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. sevenpifer

    Who cares? When was the last time any Catholic(At least in America) actually followed and obeyed the Pope's belief system?

    February 28, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  2. cleareye1


    February 28, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • Jesus Freak


      February 28, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  3. neverland

    American society is full of pedophiles. Recent news include Football coaches, swim team coaches, ministers of all sorts, boy scout leaders, female middle school teachers, female high school teachers, counselors, police chiefs, etc. Blaming the church seems awfully one sided. There’s something inherently wrong with Americans.

    Come visit me at Neverland Ranch.

    February 28, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Jesus Freak

      God made Americans that way so it must be good.

      February 28, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • truth is a blinding light

      Shouldnt priests and clergy be on a higher plane than commoners? Shouldnt the commoners have more trust in people of the church? Your statement is sickening. People of the church should have a higher standard since they are in a position of trust. Ass

      February 28, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Jesus Freak

      truth is a blinding light

      You are a complete idiot.

      February 28, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • llana

      American society proves their guilt if it can and puts these people in jail. And after that, change the rules of conduct to make people and kids especially, safer. What the Church does, is just the opposite – it;s trying to hide from the public the perpetrators and the facts of abuse themselves. Even when the evidence is overwhelming, it denies justice to the victims by saying "it's the Church business, we'll take care of it". We don't really know how and even wether they are being punishhed

      February 28, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  4. polnick

    The frightened Ayatollah has offered the resigned Pope a precious 14th century bible in exchange for the Pope Mobile, but the former Pontiff wants only cash.

    February 28, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  5. raul

    anyone that says that even in he darkest days he thought god was asleep is seriously flawed to hold a position like that. some faith he has. its almost antichristist .. if that even exsists. im not a bible thumper by all means . but i dont need a church and a building to tell me where god resides. and its clearly not with this man.

    February 28, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  6. .


    February 28, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  7. palintwit

    Yes, this pope is a child molester but no different than any teabagger living south of the mason-dixon line who molests his sister or cousin.

    February 28, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • deltaonesix

      Really? You go with that false accusation that the Pope is a molester. BS. It was the 4% of the priests who committed such acts, and not the Pope. The people who covered it up was the bishops of the local diocese that the priests falls under.

      February 28, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  8. ateismo

    Atheists are much better people than those pedo catholics.

    "Do you believe in God?" When she replied that she did, "he pulled the trigger,"
    This was Columbine on April 20, 1999. Atheists are just the most moral people on earth.

    February 28, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • Bob Maluga

      "Schnurr was down on her hands and knees bleeding, already hit by 34 shotgun pellets, when one of the killers approached her. She was saying, “Oh, my God, oh, my God, don’t let me die,” and he asked her if she believed in God. She said yes; he asked why. “Because I believe and my parents brought me up that way,” she said. He reloaded, but didn’t shoot again. She crawled away."

      Facts are hard.

      February 28, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  9. Lemonheads

    This entire "church" (I prefer organized crime ring) needs to be burned to the ground never to be built again.

    Burn Baby Burn Catholic Inferno! Burn Baby Burn............

    February 28, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
  10. Puckles


    Even if he wasn't a molester he supports the largest ped o phile ring in the world and this makes him just as bad.

    February 28, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  11. DarrellS

    Glad to see him go. Much too rigid about rules and regulations with the parishioners, and not rigid enough with rules for the papacy and priesthood. He was definitely eclipsed by John Paul II, who was at the very least, a very kind and fatherly pope.

    February 28, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  12. abmri60

    Yes he was the right man, but i believe ettore Gotti Tedechi and Tarcisio Bertone are the ' filth ' of the Vatican.

    February 28, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • Puckles

      The entire organization is FILTH.

      February 28, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  13. Jeff

    He wasn't a man, he was a molester.

    February 28, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • deltaonesix

      You claim he was a Molesters? Yeah making FALSE ACCUSATION without evidence. It was priest with perverted minds who molested children not Pope Benedict XVI. Before you accused someone of a crime, you should provide evidence.

      February 28, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • ..

      He helped cover it up. That's not an accusation, that's a FACT.

      February 28, 2013 at 3:38 pm |

    Was Benedict XVI the right man for the job?

    If diddling little boys was in the job description then the answer is a resounding "YES!!!"

    February 28, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
  15. 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.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    February 28, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • Reality

      Who is "Reality" ? Have you seen me ? Do you know who I am ? Do you know what I've done in my life ? Do you know if I ever actually did anything good ? Do you know if I even exist ? Of course not. But I expect you to believe me. Surely, you should have the faith to believe in what I say even though you have not seen me. You people should not believe in God because you have not seen him. But you should believe in me even though you have not seen me.

      Christians have a comprehensive moral system. It's written in the Bible. I am atheist and believe that I am better than Chris tians even though I cannot point to a comprehensive moral system. Other than a refusal to believe in God, I have to admit that I have not explained anything else that I believe. I am speechless as far as telling you the other things that I believe in. Nevertheless you should believe that I am a better person than chris tians.

      Trust me. Have faith in me. Believe what I say.

      February 28, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • DarrellS

      To systematically deny all religion and philosophy has become a religion/philosophy itself.

      As a Nichiren Buddhist (SGI-USA) I disagree with you complete disregard for religion/philosophy. My practice of Buddhism has been a labor of self-change for the better. I've quit smoking, quit drinking, quit drugs, and am currently working to change my eating habits. My faith, as well as my practice of the precepts of Nichiren Buddhism, have transformed my life, and made me a much more compassionate person. And I actively use my strength as a human being to protect others, teach others, and stand up for what is right (the freedom of self expression, unfettered thought, and the pursuit of personal happiness, etc.)

      Is my interpretation of the philosophy I follow perfect? Not at all. And am I perfect? Not at all. But I would dare say I'd rather practice a philosophy and religion that promotes a hope-filled and happy life rather than toss the baby out with the bath water. Religion and philosophy are what you make of it. Search out a good mentor, and your religion or philosophy will probably work for the best. Giving yourself over to vain and arrogant religious leaders can indeed lead to a bunch of trouble, but overall, I do believe the belief in something greater than yourself (whatever it may be) is great for keeping the ego in check.

      February 28, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • Reality

      Moral systems have been around a lot longer than Judaism or Christianity:

      To wit:

      Many OT, NT and koran thu-mpers are actually thu-mping the rules and codes of the ancients like King Hammurabi and the Egyptians who wrote the Book of the Dead and who did NOT need revelations from angels or mountain voices to develop needed rules of conduct for us h-o-minids.

      "Hail to thee, great God, Lord of the Two Truths. I have come unto thee, my Lord, that thou mayest bring me to see thy beauty. I know thee, I know thy name, I know the names of the 42 Gods who are with thee in this broad hall of the Two Truths . . . Behold, I am come unto thee. I have brought thee truth; I have done away with sin for thee. I have not sinned against anyone. I have not mistreated people. I have not done evil instead of righteousness . . .
      I have not reviled the God.
      I have not laid violent hands on an orphan.
      I have not done what the God abominates . . .
      I have not killed; I have not turned anyone over to a killer.
      I have not caused anyone's suffering . . .
      I have not copulated (illicitly); I have not been unchaste.
      I have not increased nor diminished the measure, I have not diminished the palm; I have not encroached upon the fields.
      I have not added to the balance weights; I have not tempered with the plumb bob of the balance.
      I have not taken milk from a child's mouth; I have not driven small cattle from their herbage...
      I have not stopped (the flow of) water in its seasons; I have not built a dam against flowing water.
      I have not quenched a fire in its time . . .
      I have not kept cattle away from the God's property.
      I have not blocked the God at his processions."

      "The Book of the Dead was written circa 1800 BCE. 2 The Schofield Reference Bible estimates that the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt and the provision of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai occurred in 1491 BCE., some three centuries later. Many religious liberals, historians, and secularists have concluded that the Hebrew Scripture's Ten Commandments were based on this earlier docu-ment, rather than vice-versa."

      February 28, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
  16. HA!

    The evidence of God is written down in what is now called The Bible and accepting Jesus as the gift for the forgiveness of your wrong doings. BUT if that doesn't convince you – you're in luck! God has provided extra evidence as soon as you take your last breath or earth. He guarantees that one will not fail you.

    February 28, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • Check

      " God has provided extra evidence as soon as you take your last breath or earth."

      Where did you get that information?

      February 28, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Tommy

      The only possible explanation is that Ha is posting from beyond the grave

      February 28, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Reality

      Where was your god when all the following occurred:

      The Twenty (or so) Worst Things People Have Done to Each Other:
      M. White, http://necrometrics.com/warstatz.htm#u (required reading)

      The Muslim Conquest of India

      "The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

      Rank …..Death Toll ..Cause …..Centuries……..(Religions/Groups involved)*

      1. 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists/atheists vs. Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and "Shintoists")

      2. 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)

      3. 40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)

      4. 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)

      5. 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)

      6. 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)

      7. 20 million Joseph Stalin 20C (Communism)

      8. 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)

      9. 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C

      10. 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)

      11. 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)

      12. 15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians vs. Pagans)

      13. 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C

      14. 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C

      15. 10 million Xin Dynasty 1C

      16. 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)

      17. 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans vs. Christians)

      18. 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians)

      19. 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)

      20. 7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C

      February 28, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      Your god has a penis? Prove it.

      February 28, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • HA!

      You blame God for the evil of people. Is that evil why Jesus had to come.

      February 28, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • sam stone

      HA!: More unfounded comments. As to your "what happens when you die" bullspit, how do you know? Have you ever been dead?

      February 28, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • sam stone

      "You blame God for the evil of people. Is that evil why Jesus had to come."

      Evil could not exist without the approval of god.

      February 28, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • Reality

      Yes. Evil cannot exist without God. That's because God gives man free will.

      It's similar to democracy, freedom and free speech in the USA. As John Kerry recently sated: "The reason is, that's freedom, freedom of speech. In America you have a right to be stupid – if you want to be,"

      February 28, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • cleareye1


      February 28, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Apatheist

      @reality.... Ironic that he was referring to religious zealots when he made that statement.

      February 28, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Reality

      The third last comment was not from the original Reality.

      February 28, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
  17. JJ

    Guess the disgusting old fudge packer is going to live out his life surrounded by servants and piles of gold.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • Atheist2432

      .....and a steady supply of young boys.

      February 28, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
  18. InMyHappyPlace

    The Roman Catholic Church has another Peter Principal. It has to do with priests and boys.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  19. Pope Benedict

    I was the 261st best Pope of all time!

    February 28, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  20. Pope Benedict the Molester

    Q: How many potatoes does it take to kill an Irishman?

    A: Zero

    February 28, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
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About this blog

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.