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. Andrea Renee Hall

    No he was not right for the position. He neglected many for the few, and that is political and not behavior of a "spiritual leader".
    There are changes that will happen in the Catholic Church, but please remember the work of the missionaries are the heart of the spirit of being Catholic. It's just been represented by humans, and humans make a lot of mistakes. Hopefully through these mistakes you will be able to witness the beauty of forgiveness and healing. Nothing changes our Creator's love for it's creation, and that should be the most important motivation to love and be loved...

    February 28, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Science

      Andrea Renee Hall

      Not my creator evolution created me sorry.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Tim Rigney

      What created evolution?

      February 28, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • What

      Love and be loved, Religion people are lair, hatred, to anyone different from them. They are the sickest people on earth

      February 28, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Melanie

      No one ever argues that the missionaries/catholic charities don't do great work – they do. They are supported by donations from regular people – not the Vatican! The Vatican takes money from local churches – they don't give out anything, they are a money making child raping/molesting machine!!!!!!!!!!!! Those lying pigs need to go!!!!!!

      February 28, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • JosephW


      How is love possible without God? There is nothing to bind us to love without God.

      We all better hope there is a God.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      What is your "Pope" supposed to be ?
      A direct link between you and God ?
      The man represents "god" on earth,
      but he just made some mistakes.
      How divine of him.

      Sorry moron, no get out of jail free card for this abuser.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  2. Sean

    This article is INCREDIBLY biased. Detractors of the Pope are scholars and defenders are bloggers?! Give me a freaking break CNN!

    The only two explanations I can find for this discrepancy are A) you intentionally chose a semi-loony blogger as the only source defending the Pope in an effort to paint the picture as brutally critical as possible or B) you're egregiously incompetent.

    Seriously, this is pathetic.

    February 28, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • Browser112

      Oh don't be overly upset. That is CNN's job to stir "S word" and make comments on little or no facts as long as they can get their ratings and therefore get people watch their websites and the advertisements. A trustworthy source of news it is not. So unless there is something that is out there that everyone knows about and so CNN must print it, don't expect any honesty or reliability. CNN is a Legal Troll. I would go to a foreign news media like rt.com to actually see what's going on. For example did you know that the US will give $60 mil in aid to syrian terrorists, while we have to lay people off?! At least go to Yahoo. I trust them MUCH more.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Doobs

      Why so butthurt?

      February 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Lonny

      You are asking a Catholic why he is so butthurt? Haven't you been reading the news for the last decade?

      February 28, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  3. Bill

    "Religion is the opiate of the people" - so kill millions in the process. How many Catholic Christians have been killed in the name of atheism? Millions upon millions. Anyone heard of Pol Pot?

    February 28, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • tomnikoly

      Pol Pot killed because he was an incompetent dictator and a megalomaniac not because he was an atheist or "in the name of" atheism. Read history and try again.

      Start with Theodosius I who made Christianity the state religion in 380 CE and go from there for about the next 1,200 years and you will find the history of the Catholic church in Europe filled with murder, cruelty, and despotism unequaled in history.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • Sid Airfoil

      Both atheists and people of faith have been mass murderers. But only the religious ones claim that it was god's will. And that makes them FAR worse.


      February 28, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  4. Joe Catholic

    Tom Reese as a source? Really? C'mon man. Ratzinger and Reese were very very very critical of eachother as head of the CDF an editor of America Magazine respectively.

    I am sure Mr. Greene could get Richard Dawkins for his next vatican expert and still get published.

    Poor journalism as usual.

    February 28, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  5. jc

    Pretty easy to opine with the benefit of hindsight and from the cheap seats. Not saying it is inaccurate, just saying people, journalists, should be a bit more prudent than to rely on hindsight. Unles this person has some "access" that we are all unaware of then it is just an opinion

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

      You've pretty much gutted the field of history.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  6. William

    Is any man practicing genuine celibacy capable of leading a flock of 100+ million people? I'm skeptical.

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

      Yes, and your answer demonstrates why

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

      William – can you explain what one has to do with the other? Upon what is your skepticism based?

      February 28, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
  7. truth is a blinding light

    They (popes) are really creepy looking.

    February 28, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  8. asdf

    >"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."

    Isn't that what they said about Hitler also? If that is the best his apologists can say yes he was an epic fail pope.

    February 28, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Sean

      I cannot even believe you just said that. Seriously.

      The bias source picking of this article are so BLATANT that I simply cannot believe you intentionally declared the result of that source picking as definitive proof of a lack of argumentative credibility.

      Actually, I can. I just don't like what it says about you.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  9. FatheRabbImam Agnostica

    With Mengele as his pediatrician, who even knows what could have happened.

    He may have no eyebrows, but I would believe that was due to excessive plucking he did himself in preparation for the notorious drag balls the Vatican is world renowned for, rather than the results of some botched medical experiment, intended or not.

    February 28, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • TommyCelt

      Oooo. How irreverent.

      February 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  10. Jeb

    The author seems to believe that the Pope's job is to listen to men and adjust theology to the wills and whims of men and women. I think his job description puts a premium on the will of God. There's a reason that Christians must turn from sin and self and to God. It is because men are vessels corrupted by sin. Fortunately for all of us, God didn't expect us to 'fix' ourselves. He gave His Son to do the job for us 2000 years ago.

    February 28, 2013 at 8:40 am |
  11. Cyprian Ncheckwube Nwufo

    HE IS GOD!!!
    GOD changed the status of David from a
    Shepherd boy to king of Israel, Esther from a slave girl to a Queen and Joseph from a prisoner to the first (and only foreigner to become) Prime Minister
    of Egypt ..
    That same God will give you a new
    designation very soon in Jesus name.
    In chemistry he turned water to wine, in biology he was born without the normal conception, in physics he disapproved the law of gravity when he ascended into heaven, in economics he disapproved the law of diminishing return by feeding 5000 men with two fishes & 5 loaves of bread, in history he is the beginning & the end, in Government he said that he shall be called wonderful counselor, prince of peace, in religion he said no one comes to the father except through him so who is he.(JESUS).
    Join me and lets celebrate him, he is worthy
    BEWARE: LUV disappoints, SARS is dangerous, AIDS is real, BOOZE intoxicates, DRUGS kill .....but JESUS
    saves...don't delete spread info 2 every living soul in your list.
    Heavenly Father, Most Gracious and Loving God, I pray to you that you abundantly bless my family and me. I know that you recognize, that a family is more than just a mother and father, sister and brother, husband and wife, but all who believe and trust in you Father, I send up a prayer request for financial blessing for not only the person who sent
    this to me, but for me and all that I have forwarded this message on to. And that the power of joined prayer by those who believe and trust in you, is more powerful than anything. I thank you in advance for your blessings.
    Father GOD, deliver the person reading this right now from debt and debt burdens. Release your Godly Wisdom that I may be a good steward over all that YOU have called me to be in my financial Blessings..
    Father, for Stars don't struggle to shine, Rivers don't struggle to flow, also you will never struggle to excel in life, because you deserve the best, hold on to your dream and it shall be well with you...Amen.
    The eyes beholding this message shall not behold evil, the hand that will
    send this message to others shall not labor in vain, the mouth saying amen to this prayer shall laugh forever, remain in God's love.
    The Lord will connect you with those that will help you and you shall remain a blessing to others in Jesus Mighty Name, Amen.

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

      Snort. Thanks for the laugh. You might want to remember your pills tomorrow.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Tim

      You something of a WACKO, "Cyprian," aren't you???

      February 28, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • jim messmer

      Drink some more koolade. 1.2 billion catholics, the majority of which live in squalor in 3rd world countries. No hope for anything like a life on earth so they also drink the koolade and desperately hope there is something better waiting for them. 3 feet of earth is about it. The rest of the "catholics" take birth control, regularly break the 3rd Commandment, and practice token catholocism. good luck bringing this religion back from the dark ages.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • FatheRabbImam Agnostica

      OMG...As I live & breathe – Margaret White! After 37 long years, after you were telekinetically crucified by all those flying steak knives thrown by your poor abused daughter! I guess you were right – you've been resurrected! You has risen, baby...YOU HAS RISEN!!! PRAISE DA LAWD! Mmmm-MMMM!!! GARDEN OF GESTHEMANE!!!

      February 28, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • BobZemko

      Jeezus, you need a woman or a hobby pronto !!!

      February 28, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • awayreligion

      The story of Jesus is a direct plagiarism of previous Egyptian and Greek gods. And those gods were an astrological parody for worship of THE SUN... You know that big bright hydrogen fusion machine in the sky that the church once believed orbited the Earth... See the only way to truly be religious and in particular a Christian is to not ask questions. The world is finally awakening from this primitive nonsense...

      February 28, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  12. Jerry

    The pope and the Catholic church and religion in general is worn out, past time to go. Ancient ways, ancient myth and folklore is being replaced with facts, science and common sense.

    February 28, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  13. RS

    He was a Hitler youth and he was instrumental in hiding Child Rapist Priests, so yes... he was totally suited for the job,

    February 28, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  14. Bill

    Child abuse is problem throughout society. The public school system is a primo example. The rate of abuse within the Catholic Church is no greater than outside the Church. Do a google search under "teacher arrested" and see what turns up. Or simply talk to anyone who works in the area of child protection and they will tell you most abusers are family members, uncles, brothers, etc. This DOES NOT excuse what happened in the Church, which is deplorable, but ignoring the goodness in the Church is just not historically honest.

    February 28, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • Duke

      Actually the catholic church is THE prime example, and public schools are a tiny blip in the picture.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Tim

      Bill, the "rate" may be no higher, but the PERCENTAGE of abuse is.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Rinsewind

      As a Catholic, I find these kind of apologetics are offensive. The rate of abuse in the Church is no higher than in the school system? Quite possibly, BUT the whole point of the matter is how the abuse was handled, or rather mishandled, by the Church. Abuse exists, but decades and decades of hiding it, moving around pedophile priests, obfuscating, and stonewalling is the sin OF THE CHURCH, not of the individual priests who perpetrated the abuse. Ratzinger was one of the primary architects of this policy, and did little or nothing to ameliorate the situation once he became Pope. Does this make all priests evil? Most certainly not. But it is indicitive of the rot endemic in the hierarchy.

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

      Good points Bill. 500k children have been abused in the public school system, millions have been abused in their own homes but hey the CC is the cause of it all according to the libs and media.

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

      "Ratzinger was one of the primary architects of this policy, and did little or nothing to ameliorate the situation once he became Pope."

      What is your source for this? You have no idea what he did or did not do.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • Sean


      You're comment makes no mathematical sense. A "rate" IS a percentage. That's mathematically it's definition.

      So if the "rate" of child abuse in all of society is roughly the same "rate" as child abuse within the catholic church, then the two have roughly the same percentage of child abuse cases. The terms are interchangeable.

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

      *** CC is the cause of it all according to the libs and media.

      Its not the Church's fault there is abuse,
      its the media for reporting it.
      That you Sarah palin ?

      February 28, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  15. jas495

    I think that is a horrible thing to suggest! Puts disrespect on his departure. Why would you say that now that he is gone. The reporter for this article should be fired!! Alan Green get lost!!

    February 28, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • jas495

      Excuse me, "Richard Allen Greene"

      February 28, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Going In Circles

      *** Puts disrespect on his departure....

      Ask all the abuse victoms how much respect they got.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  16. Jerry

    The Catholic church and religion in general is worn out, past time to go. Ancient ways, ancient myth and folklore is being replaced with facts, science and common sense.

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

      That's the funniest thing I heard today. Hmm 2000 years and it's still here. Will be here today and will be here tomm.

      February 28, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • Science

      But is is wrong to teach in public schools in US

      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 9:38 am |
  17. DDM

    Pope Benedict got one thing right, when quoting a 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."

    February 28, 2013 at 8:36 am |
  18. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    More and more human beings are learning the truth about the church industry.

    February 28, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  19. Tony

    "Thomas Peters, a Catholic activist who blogs at AmericanPapist, said there are powerful forces at work when cardinals gather to elect a pontiff... "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." Wait.. did the guy defending the Nazi Pope just (mis)quote Mussolini to describe the Vatican? Awesome!

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

      You caught that too, eh?

      February 28, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  20. Name*Chedar

    Benedict is the long lost Anti-Christ the Christians and the Catholic are looking for. Well you got the man. Now what?

    February 28, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • abmri60

      Would he be the anti – Pope ?

      February 28, 2013 at 8:49 am |
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