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.

CNN Belief: The pope in retirement: What to expect

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. Pope Benedict the Molester

    Q: What do you call a gay dude in a dress?

    A: A Catholic Priest

    February 28, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  2. Pope Benedict the Molester

    I was easily the 261st best Pope of all time!

    February 28, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  3. Tea Party Patriot

    Join me, the undereducated and not-very-sucessful in donating to SarahPac.


    February 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  4. Just call me Lucifer

    Hey... he's kinda cute. I'm gonna make him my girlfriend.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  5. Bootyfunk

    Pope Vows to Get Church Pedophilia Down to Acceptable Levels

    February 28, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      VATICAN CITY—Calling the behavior shameful, sinful, and much more frequent than the Vatican was comfortable with, Pope Benedict XVI vowed this week to bring the widespread pedophilia within the Roman Catholic Church down to a more manageable level.

      Addressing thousands gathered at St. Peter's Square on Easter Sunday, the pontiff offered his "most humble apologies" to abuse victims, and pledged to reduce the total number of molestations by 60 percent over the next five years.

      "This is absolutely unacceptable," Pope Benedict said. "It seems a weakening of faith in God has prevented our priests from exercising moderation when s.exually abusing helpless minors."

      "And let me remind our clergy of the holy vows they all took when they entered the priesthood," he continued. "They should know that they're only allowed one small child every other month."

      The pope said he was deeply disappointed to learn that the number of children s.exually abused by priests was almost 10 times beyond the allowable limit clearly outlined in church doctrine. Admitting for the first time in public that the overindulgent touching of "tender, tender young flesh" had become a full-blown crisis, the Holy Father vowed to implement new reforms to bring the pedophilia rate back down to five children per 1,000 clergy.

      "The truth is there will always be a little bit of molestation—it's simply unavoidable," Vatican spokesperson Rev. Federico Lombardi said. "But the fact that young boys have gotten much more attractive over the past few decades is no excuse for the blatant defiance of church limits that have been in place for centuries."

      "The majority of priests don't want to molest kids at all," he added. "But for those who do, we must make sure they're doing it at a reasonable rate."

      Following the pope's speech, the Vatican released a statement outlining its plan to reduce pedophilia. Starting next year, specially trained cardinals will make unannounced visits to inspect and observe random churches in order to ensure they are not going beyond diocese-wide molestation caps. The inspector-cardinals will grade each parish based on long, private interviews with altar boys in darkened church basements, and careful observation of priests' s.exual activity.

      These senior officials will also have the authority to enforce harsh punishments for any clergy member violating his allotment of pedophilia.

      "If a priest goes even one child over the limit, there will be hell to pay," said Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops Giovanni Battista Re, explaining the Vatican's new "Three Strikes, You're Out" rule. "After the third offense, the offending priest will immediately be moved to another parish. This will give officials time to investigate the case, and will act as an effective deterrent since it usually takes months for priests to gain the trust of the new children."

      As a "goodwill measure," Cardinal Re said all churches will also be required to display a sign next to the altar showing the number of days since the last molestation.

      Criticism of the pope's new plan has already begun to emerge from within the Catholic Church itself. Rev. Walter Moore, a pastor at St. Peter's in Chicago, questioned the Vatican's methodology in calc.ulating the molestation rates, saying the church's inconsistent definition of pedophilia may have skewed the numbers.

      "Is it technically pedophilia if the child's clothes are fully on the entire time? What if he's asleep when it happens?" Moore said. "It's time we had some clear guidance from Rome on this issue. For instance, the church counts it as one incident regardless of whether the child is molested multiple times by the same individual or by two priests at once. That's just plain wrong."

      "Plus, if it's supposed to be a special secret between the priest and the boy, is it even any of the church's business in the first place?" he added. "Maybe Brandon is just trying to get attention."

      The Vatican would not release details of the pope's upcoming world tour, in which he plans to clear up any confusion on the matter by personally demonstrating what const.itutes molestation.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  6. Sunshine Galati

    I was only joking in my previous post, religious people are idiots, especially Catholics; they're grown adults who still believe in fairy tales.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
  7. HeavenSent

    Notice how Catholicism is only growing in undereducated, developing nations, while in educated developing counties, religion is dying?

    February 28, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Zingo

      Notice how the more religious a country or region is, the more backwards and violent it is?

      I'm sure it's just a coincidence!

      February 28, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
  8. JJ

    Everyone should watch this program from PBS if you want to see just how evil this pedophile infested cult is. Disgusting.


    February 28, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  9. HeavenSent

    Pope Benedict is as gay as Lindsay Graham (R-SC), both is these people are flaming, though not quite to the level of Marcus Bachmann.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  10. ed

    Was he the right man? NO!

    February 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  11. Sunshine Galati

    El Papa Benedict XV1 was the right man for the right job at the right time. Our only problem where his Papal timing was concerned is that as a church we all underestimated the deviance and satanic behavior of some of in our church; those who should have served as the pillars of the church and in assisting our Pope in the strengthening of our church were busy as usual being deviants who should be caste out of our church, because they are 100% and completely undeserving of a seat at the table. Their satanic actions served to undermine a decent man in Pope Benedict XV1. I will pray for him daily as he will be praying for us. May God continue to bless this humble, caring man.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  12. Doc Vestibule

    This man was the head of the Doctrine for The Order of The Faith throughout the worst of the molestation scandals.
    In 2001, he reaffirmed he stance taken by the church in 1962 that stated that anybody involved in the investigation of cases of se/xual misconduct against clergy, including the accuser and potential witnesses, are sworn to secrecy regarding any and all details, upon penalty of excommunication (a fate worse than death for the devout).
    This preoccupation with secrecy significantly slowed the investigative process – the backlog of referrals to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for action against se.xually abusive priests is so large that it takes 18 months to get a reply.

    While Benedict's predecessor spent decades trying to build bridges with other faiths, this Pope burned those bridges quickly and througly. In 2006, he angered the muslim world when he stated that Muhhamad brought the world only "evil and inhuman" things.

    JPII was the first Pope in hundreds of years to visit a Jewish house of worship, starting the road to reconcilliation with the Israelites in 1986.
    In 2008, Benedict angers the Jewish community by lifting the excommunication of a holocaust denying priest.

    Perhaps not the best man for the job....

    February 28, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Jesus: a Barbie doll for the mind

      Not only was Ratzi the head of the responsible office (The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, then the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, actually) since 1981, yes the worst years, the office was the renamed Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition. Yes, Ratzi was head of the Inquisition, which in its way is still going on.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Nobody expect the Ratzi inquisition!
      Their chief weapon is surprise.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "Take 2: Their chief weapon is surprise and.."

      February 28, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  13. believer

    "Was Benedict XVI the right man for the job?" if you have this question, I question your faith and beliefs!

    February 28, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Darth Benedict was elected by fellow clergy who asked if he was the right man for the job. Pretty sure they know more about it than you.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  14. Tea Party Patriot

    I am retired and living on a small pension, but this month I was still able to send $100 to SarahPAC, which as you know is Sarah Palin's political action committee. I urge you all to do the same. And after all, who knows better how to spend my $100 than Ms. Palin.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Eric G


      February 28, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • asdrel

      And your comment/plea for money has what to do with an article about the pope??? Some people will go to amazing lengths to intrude upon a blog to post something totally irrelevant to the subject.

      February 28, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
  15. Topher


    "It's going to get much roomier as time goes by ... "

    No doubt.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • Kenneth

      Yep. As secularism continues to grow at its pace, religion will eventually fall into the ashheap of history. There will always be a few hold-outs, because insanity can't be cured.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Topher

      You're probably right about secularism growing. It seems to be the case right now. It's totally what we would expect to see from the Christian worldview.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Ohhh ohhh we're about to get the "anyday now" vieled threat!
      Christianity, 2000 years of "wait for it".

      February 28, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Righteo

      And does that Christian worldview also expect the decrease in violence and increase in prosperity and general health that has accompanied secularism? I wouldn't think so with all the claims of atrocities committed since "they took god oout of school"

      February 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Topher


      Decrease in violence? Dude, have you watched the news? There's so much violence, gun control has become a major issue.

      And prosperity? You realize we're still reeling from the Great Recession, right?

      February 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Topher

      And general health ... I'll go with that one, but you do realize that most hospitals are affiliated with Christian groups, most notably Catholic ones. I'm not a Catholic supporter, but even I have to recognize this.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Dude, have you watched the news?"

      Dude, what makes you think that we are more violent now than we have been before? Because we ahve more access to information immediately?

      In terms of the Great Recession, economies are cyclical, Dude

      February 28, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • Timmy

      Topher, if you don't think that on average people are better off today than they were 200 years ago then you need to open your eyes.

      February 28, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Gopher, do you have any stats about the crime rates? I doubt you've even checked. You get all your exercise from jumping to conclusions. As a matter of fact, crime rates have been steadily dropping since R v W was decided.

      February 28, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      February 28, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  16. HA!

    Christ is the only head of the church! There is no one else who we should pay reverence to. The Pope (there shouldnt even be one) is just a human being like everyone else and has no divine authority! Read your Bibles people.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Correctlycenter


      February 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Topher


      February 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Jesus: a Barbie doll for the mind

      Since it's all your imagination and everyone has a different Jesus and Christianity, you can make your Barbie Jesus and your Barbieland Christianity whatever you want!

      It's fun to use your imagination.


      February 28, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Topher

      Barbie Doll

      Keep telling yourself that.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Mirror Mirror

      Look in the mirror as you say that, Topher.

      No evidence for anything you believe.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Topher

      Mirror Mirror

      There's TONS of evidence, actually. And you'd know that if you cared to look into it. Find that evidence lacking if you want, but don't fool yourself into saying there isn't any.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Topher, Please post the evidence of a god, any god.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Keep telling yourself that."

      Back atcha, Gopher

      February 28, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Maybe Gopher doesn't understand what "evidence" means.

      February 28, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • sam stone

      "There's TONS of evidence, actually. And you'd know that if you cared to look into it. Find that evidence lacking if you want, but don't fool yourself into saying there isn't any."

      Gopher keeps on saying there's TONS of evidence, but does not provide anything other than "I believe it, so it must be so"

      There's TONS of evidence for the Flying Spaghetti Monster. you may find it lacking, but don't say that there is no evidence

      February 28, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
  17. L Revere

    I'm a loyal Catholic, but I have eyes to see and ears to hear. Ratzinger (this Pope) and John Paul were longtime good ole boy conspirators–Ratzinger was behind the scenes pulling strings while Paul II toured the world as a rock star wannabe (so embarrassing). JP had a deal with Ratzinger to help him be identified as a Saint after JP's death, and it almost worked–JP is to the "blessed" stage now. In turn, Ratzinger was supposed to be guaranteed to succeed his buddy–and he did. He enjoyed the office until the tougher hard-work times came along...and now he has his cake and is eating it too, all retired. Been there done that, A sweet deal, but no he was never the man for the job. No wonder the Church has not been living up to its standards since Rat and JP got in there.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      How can you be a loyal Catholic if you acknowledge the fact that there is nothing divine at work in choosing the Church leader and they have in fact chosen many terrible evil men as Pope through the years. If God doesn't even have control over who get's to run his organization, can you really call it "his"?

      February 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  18. chiangshih

    Why the Pope Really Resigned


    February 28, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  19. ThomasamohT

    Is there a right man for the job of false prophet? Certainly it isn't a man who was in Hitlers youth and has a long history of covering up child abuse.

    February 28, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  20. Ron

    NO He bullied his way to being elected. This man has done nothing but hurt the church... He does not belong in a private apartment.... he belongs in prison!

    February 28, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      All religious zealots are in mental prisons of their own making. The sad thing is they have the key in their hands but don't know how to fit it into their tiny brain locks.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.