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."

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

"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. allens

    he was not tone deaf, he was immoral. he knew the correct thing to do and protected the church instead. he should be jailed not just allowed to resign. it's o.k. he will have eternity in hell to think it over

    February 28, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • JosephW

      and who made you judge and jury?

      February 28, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • Duke

      Joseph – about 1B catholics agree so we all made him judge and jury.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • JosephW

      Duke, are you quoting 1b catholics? I don't think so.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  2. Hiruu

    I am not a catholic (by ANY stretch of the imagination), given the popularity of John Paul, you needed somewhat a letdown, and a break in expectation. I'm not saying Ratzinger was a bad man, he simply was never going to live up to the bar set by his predecessor...now the new pope will get a chance to form his own legacy...just saying..

    February 28, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Lepanto

      Benedict XVI has been in no ways a let down for us Catholics. An outstanding theologician he will be referred to by Catholics in the same breath as St. Augustine for centuries.

      February 28, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  3. german

    sorry I was never able to get past his Nazi youth past, even if it wasn't his fault, he was forced to join bla bla bla,
    fact is he spent years being influenced with Nazi ideology

    February 28, 2013 at 8:31 am |
  4. w5cdt

    Too much mysticism.

    February 28, 2013 at 8:30 am |
  5. chiangshih

    Why the Pope Really Resigned

    February 28, 2013 at 8:30 am |
  6. Name*penguin

    I have no great love or respect for the Pope or the Church (or any other relegion), but to conclude the Pope was not a good leader because of all the scandals that happened years ago is like saying someone whose house was destroyed by hurricane Sandy was not a good housekeeper. There are many things ungodly about the Catholic Church, but Pope Benedict isn't necessarily one of them.

    February 28, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • What

      What T F religion? Please tell me

      February 28, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • Chris

      Yeah Hitler youth...sure setting an example

      February 28, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Rufus

      Joe was right hand man to JPII for 30 years when all this stuff was festering.. This whole thng goes all the way to the top.

      There is a book out there called "The American Pope". Abnout 25 years old. Read it for some insight.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  7. PopesPeter

    Ten bucks says that he was involved, directly, as a participant, in a child abuse/molestation incident that is in danger of coming to light. Hence....his resignation for "health" reasons.

    February 28, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Jon

      He could not very well say he was doing it to spend more time with his family the way other politicians do when they are caught in a scandal, now could he?

      February 28, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • TommyCelt

      Can you afford it?

      February 28, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
  8. abramh

    You should be asking if Obama was the right person for the job. I'm not Catholic, but it doesn't make sense that you have a hit piece on the Catholic Pope when the office of POTUS has just threatened one of your own! And why is THAT not frontline news on this sorry excuse for a "news" site?

    February 28, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • What

      Why people think all people pick up the f cing bible. Me and most of my friends have no clue whatover about any religion, and we like to keep it that way. FREE of mind

      February 28, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • allens

      you are nothing more than a fool. this has nothing to do with your political beliefs.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Name*penguin

      The Woodward article is right next to this one. You're not too intelligent if you believe anything Bob Woodward says or writes

      February 28, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Tooty

      "Brawwk! I hate Obama! Brawwk! Hate Obama! Brawwk, buk buk buk buk...."

      February 28, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Dude

      What I am asking is if there is some way to stop the spammer jerks who insist on posting an attack on Obama on every topic.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • Going In Circles

      *** You should be asking if Obama was the right person for the job...

      The majority of us said yes, you lost, grow the phuck up, azzhole.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • TommyCelt

      @What – Yes, you are demonstrating over and over again how "FREE of mind" you are...

      February 28, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  9. Allan J Krueger

    If his job was to maintain the dark age teachings of Catholicism and hide the pedophile priests, he was perfect!

    February 28, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  10. DiamondAir

    This is Popeless!

    February 28, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  11. NorthVanCan

    As religion goes down in flames.

    February 28, 2013 at 8:12 am |
  12. m.s.mohamed ansari

    And say, "Truth has come, and falsehood has departed. Indeed is falsehood, [by nature], ever bound to depart." Quran 17/81

    Indeed, to Allaa belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth Billon of universe; He gives life and causes death. And you have not besides Allaa any protector or any helper. Only Allaa Akbar. quran 9/116


    Improve Economy only by 6 points. Peace, prayer
    Liberty, Unity, friendly And simplicity.

    February 28, 2013 at 7:53 am |
  13. Reality

    And now moving into the 21st century without the need for popes and other "wasting-their-time" clerics:

    The Apostles'/Agnostics’ Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    (references used are available upon request)

    February 28, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • Jon

      His body may have been stolen so that followers would believe he was resurrected. (That's why Osama bin Laden was buried at sea.) Christianity was developed by Greeks to foment rebellion against the Roman Empire. Catholicism is Rome's attempt to hang onto its empire.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Lena73

      WOW you have way too much time on your hands, why don't you do something productive to society instead of rewriting something you know nothing about? What you wrote does nothing for anybody.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Lena73

      @Jon you don't know what you are talking about. Religion existed way before the Greeks...try the Egyptians..

      February 28, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Jon

      Lena73, Christianity is not the only religion in the world. And by your little book, Christianity is less than 2000 years old. (If that little book of yours is the KJV, consider the part about "translated from the original Greek".)

      February 28, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Going In Circles

      *** Religion existed way before the Greeks...try the Egyptians..

      The story of "Horus" and the story of "Jesus", are identical.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  14. Menu

    The biggest crime of the Catholic Church is to oppose effective birth control. The result is massive overpopulation, poverty, pollution and misery.

    February 28, 2013 at 6:57 am |
    • Ivan

      I think you meant to say Islam since they are over populating at a rate that even exceeds rodents.

      February 28, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • Lepanto

      Yes, I can see how that's the Catholic Church's fault, specially in China and India, those ultra-Catholic countries. Ever care to think for yourself? Or is dumb hatred enough for you?

      February 28, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • Science

      Add the creation story of Adam and Eve, the RCC has been covering that up for centuries !!!


      February 28, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Ivan, Islam does not oppose birth control, but has a high fertility rate on average in countries and sects in which women are not encourages to work or where there is still a high poverty level mixed with low education. Their crimes are separate from those of Catholicism, the greatest of which I agree has been opposition to birth control. Fortunately, at least in developed countries, most Catholics ignore those positions. The impact is still strong in the aid policies to developing countries, however, and in the damage that was done in the past.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Lepanto, The Catholic church is not alone in its responsibility; many organizations and nations made mistakes that led to our current state of overpopulation. In China people associate Mao with the one child policy (applied only ever in urban areas). But we forget that this came only after his early pronatalist policies proved disastrous.

      While China succeeded in reigning in this growth, India's half hearted policies which failed to provide promised incentives turned their people against family planning programs, and poor economic plans left traditional structures that led people to have large families.

      But in all of this there were millions of dollars in aid flowing to Africa and Asia from the west, and these dollars were frequently restricted based on Catholic opposition to birth control and abortion. Even in the Americas Catholic fertility has only recently dropped to near replacement levels.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Going In Circles

      *** Lepanto

      Yes, I can see how that's the Catholic Church's fault, specially in China and India, those ultra-Catholic countries. Ever care to think for yourself? Or is dumb hatred enough for you?

      I dont see anything dumb or hateful in what he said.
      Are all you Church lovers paranoid ?
      I notice that whenever you people dont like the message
      you blame the messenger.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Lepanto

      "The biggest crime of the Catholic Church " Yes, it must be me seeing something hateful in one such statement ...

      February 28, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    February 28, 2013 at 6:48 am |
    • Deb

      You're correct. Every atheist who ever had a near death experience come back staunch Christians. The same is true for satanists.

      February 28, 2013 at 6:58 am |
    • fact check

      @Deb. You are making a gross over-generalization. Fact is folks in predominately Christian countries come back Christian, folks with NDE in Mus.lum countries come back devoutely Mus.lum, same for folks in India (Hin.du), etc. It is more a function of the majority faith than any universal discovery of absolute truth.

      Read and learn something.

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

      I'm an atheist who had a near death experience. I came back with the same set of beliefs that I left with.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • boocat

      So Deb....you know every atheist that had a near death experience, huh? You must really get around.....

      February 28, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!:

      February 28, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • What

      You are sick. Scare the hell out of me with your statement. Did you know I and othesr strongly believer other way around. Respect I respect yours. Church goers are divel people

      February 28, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Deb, You might want to read some info that doesn't come ina church flier. Only 10 to 20 percent of people with such experiences claim to have seen anything at all. This doesn't invalidate the experiences of those who did (although there are many possible explanations) but if you base your opinions on inaccurate info you are going to be willing to believe almost anything.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Going In Circles


      February 28, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  16. Colin

    Catholicism is the belief that an infinitely old, all-knowing, super-being, powerful enough to create the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies (each with billions of stars and planets) impregnated a late Iron Age Jewish virgin with himself, to give birth to himself and then sacrifice himself to himself to "forgive" the original sin of a couple we now all know never existed.

    Atheism is the belief that the above belief is f.ucking ridiculous.

    February 28, 2013 at 6:29 am |
    • Buddha

      So here atheist complain for decades that Christians push their beliefs on them. And in turn you all start pushing your beliefs on them. Little hypocritical isn't it. How bout we all just STFU and let people believe what they want and quit knock people for their beliefs

      February 28, 2013 at 7:02 am |
    • Ivan

      99% of all atheists either smoke to much pot or use too many drugs. The other 1% are chronic alcoholics.

      February 28, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • Cesare

      Colin, your knowledge of catholicism and atheism is laughable. Who will take you seriously, seriously!

      February 28, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • banzini

      you are an idiot and you will end up in hell where your fore fathers are waiting for you folllllllllllllllllll

      February 28, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • sam stone

      Ivan: Care to tell us where you come up with those stats?

      February 28, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • boocat


      February 28, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Jon

      Buhhda, I will STFU when people stop coming to my door with their religious BS and refuse to leave,
      Ivan, Where do you get your data? Is it possible to enough drugs and smoke enough pot?
      Ceasare, it sounds like your opinion of Colin's knowledge of Catholics and Atheists is based on your own prejudice.
      Banzini, you should not be using social nedia to talk to yourself.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Going In Circles

      *** How bout we all just STFU and let people believe what they want and quit knock people for their beliefs

      Starting with you.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  17. HotAirAce

    What/which job? Protecting innocent children from abuse – massive failure. Protecting priestly pedophiles – reasonably successful to date. Protecting the RCC cult from external investigation – reasonably successful but trouble is on the horizon.

    February 28, 2013 at 6:07 am |
    • Lepanto

      I'm sorry ... External investigation? Excuse me? I mean, Catholic Church members have made mistakes, some horrible ones, but, Why under the Sun should we as Catholics, 1.2 billion of us, subject ourselves to "External Investigation"? You have a great opinion of yourself, I wonder if anyone shares that opinion, but doubt it. Unlike other religions, Catholics make come in or leave, not one of us is forced to stay in the Church, yet obvious outsiders such as yourself think they know better than us. No thank you, I don't need your "concern" for me. But, by all means, feel free to go to Pakistan and express these opinions about their creed over there.

      February 28, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • Going In Circles

      *** Why under the Sun should we as Catholics, 1.2 billion of us, subject ourselves to "External Investigation"?

      Because Pedophilia is illegal, its a crime !!
      Is there some part of that you dont understand ??

      February 28, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Lepanto

      It's said that half a lie is worse than a lie, because you try to cover the lie with a liiiiittle bit of truth. Are Catholics outside the law that they can not be prosecuted when they commit a crime? Last I checked, no, we are not absent from complying with the different laws of each of our countries. But that doesn't give you the right to conduct an "External Investigation" (very nice Gestapo language there) as you please. All crimes should be prosecuted, but no sir, you don't have the right to police 1.2 billion people and our beliefs, no, not by a long shot. Get it? *Waits for inevitable pitchfork.

      February 28, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  18. Chris

    If the Church wants to survive it needs to elect someone a little more vigorous, charismatic and inspiring that would not be afraid to change things, like revoke the celibacy rule preventing the clergy from marrying and having a family. Perhaps this is why the Pope is resigning, to let someone else come in with more energy that can make these changes.

    February 28, 2013 at 5:53 am |
  19. Science

    Reading the Human Genome: First Step-By-Step Look at Transcription Initiation

    Feb. 27, 2013 — Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have achieved a major advance in understanding how genetic information is transcribed from DNA to RNA by providing the first step-by-step look at the biomolecular machinery that reads the human genome.


    Facts = Evolution = Truth


    February 28, 2013 at 5:33 am |
  20. Sara Howells


    February 28, 2013 at 5:22 am |
    • boocat

      Is there supposed to be some significance to this video besides the fact nothing is happening in the first 30 seconds?

      February 28, 2013 at 8:26 am |
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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.