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. Hmmmmmm

    If there was anything holy or divine about the Catholic Church there would be no pedophile priests buggering children in their houses of worship. The excuse I have heard is that other instltutions fare no better in percent of abusers, but that right there tell's you there is nothing special about them, nothing even remotely supernatural or righteous that protects they or their members.

    February 28, 2013 at 2:55 am |
    • Science


      The creation story has no suoernatural workings either, but the RCC been covering that up for centuries too.


      February 28, 2013 at 3:42 am |
    • Science

      oops supernatural

      February 28, 2013 at 3:45 am |
    • Lepanto

      Yawn, another ignorant comment. Ever heard of free will? Or do Catholics magically loose theirs? No, I'm not defending sick conducts and yes, Catholics, all 1.2 billion of us are ashamed of the dealings of very few. But your comment is simply infantile. The Catholic Church is God's creation, run by men. Men are not perfect, mistakes are made, some horrible ones, some not as bad.

      February 28, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • Science


      The creation story is the wrong thing to teach to children !

      February 28, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • Lepanto

      "Science" I advise you to read up on topics before you actually write about them. It makes you look ignorant, kind of those who read shades in Plato's cavern myth. Theology, for us Catholics, is not about memorizing things, unlike other creeds. Pope Benedict XVI for instance has a lot of fantastic literature on topics you seem to be blessedly ignorant about. The Genesis is a great book, if you know how to approach it, teaching, for instance, how men and women are equal, guess that was lost to a fine scholar such as yourself. Keep it up.

      February 28, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Science

      Lepanto you might want to tead this ! Adam and Eve does not work !!!!!

      Dover Trial Transcripts

      Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.



      February 28, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • science

      For Adam and Eve to work

      Adam had to poke himself hard with his own bone to create Eve !


      February 28, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • Jon

      Pink Floyd should do a remake of Brick in the Wall: Hey! Preacher! Leave those kids alone! All you are is just another Brick in the wall. (Replace B with P.)

      February 28, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Going In Circles

      *** teaching, for instance, how men and women are equal, guess that was lost to a fine scholar such as yourself.

      Equal ?
      Mary Magdalene was an Apostle.
      The church turned her into a ho and harlot,
      cant have that, can we.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Lepanto

      This is ridiculously boring, but here we go ...

      Lepanto you might want to tead this ! Adam and Eve does not work !!!!!
      Dover Trial Transcripts ..."

      1. I don't see the Catholic Church being involved in that phony trial. Furthermore, I attended a Catholic school and never was my religion in clash, and it still isn't, with knowledge and science.
      2. There's no hiding about the fact that the Catholic Church during its 2.000 years of existance (give or take 20-30 years), has made some mistakes, but the Catholic Church is a strong advocate of the separation of Church and the State. In one of Benedict XVIs earlier books he goes over it and it's extremely easy to see the wisdom of it. That doesn't mean Religion should be expelled from the public life, as some would-be-little-hitlers advocate, it does however mean that the Church should be independent of the state and conversely the state, and its citizens independent of the Church.
      3. If you are not even going to try to understand the difference between the Catholic Church and the hundreds of protestant churches out there, this is way out of your comprehending capabilities.
      4. Knowing that Adam and Eve are present in the Genesis doesn't really give critical understanding of the text. Read up, you will or will not come to accept what you learn, but at least you'll be free of ignorance, at least related to Catholic beliefs.
      5. The Catholic Church welcomes all, keeps none who would rather not be part of It. We don't scheme or plot, we pray and try to live in accordance to our beliefs. Some, very few, are rotten, evil, people. Those we hope will pay for their crimes.

      Going In Circles

      You have no idea what you are talking about, sad, so you go around trying to be insulting, pitiful.

      Yes, the Catholic Church does view women and men as equal in their dignity, rights and love of God. What's your point then? Oh, I could mention other religions where neither historically neither today hold 50% of the world's population in one such standing. Should Jesus have been, I don't know, male some days, female others? Are you going to get into an awesome time-machine and demand from Him he name six women Apostles so as to satisfy some phony idea of yours?

      "The church turned her into a ho and harlot"

      I happen to have recently read an interesting book on the life of St Peter, focusing specially on the years after Jesus's Ascension/"disappearance" (take what you will). Interestingly enough, nor in that book, nor in any other books I have read about the period, is it mentioned the fact that in the say 10-20 years following that moment, did this "evil church cult of the dammed rubble rubble rubble" engage in anything except spread the Word. 10-20 years would've been how long Mary Magdalene would've lived past Jesus.

      Stop the hating people. If you don't love us, or Him, it's fine.

      February 28, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Hmmmmmmm

      The RCC has one thing going for it, and that is pomp. It has no truth, it is full of sick perverts and disgusting egotists. It does not have long to live for it shall be torn apart by logic and reason in the next half century. Good riddence, you shall not see me cry as the w h o r e of Babylon is dragged away to her execution kicking and screaming.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
  2. Ferdinand

    Because you say so, Hubert? Sorry. Doesn't work that way. Keep your body from dying. Do THAT yourself, and I'll eat my words. Make your troubles go away, while you're at it. You're so powerful, Hubert. First you bring yourself into existence. Please tell me how you did that. 😉

    February 28, 2013 at 1:56 am |
    • Hubert

      My mother and father brought me in to existence, I can't do that by my self. And I am keeping my body from dying, it's really not that hard; just keep breathing and eat every so often. As far as my troubles go, I take care of them when they arise.

      No god, or God, is required for any of that.

      February 28, 2013 at 2:02 am |
    • Larry of Nazareth

      You know, with people like Ferdinand I find myself swearing that it is the work of a good satirist, but parts make me think that indeed there really are people that deluded and stupid.

      February 28, 2013 at 2:19 am |
    • End Religion

      Ferdinand, maybe from experience you can explain to us why religious people are so stupid?

      February 28, 2013 at 3:32 am |
  3. Ferdinand

    As I thought, folks. Y'all drinkin' too much haterade. Not a single fact-based refute of a single of my points. The "hate" you're talkin' about Dave, it's aaaaaaallll in these posts. Duh. Buddhism? Oh yea the PASSIONATE quelling of passion. No mention that everything ever made was the result of someone's passion. Its self-refuting. (oh no, I used facts instead of spouting recycled one-liners.) So you're all your own God. Change the color of a strand of your hair. Make yourself not die. I'll keep expecting more hate filled (fact-devoid) one-liners. Funny or sad any of you think you're being original. Y'all love being your own boss, yet you're the least in control of your own lives. yet you keep working the same thing expecting to achieve happiness that's impossible without God. Why is the Catholic Church the most attacked? Nobody attacks a non-value target. Love? this is tough love people. You're needlessly playing with fire, abandoning the one Who created you, and you expect a good afterlife? Riiiight. No God? Oh YOU"RE all in control. That's the bigger 'myth'.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:49 am |
    • Hubert

      Everything in my life has been done with out God. It's kind of hard to do something with someone who isn't there.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:52 am |
    • Hmmmmmm

      That was quite a hate-fest you did, Ferdy.

      Hypocrisy, thy name is Ferdinand

      February 28, 2013 at 2:14 am |
  4. Ma

    I am reading his book Jesus of Nazareth, it's amazing!! Great display of knowledge and insight.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:36 am |
  5. Poppa Smurf

    Was Benedict XVI the right man for the job?

    If the job description was to diddle little boys then the answer is a resounding "YES!!!"

    February 28, 2013 at 1:32 am |
  6. Maynard

    It is not wrong for a person to admit that they are no longer capable of performing the job they were hired, elected, selected, etc., to do. There IS great wrongdoing in what most of us do, which is to continue to function poorly in a capacity that we clearly should not be in at the moment for whatever the reason.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:31 am |

      I guess he wasn't able to get it up anymore so he couldn't fulfill his job description.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:33 am |
  7. Badda Bing

    " I bet his farts smell and he always stinks like old men"

    LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!! So true! Probably reeks of urine.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:30 am |
    • Badda Bing

      Aw, how cute! I have my own troll copycat!

      I prayed long and hard that Jesus would send me a total moron as a troll, and by gosh, prayer works!

      February 28, 2013 at 2:03 am |
  8. bo stinks

    Obviously not.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:28 am |
  9. Ferdinand

    Wow. Unless you're Catholic (like me), your opinion is like your comment: irrelevant and will be forgotten in less time than it took you to write your drivel. Before labeling the Catholic Church anything negative, SITE a "church" with NONE of those "troubles" you eagerly keep posting ad nauseum (emphasis, NAUSEUM). Thank you those of you who say God isn't real. Oh, it's because YOU say so. Got it. Who are you again? oh yea, nobody. Let's see what will happen when you've breathed your last and everything goes dark. What if you were wrong? Only a real idiot would make a bet with a negative eternal downside. Keep up your hatred. See where that gets you. Following the "crumbs" of Christianity yields: poor are fed, clothed, LOVED. What are the fruits of atheism: selfishness, dismissiveness, anxiety, insults. Enjoy your negativity now, you'll have eternity to enjoy it even more. Real Catholics: please opine. Your opinion counts.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:23 am |
    • Badda Bing

      Catholic Church = Largest Ped ophile rind in the world. PERIOD. I'm glad you are happy to be a member. When your child is molested don't cry. Or perhaps you are one of the ones doing the molesting -HIGHLY probable. No other church on earth has as bad of a track record as the Catholics. Do your research, buddy. YOU and YOUR organization are responsible for countless atrocities throughout history that put you in a category all your own.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:27 am |
    • fedupwithla

      I have a professor and he's Buddhist. Talk about a self-serving religion! I guess he has all the answers for the world, too, and you can;t change him. Love? Are you kidding? It doesn't work that way in Buddhism, it's all about the self and aspiration toward some sort of Nirvana. Helping others? My gosh, no way!

      February 28, 2013 at 1:32 am |
    • Dave Green

      Well Gee Ferdinand, with `LOVE` like that, how can you go wrong? I mean really, if that's your idea of love, I'd rather not see your idea of hate.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:33 am |
    • Ryan

      In terms of "mak[ing] a bet with a negative eternal downside," you've also hedged your bets by choosing Catholicism. If we took the perspective of an Orthodox Christian, Jew, Muslim, or what-have-you (I mean, even a Jehovah's Witness), you'd be set for eternal damnation. It's very tough to go around sanctimoniously decreeing that we know the absolute, objective Truth of things, and that all others have it wrong; while I agree with you that some of the atheist posters here might be overly confident, I think you'd also deal with a little more humility.

      The reason why I (and potentially many other non-believers) react with cynicism and hostility to stories like this is that they demonstrate how very different the actions of the church are from the claims it makes about itself: infallibility, benevolence, selflessness, and godliness. The series of scandals that have sadly, in part, defined Benedict XVI's papacy make it almost absurd to insist that the pope is God's chosen leader for humans on earth. I would agree with you in saying that the stated goals of the church are often very noble, but I challenge you to try to reconcile that with the church's actions. This is frankly not the time to be defensive about the church and blind to its many flaws; people in important positions in the church have hurt a great many people and the church itself with their hypocrisies and crimes. Catholicism teaches forgiveness through admission and genuine repentance, not obstinate denial. I'd encourage you to follow through on that.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:43 am |
    • Badda Bing

      I wonder why you are using my name. Can't you come up with one of your own?

      February 28, 2013 at 2:16 am |
    • sam stone

      What if you are wrong, Ferdie? What if there is a different god and, by worshiping the god of the bible, you are angering him/her/it? Why would a fool make a bet with an eternal downside?

      February 28, 2013 at 8:40 am |
  10. nine

    I think we should start reading more and that way we will know that the pope didnt hide anyone and every child molester is in trial and or in prison.
    He is a great pope, he is an intellectual and most of the people that read will tell you this.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:20 am |
  11. winchester74

    He wasn't as bad a leader as Bush – at least he didn't start any wars

    February 28, 2013 at 1:18 am |
    • bo stinks

      Obama spent more in Afghanistan in 4 years than Bush in 8 you low information Obama boot licker.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:30 am |
  12. HeyItsJesusIcommandYou

    I love the idea of religious freedom, Im glad we can believe whatever we want and if organized can reap tax exemption for my holy thoughts. The problem is beliefs get in the way of horrible criminal acts.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:13 am |
  13. Marcus

    Can we please get some real news. Some old idiot resigns and he is on the news every single day. He was not placed here by God or anyone else, just some old geezer. Give it a break.... I am going to foxnews soon.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:07 am |
    • Paul Roberts

      I think we should lynch him! I am also sick of him

      February 28, 2013 at 1:18 am |
  14. John M

    Who cares already!!! Give it a rest. Who cares what he did or who he is or if he is leaving. ENOUGH!!

    February 28, 2013 at 1:06 am |
  15. achepotle

    I think when he was a teenage concentration camp guard, nobody would have expected this.

    February 28, 2013 at 1:05 am |
  16. Mary Jean

    Would you recommend for me a home page that presents nonbiased, nonpartisan news reports? Thank you.

    February 28, 2013 at 12:55 am |
    • Marcus

      Agree!! So sick of seeing this CRAP

      February 28, 2013 at 1:08 am |
  17. Thomas

    Is there anyone dare to criticize any another middle eastern religion ? Freedom of Speech !?!?

    February 28, 2013 at 12:54 am |
  18. Be cool

    Why don't these "holy men" turn in all the pedophiles to the proper authorities so they can rot in prison?

    February 28, 2013 at 12:53 am |
  19. theMan

    If the Job was to hide child molesters and protect the pedophiles of the church... then YES! he was the right person.

    February 28, 2013 at 12:53 am |
  20. Gavin Ford

    Don't let the door hit your myth-believing ass on the way out now, you pathetic, pedophile enabling turd of a human being.

    February 28, 2013 at 12:48 am |
    • Be cool

      Well said! Haha!

      February 28, 2013 at 12:50 am |
    • Marcus

      Very well said. Waste of time, waste of money and waste of it all. I bet his farts smell and he always stinks like old men

      February 28, 2013 at 1:09 am |
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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.