and there IS a disciplinarian at the Vatican, why didn't Benedict XVI get rid of some of the alleged backstabbers and/or corrupt clergy in the Curia? Unless not all in the Curia are clergy. I think knowing that he was a long time and very trusted confidante of Pope John Paul II, knowing he had experience as disciplinarian of the clergy, and knowing he had a clear (as any human can) understanding, and knowledge of scripture is why he was picked to be Pope. Those factors do make one a quality Pope. I just don't understand why he did not discipline more clergy. Unless the Pope does not have unilateral power in that area. Or unless the media is not telling us how much Benedict XVI disciplined the clergy.

    March 7, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  7. Banjo Ferret

    What a silly question, of course Benedict was not the right man for the job. He wasn't a Ferretian! Tim the Destroyer of Worlds laughs at your question and demands you ask another! Ferretianism is the one true religion. Repent! (banjoferret d c)

    March 4, 2013 at 8:30 am |
  8. NERO!!!!


    March 2, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • Giovanni-Ma

      Speaking of SEDE VACANTE, I just searched eBay (US) and found that someone is auctioning off the complete set of Sede Vacante stamps complete with the commemorative envelopes.

      March 3, 2013 at 2:58 am |
  9. AvdBerg

    The Spiritual Truth


    Narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:14).

    March 1, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  10. 6666666666666

    To New Pope

    Ditch Adam and Eve the fake origin story !

    March 1, 2013 at 7:56 am |
    • chrissy hitchens

      The popes come from God you on the other hand are no more than a nasty cosmic accident.

      March 1, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • 6666666666666

      The ooze from that meteorite created the middle finger too.

      March 1, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • Aliens

      Nordic aliens.

      April 24, 2013 at 5:46 am |
  11. Science

    easypeasy or you sitting om your brain ?

    March 1, 2013 at 5:30 am |
  12. Reality

    Spreading the Good News other than we are "pope-free" for a few weeks:

    Putting the kibosh/”google” on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    March 1, 2013 at 12:11 am |
  13. Schmedley

    Not sure why the "Peter Principle" is relevant here because how would you get promoted above Pope? Super Pope?

    March 1, 2013 at 12:00 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      pope emeritus

      March 1, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • Akira

      But is that truly a promotion, Bill?

      March 3, 2013 at 1:57 am |
    • fnjesushchrist!!!!!!!!!

      I can hear it now. Emeritus PedoPope. The grand pedophile..... Of them all! Halleujah!

      March 12, 2013 at 3:05 am |
  14. God did not provide enough grace to sustain the pope in his job. What chance do the rest of us have?


    February 28, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Jesus Christ Son of God

      I know, I talked to my dad about this. He said the pope wasn't cutting it, and he offered the pope to either stop dressing in clown clothes, or step down.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
  15. Clutch Cargo

    Christians sure are angry.

    February 28, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Zorro.

      Jesus is the adult Santa Claus

      March 3, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
  16. Chuckled dum dum's son piped up

    dar – i still think xtians live out of fear of punishment, not out of grace and love they have received.

    i live out of fear, so i project those feelings on others.

    dar dar. tom tom dar dar . chuckle chuckle . dar

    February 28, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Struck a nerve, I see. Goodie.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Tom Tom

      I just find it funny. A person gets upset over a response and decides the best way to approach it is by reverting to 10 year old tactics.... because that's going to somehow convince me they should be taken MORE seriously.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The muttonhead can't even figure out how to reply.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      chuckled mockery of tom
      You of course do realize that this is a text based site, that your silly attempts to "sound" silly fall flat, since much that is written does not translate as it would if spoken. Sarcasm often doesn't work well unless very carefully worded as you cannot read the inflection in the sound and body language...right?
      If you cannot write in prose that has some measure of wit, best not to try at all....read some Shakespeare...he was a master of using the written word to express a wide variety of emotion and tone.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:16 pm |


    February 28, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Chuckles

      I think it's weird that you make things up and then randomly capitalize everything except random words.....

      February 28, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Johnny Guitar

      I think Dippy took one look at that mess and reached for the cognac.

      February 28, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • Dippy

      Actually it was tequila.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:51 pm |

    funny HOW COME CNN IS NOT REPORTING THAT ON FEB 25TH, Elizabeth Windsor, Queen of England, Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, and the head officers of the Catholic, Anglican and United Church of Canada. (A complete copy of the Verdict, the Court Order WE ALL FOUND GUILTY OF THE DEATH AND GENOCIDE OF OVER 50 000 CHILDREN IN CANADA? The Court went on to declare in its Order No. 022513-001,"The Defendants have seven days from the issuing of this ORDER, until March 4, 2103, to comply. After March 4, 2013, an International Arrest Warrant will be issued against these Defendants.The guilty verdict followed nearly a month of deliberations by more than thirty sworn Citizen Jurors of the 150 case exhibits produced by Court Prosecutors,The Court's judgement declares the wealth and property of the churches responsible for the Canadian genocide to be forfeited and placed under public ownership, as reparations for the families of the more than 50,000 children who died in the residential schools.To enforce its sentence, the Court has empowered citizens in Canada, the United States, England, Italy and a dozen other nations to act as its legal agents armed with warrants, and peacefully occupy and seize properties of the Roman Catholic, Anglican and United Church of Canada, which are the main agents in the deaths of these children

    February 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How come? Probably because it only happened in some dolt's imagination.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:04 pm |

      Churches are temples of hinduism, dungeons of illegality, men playing truth absolute GOD, and hindu ignorant s following them as their gentiles, slaves. Religions are nothing more than power grab by hindus, crooks by corruption of truth, human equality.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Because it happened in Canada...so no one cares.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
  19. easypeasy

    It’s easy to be atheist. I don’t have to believe anything. I don’t have to follow anything. I can claim to be better than chris tians because I have no sin. Having no sin is a consequence of having no beliefs. I don’t even have to prove that I’m a moral person. I don’t believe in God because I don’t see him. But I expect people to believe me even if they don’t see me, I use a false name, and have not shown any shred of goodness. It’s an easy life.

    February 28, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Jealous much? Sounds like you're upset that the only thing stopping you from going on a killing spree is that god will send you to satan if you're naughty....

      February 28, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • atheist

      i'm only 14, be patient with me.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Poor kid! You must really resent your lot in life.

      If the only reason a person is good is because of the threat of some eternal punishment, he/she isn't really good at all.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Chuckled


      February 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm |

      Ya, hinduism bragging of a hindu atheist, filthy self centered, not way of human, but of hindu filthy animals, such as a pig, otherwise known as a secular.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Chuckles

      And what exactly is a 14 year old doing on the cnn belief blog at (the latest) 4:00pm on a Thursday? Something tells me you aren't 14.... just a guess.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Sherlock Holmes

      there was a blizzard outside, what would you do at 4pm?

      February 28, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Wow, ignorance at its best. I believe in a great many things. I believe this is the only life we are guaranteed of because it is the only one there is evidence to support. I believe that morals are based on societal norms and that regardless of belief/disbelief you get your good and bad. I believe that anyone who does no harm to their fellow man deserves the same basic equal rights as I do. I believe that what a person does with their body is their business. The list goes on and on and on. There are also things I accept in this world...the big bang due to the vast amounts of evidence that supports it; evolution due to the same reasons and oh so many other things.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If there's a blizzard outside, SH!t-fer-brains, maybe it's yer sky-fairy telling you to quit lying.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Chuckles


      Hmmm .... lets see, having been in a fair amount of blizzards myself I did everything from going outside and having snowball fights, snow shoeing. I had to shovel the driveway and sidewalk outside a lot. There's also the whole, watching TV, reading, playing video games, etc... thing and moreover surfing the internet is also up there, but at age 14 I wasn't trolling random internet forums on belief blogs. If there was an internet connection, it was all po.rn for me.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Sherlock Holmes

      @Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Struck a nerve I see... so easy.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Easier than it is for you to figure out the Reply button, apparently, dingus.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Akira

      Is this reverse psychology kind of post supposed to give anyone a "aHA!" moment? Because if that is what is intended, it certainly falls short.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • Saraswati


      I’m inclined to think this comment is a joke, but sucker that I am I’ll answer it anyway.

      “It’s easy to be atheist. I don’t have to believe anything.”

      Atheists don’t disbelieve (or not believe) in all things. They only, as a group, share one thing in common and that is that they do not believe (or disbelieve) in gods. They may very well have all sorts of other beliefs about the universe, natural or supernatural. Most tend away from supernatural, but even those believe a lot of things, both physically and morally, about the world they live in.

      “I don’t have to follow anything.”

      Since atheists have a wide variety of ethical views they will not follow a single set of laws but different rules pertaining to their different belief systems. Those who are Buddhists will follow one set of laws, secular humanists on, Utilitarians on, Unitarian Universalists one (with a lot of variation), etc. “Atheism” in itself says nothing at all about one’s ethical beliefs.

      “I can claim to be better than chris tians because I have no sin.”

      I’ve never heard this said and don’t think it makes any sense since “sin” is not a concept used by most atheists. They would hardly believe you have “sin” if they don’t think it means anything. Most would judge a person based on his or her actions, so a kind Christian would be a “better” person than a jerk of an atheist, and vice versa.

      “Having no sin is a consequence of having no beliefs. I don’t even have to prove that I’m a moral person.”

      Again, none of this makes any sense. And to live in society and even just have friends one must prove he or she is a “moral” person, this morality is just a morality that lacks gods, such as a belief that what is good is what brings about the most happiness or freedom or whatever your ethical system supports.

      “I don’t believe in God because I don’t see him.”

      It is much more complicated than that. Most atheists believe in atoms even though they don’t see them. It is a matter of the totality of evidence.

      “But I expect people to believe me even if they don’t see me, I use a false name, and have not shown any shred of goodness.”

      This isn’t a contrast to the previous sentence. You were talking first about believing IN god and then about believing (the arguments of?) the atheist. I’m not sure what you’re getting at there. IF you meant believe in, it gets back to the atom issue – a totality of evidence.

      As for false names, I take it your parents named you “easypeasy”.

      As for showing goodness, you do not know these people, what their goals are or what else they do in life.

      “It’s an easy life.”

      Most atheists would say the contrary. To live following the rules laid out in a book is the easy life. Research in fact indicates that the religious actually are more intellectually lazy.


      March 1, 2013 at 9:05 am |
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