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. The Right Left

    All religions are on a fast track to extinction. This Pope just accelerated the process. Times up for pompous fake leaders wearing red shoes and hideous looking outdated crowns.

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

      Are any of you even Catholics. If you dont beleive nobody is forcing you to.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  2. Science

    What.......... read the transcripts find out.

    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 9:43 am |
  3. Average Joe

    This article, claiming that the Cardinales elected a Pope who was "too smart", is going to tick off all those anti-Theists who say faith contradicts reason.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  4. Lynn

    The pope looks like David dorfman.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  5. Serve Him

    Unfortunately, Catholics are being reminded that maybe things aren't what they are suppose to be. The molestations is just the beginning. Jesus removed the 'church' (building) and replaced it with the Body of Christ. I was Catholic, but I am now a Protestant. I just don't understand that you need a priest to forgive sins when Christ is the only one to do that. Or last rights (how long do they last...really?), paying for masses to get people out of purgatory, or you can't be saved unless you receive communion. These all seem ploys to make people be tied to a traditional church and receive $$. I think the Catholic church would best be served by removing these things and standing on their own two feet by doing a better job. These ploys seem like a crutch to ensure their financial well-being, instead of concentrating on building true-believer who commit to supporting the church, but belong to God foremost.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • LeeCMH

      Catholics, Prodestants, Mormons - Muslims, Jews:

      All hateful religionists!

      February 28, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Calling you out

      Serve Him, "I was catholic" does not give you automatic credibility on the teachings of the catholic church. It is obvious that you either you didn't take the time to learn the faith or you are purposely stating falsehoods. "Paying for masses to get people out of purgatory" is just one example...where in the world did you hear that? that's absurd and not a teaching of the Catholic Church. For those reading this post please remember this, just stating "I used to be Catholic" does not mean everything that follows is true.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Serve Him

      I never said Catholics are hateful. You are the one sounding hateful with your comment.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Serve Him

      @Calling you out. Really? Are you suggesting it does not happen? Please be honest. I heard it at a young age, and later in life when my mother died, father, brother who were Catholics and I was given money to donate to the church for a 'mass'. So please don't suggest the practice does not exist. At least defend the "why" instead of placing your head in the sand and denying it. Maybe you should research it yourself and learn more. "When a Catholic requests a memorial Mass for the dead—that is, a Mass said for the benefit of someone in purgatory—it is customary to give the parish priest a stipend, on the principles that the laborer is worth his hire (Luke 10:7) and that those who preside at the altar share the altar’s offerings (1 Cor. 9:13–14)." More than $5 was given as well. So yes, it is customary to give the church $$ for a mass for someone in purgatory. The very thought of having to pay a church for a service for someone who has died is odd. My family went to the church for many many years...I would think the church could afford a mass in remembrance.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Going In Circles

      *** Serve Him, "I was catholic" does not give you automatic credibility

      You are attacking his credibility, while you defend the molester ?

      February 28, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Calling you out
      Being a pardoner – basically selling indulgences from the Catholic church door to door – used to be a very lucrative job.
      Have you forgotten what spurred the protestant revolution in the first place?

      February 28, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  6. LeeCMH

    Ratzinger projected the real, hateful, mean-spirited Catholic Church. No more venom from him.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  7. Rich

    To all you Anti-Catholics,

    It amazes me to see how uneducated you are on Our Catholic beliefs. Read Catholic books, ,magazines listen to Catholic radio watch WETN to learn the truth about the church. Dont go by the miss information you hear and read about the Catholic Church by others who hate and don't understand the teachings of the church. ! But you won't because it you did you would become Catholic. Pope Benidict was the perfect man for the job, he was chosen by the College of Cardinal under the guidance of the Holy Spirit!

    February 28, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • HeavenSent

      I was brought up Catholic and I despise the church with my heart and soul.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • LeeCMH

      The Catholic Church is a bastion of hate.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • JCS

      HeavenSent: So you're not Catholic anymore. So what?

      February 28, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • clarity

      Rich can't even spell Benedict in his rant. The Catholic church is only growing in areas bereft of education. That's no surprise.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • tobosbunny

      I was raised catholic and left it as soon as I could. I know ALL about being catholic and I am sorry, but it is such a backwards religion it makes most cults look sane...

      February 28, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Calling you out

      HeavenSent, Why do you start with "I was brought up Catholic." Anti-catholics love to use this technique because they think it gives them instant credibility, they believe they are somehow the resident experts on all things Catholic when in fact the opposite is true. So please tell us what is the point of your post? Why share your hate with the world?

      February 28, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Going In Circles

      *** It amazes me to see how uneducated you are on Our Catholic beliefs

      Lots of you "Catholics" like to accuse anybody who doesnt believe,
      in not reading or understanding your "faith" (Book)
      Fortunatly, we in fact "HAVE" read and understand your religion.

      We reject it.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      You have ten commandments, right ?
      If you break any of them, you have sinned right ?
      That commandment about keeping the Sabbath holy,
      The Sabbath is on SATURDAY.
      Who changed that ?
      The Church did.
      So you understand that all of you have commited a sin with the blessing of the church, right ?

      February 28, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  8. PeterD

    All the religions in the world are born from Ancinet Old Hinduism. Aum Shanti Shanti !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 28, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  9. Sunshine

    Wow! Now we are going to "judge" the Pope?

    February 28, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Saraswati

      We know we're in trouble when we place anyone above criticism.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      We cant judge your "God" ?
      The Pope is a man, he is NOT GOD !

      February 28, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  10. Tim Rigney

    Some people aren't going to like this but let's "get real" for a moment here – He's 84 years old – Charges are *never* going to be brought against this guy. 84-year-olds get sick ALL the time. Maybe a bit of undigested beef or something. The clock is ticking for him *real* fast either way. "Natural causes." He'll "die peacefully in his sleep."

    February 28, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  11. aurelius

    This latest pope does indeed look a bit like a simpleton, and my guess is that he'll soon take a rest that will last through eternity.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  12. Texasjetsetter

    Great written piece. However, one flaw in it. When you are good at your job you do get promoted. But once you become Pope rather you are good or not good there isnt another promotion unless you are talking Sainthood. And that takes years and years. Pope John Paul II is still on the fast track and still isnt. And no one following him had a huge chance of a major success.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • What

      What T F religion? Please tell

      February 28, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  13. anthonyhantonh

    Why is CNN, who obviously hates the Catholic Church, so obsessed about the Pope? So many stories on this Left Wing and biased website. Everything I read here is biased and bigotted against the church. I guess I should expect it, and not be surprised.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • JLM

      I agree. They are obsessed with the Pope because they love to discredit the Catholic Church. Besides, the secular media, by and large, doesn't even know what the job of the pope is fundamentally about, so why even bring up the question of whether Pope Benedict XVI was the right man for the job?

      February 28, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • awayreligion

      Wake up dude... people hating the church are growing exponentially... we are awakening from our 2000 year intellectual slumber.... all religions defy logic... why would anyone believe a bunch of primitive yahoos in the desert actually had any more of a connection or conversation with god than we do now... in Christianity especially Jesus walked amongst people he couldn't even convince then that he was the son of god and now we're supposed to take the most gull able group of people's word for it.... I also find it somewhat hilarious that an entire civilizations lived on the South American continent during this time and Jesus had no way of ever knowing they were even there..... go stupid people!

      February 28, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      The Catholic church tried to cover up abuse.
      CNN reports it.
      Bad CNN.
      You people are idiots.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  14. wow

    I don't understand why his job exists. Isn't the heirarchy in order of importance: God then Jesus and the rest of us?

    February 28, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • JosephW

      We always had human leaders.. Adam,..,Abraham,.., Moses,.., David,..Peter...

      February 28, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      Jesus said, the way to God is through your heart.
      The Church doesnt like that, who will put money in the plate ?

      February 28, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Owl96

      Protestants have Bishops, and heads of dnominational boards. The pope is the Catholic "head bishop". He is the one that appoints new bishops, aboung other duties.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  15. cedaly1968

    As a Catholic, I was not overly thrilled with Benedict. I don't like the changes to the Catholic Mass, a mass that had been unchanged for the better part of 50 years, and that saw minor wording changes that really were unnecessary. The Federal government would not indite the Pope nor any friend of the United States because it would leave the Presidency open to the same. The Catholic Church has made many errors in handling the abuse scandals and it has led to people being disillusioned with the church and even religion in general. It is sad to see...

    February 28, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Melanie

      Those were not errors – those were criminal acts, and they all need to go to prison!!!!

      February 28, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      The Catholic Church has made many errors .

      So all those children who have been abused are errors ?
      WOW !

      February 28, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Owl96

      I did not see the need for changes in the wording of the Mass eithe, but I understood why they happened. Each English speaking country had their own translation. Some of those translation were suspect, and had the wrong connotations. The church went to one English translation so that accuracy in translation could be confirmed. It actualy is very close to the origional version used in the United States after Vatican II, before they simplified it a few years later. I think we were find, but not all English speaking countries were. Now we are all the same.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  16. Rosslaw

    Benedict headed up a continuing criminal enterprise engaged in the concealment and encouragement of child molestation-period. The Church had made a deal with the devil on child molestation and guess what-the devil won. An easy step from multiple felonies concerning children to money laundering. When the church turjn criminal priests into the civil authorities it might have a chance. Otherwise it will remain a sick joke headed up by men who see themselves as chinese emperors.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  17. Petercha

    He was pro-life, he supported traditional marriage, and he opposed islamic terrorism. Worked for me. Let's hope the next pope is the same.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • DaTruth

      2 of the 3 reasons you listed are why he was a bad pope. In terms of driving away new members from the church. I'll let you decide which 2 of those they are.

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


      February 28, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  18. UncleM

    Religion is tone deaf.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Samantha Meyers

      Religion maybe tone deaf but Jesus never is.

      Sometimes it is best to step back from "religion" and read your bible and pray. You would be surprised the wonderful relationship you can have with Christ.

      In HIS name,

      February 28, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
  19. dsfsdf sd

    asfsad sdas ds
    d as

    February 28, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  20. beall

    5oo,ooo priests for 1.2billion Catholics-There is the answer to why the abusing priests were tolerated.The conclave elected exactly who they wanted to be Pope-Someone who would not rock the boat.I believe Pope Benedict was advised to retire in light of the Federal indictment pending so this would not involve a standing Pope and the possiblity of him being found guilty.I further think this new election of Pope will allow the Church to change it's stance on the very controvertial issues the Church is facing ie.female priests being one,the decisions appearing more acceptable coming from a new head as opposed to reversed stance of standing Pope.This decision to retire, in the Churchs' view I believe is damage control and not neccessarily Pope Benedict's desire.If looked at for what it is-A very slick maneuver indeed.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • JosephW

      "Someone who would not rock the boat." Really?

      Are you aware of the cleansing of "filth" that he has done? What articles are you reading? Expand your mind and find good sources of truth.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:40 am |
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