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. Connie

    No one should take the pious stance that they have all of the answers. Have faith that what God has said will happen. You don't have to 'prove' to non-believers, nor defend yourself. As long as you are 'right' with God, what does it matter if others bash you or your faith? God has already told you that it will happen. Life on earth is a drop in the bucket compared to life in heaven. Pray for those less fortunate – those who have nothing to look forward to. As for the Pope, he is not a bad man. I am not Catholic but I can trust that he didn't get to where he is by being anything but good. And, we have to remember … he is a man. He was made the same way the rest of us were – with sin and FORGIVENESS.

    February 28, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • SuperDave

      And the problem is any religion that professes that you can be absolved of sin and carry forth without consequence is indeed a religion that supports violence. And Catholics complain about Islam. They have no right.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • TommyCelt

      SuperDave...straw man. While the Church does teach absolution of sin, she certainly does NOT teach a penitent can carry forth without consequence. Just like someone who commits a crime can be forgiven by his or her victim, they still go to jail/pay a fine. The penitent is absolved of the sin in confession, not the punishment due the sin, whatever that may be.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  2. Tender Buttocks

    Father Corn Holy O Extradited from Mexico, To stand trial for his nasty deeds, Things he did with the Rosary Beads!
    This guy looks like a creepy child molester!

    February 28, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  3. Mary S.

    While I respect others opinions, it is apparent that others do not reciprocate the gesture. The pope had big shoes to fill after the death of Pope John Paul II. Anyone who had been elected would have had difficulty. Pope Benedict is an intellectual and the media never knew how to handle him so their speculations and there are always those willing to believe it as the truth. Those who do not understand the Catholic Liturgy should not judge the rites of the church. Those who speak so judgmentally need to reflect on their lives and how they have improved the world. When you have been the leader of almost 2 billion, then explain to us ignorant folks how to do so effectively in a manner that is effective and truthful. Pope Benedict has apologized over and over again for the abuse and has had Christian charity towards those who have offended him or he has offended. The writer of this blog is another puppet in the show! Instead of speculation and translation, stick to the facts and let your readers use their intelligence to interpret what he has said. Peace to all.

    February 28, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Apologizing for criminal activity is a start, but insufficient. They need to own their crimes and answer to the people for them, in criminal court.
      Nothing short of that is acceptable.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Disappointed

      Only when the Catholic Church becomes transparent and "allows" child abusers to be prosecuted within the law and not just the Catholic Church will my respect return to that church. By the way, I am Catholic and understand all about the working of the church. They are so far back in time and feel like they have to be exceptions to the law. No wonder so many have fallen by the wayside including me.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • lol??

      What's with all the colorful hats?? I know women are supposed to have hats or long hair............"1Cr 11:4 Every man praying or prophesying, having [his] head covered, dishonoureth his head." ..........They take em off??

      February 28, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Mary S.

      The colors of the various robes each have a symbolic meaning, e.g red for the cardinals, signifies that as a leader of the Church they are willing to die for the faith. Each part of the vestments has a different meaning. Strange that the pedophile cases have been taken to civil courts instead of criminal courts by the families of the victims for compensation. I have 3 sons and if any were abused by a priest I would have definitely sought criminal charges without hesitation. Traditions that are out of the times seems to be the norm for the Catholic Church since they have gone through many cycles of moral decay in societies. Folks doing wrong don't like to be reminded that they suffer from a lack of love and consideration for their fellow mankind. The media cannot understand how someone with so much influence can humbly give it up because it is for the good of so many. Pope Benedict is a humble man who never sought the papacy; when elected he said that it should have been someone much younger. This wasn't because they would be more with a modern view but rather because he did not see himself living more than 6 or 7 years. A dose of humility never urt anyone.

      February 28, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
  4. us_1776

    Just turn out the lights when you leave Benedict XVI.

    This whole sick, sordid church needs to die and go away.


    February 28, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Tender Buttocks


      February 28, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  5. charles darwin

    Time for all the popes to click the heels on their red shoes and disappear. Take all religions with them.

    February 28, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • lol??

      racist apostate bigot.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  6. Mike

    You do understand that the Pope is infallible and ordained by God so you can't even ask whether or not he was the right man for the job?

    February 28, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • TommyCelt

      You DO understand that you haven't a clue what "infallible" means in relation to the papacy, yes?

      February 28, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  7. BattlePlastic

    I'm not catholic and care nothing for the Pope. Curious why CNN would change the story picture from one of a seemingly healthy Pope to a crazy looking waving Pope. Was this to try and add more drama to the story?

    February 28, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  8. Alex Povolotski

    The scandals happen with benedict or without benedict. They just happen. He can't be everywhere.

    I'm more interested though to know if he was a Nazi.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Kenny

      Yes, he is.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  9. sarah

    honestly... i would not trust leaving my 10 yo boy with this pope overnight. just look at him... kinda creepy

    February 28, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • For the look

      He is in hs 80s. What do you expect. He look way better than my most elders neighbors in their 70s. He is just an old man. There is a war among churches and catholic church from very early age were as a target to be destroyed by various groups and religion, especially judaism.

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

      How about with me?

      February 28, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  10. Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

    Some believe that celibacy is appropriate for certain people, or for certain positions. It's ridiculous. Celibacy is unnatural and will continue to cause problems for the religious institutions that employ it. Especially when said institutions cover up resulting problems of pedophilia and allow these problems to fester and actually relocate.

    Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but don't understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease. Realistically, many abortions could be avoided if a morning-after pill would not is not viewed as such an evil option. Many of these same people bring children into the world at a high pace, and then would prefer that the rest of society take over and educate their children in their particular brand of religion when they don't plan well and don't want to violate their beliefs.

    In the U.S. recently we learned of the head of LCMS chastising a minister of that church for participating in a joint service for the victims of the Newtown school shooting.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage.

    One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags".

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri.

    On sect believes women to be subservient, while another sect in the same denomination promotes equality between the sexes.

    Conflicted right from the very beginning, Christianity continues to splinter and create divisions and more extremism as it goes.

    Has anything improved with Christianity since 200+ years ago?

    Thomas Jefferson, POTUS #3 (from Notes on the State of Virginia):

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    James Madison, POTUS #4, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights (from A Memorial and Remonstrance delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785):

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    John Adams, POTUS #2 (in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816):

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.

    Ben Franklin (from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772):

    If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.

    Thomas Paine (from The Age of Reason):

    All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • james

      Your comments are wrong, and bigoted – and you kno




      HARVARD – started by Christians.

      OXFORD – stared by Christians.

      YALE – started by Christians.

      COLUMBIA – started by Catholics.

      CAMBRIDGE – started by Christians.

      Yada yada yada.

      The overwhelming amount of goodwill done by Billions of Christians since the dawn of our era is the rational counterpoint to your stupidity.

      Wayward Christian crazies killed a few people back in the dark ages. Those were dark times.


      – STALIN: BURNED CHURCHES. 10's of millions killed in gulags.
      – MAO: Anti-faith: 10's of millions killed
      – POL POT: (Communist Khmer Rouge) – 3 million of 8 million killed
      – Vietnamese Communists: A million killed after the war in concentration camps.


      February 28, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • clarity


      A lot of error in your reply, James. Christians did not establish the concept of charity. Christians love to think they own such concepts.

      Christian "Goodwill" in the form of large contributions rarely comes without an accompanying effort to use such goodwill as a form of establishment of the particular religion involved.

      It's ridiculous for you to rant about past leaders of totalitarian regimes as any kind of indicator to defend Christianity. It's impossible for you to read the minds of the populations under those non-democracies. A bogus and stupid generalization.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • George M


      LOL. comment by an ignoramus. someone needs an education.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  11. Kai po che full song

    wow! thanks for that amazing report. I really liked it to your core. Hope you keep posting these kinds of astounding content articles Kai po che full song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIlMhcNHzy

    February 28, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  12. jay

    He was the christian bin laden running the christian al qaeda.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  13. Mr. Alan C. Avellar

    Well, the pope is leaving the office, and thousands of people are leaving the catholic church, and I will tell you why. What I say here can be found in the New Testament of the Bible. Popes allow people to call them the Holy Father. No pope is the Holy Father. No priest should be addressed as Father. Only God is to be called Holy Father, or Father. Benedict and popes before him, know that catholics pray to man made statues. One needs to pray to God directly, and not through a statue that they believe represents God, or His Son Jesus Christ. This is Idol Worship and is against Biblical principals. Catholics believe that praying in a confessional box to a priest absolves them from their sins. The answer is no, it does not. Priests cannot forgive sin. You are never forgiven of anything, if you pray to a priest. He is worldly man. Catholics believe that they will go to Heaven when they die. None of them will. Catholics are not encouraged by priests to read and interpret the bible for themselves, but made to believe that they should follow the priests tell them. Priests in the pulpit never inform church people how a person can be born again, or have everlasting life upon their death. The people are not informed. This is due to the mere fact, that if Roman Catholics were to start reading the bible themselves, they would see that the man made teachings within the Vatican through the catholic priests are mostly just man made religious laws, If catholics read the bible, they would see the truth in the teachings of GOD and His Son Jesus Christ. No where in the bible does it speak about infant baptism. Catholics believe that their infants are baptized officially at just a few weeks old. They are not. They have no knowledge of life yet, so how can they possibly receive the sacrament of baptism? They can't. If your parents informed you that you were baptized when you were an infant. They're wrong. You have not been baptized. If you no longer followed man made teachings of the catholic church, and started to attend a church that adheres to all biblical principals, you would know the truth about Christianity, which is not a man made religion. Christianity is a way of life overseen by God through His Son Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Christian church has no man made laws, no pope, no priest, no mandatory fasting, no rosary beads, no statues and no confessional boxes. Now you know some of the many false teachings of the catholic church.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • Madtown

      the truth about Christianity, which is not a man made religion
      Wrong. All religions are man-made. ALL.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • clarity

      Every Christian's view is different about every other Christian view. It's the nature of the religion – conflicted right from the start. Over 40,000 sects of disagreement. And the core tenet in common with each? There is as much credibility for it as there is for that of Joseph Smith & Related Families, Inc.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Madtown

      Catholics believe that they will go to Heaven when they die. None of them will
      You have no way of knowing this. I wonder why you believe it?

      February 28, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Connie

      I agree with many things you stated in your article. One area I disagree with is your statement that none of them are going to heaven. That is God's decision, and not something for a human to determine.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • jim

      Yet another person stating their personal opinion as fact.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • JosephW

      And you call your father what exactly? I suggest you re-read the bible and see how many times the word father is in there and who it is being spoken about.

      Pray through statues? I suggest you read what the catechism says not what you think it says. They are a reminder about God and his great gifts, nothing more.

      "Priests cannot forgive sin." – Again read what the church teaches not what you think it teaches. God forgives sin through the priest.

      "Catholics believe that they will go to Heaven when they die. None of them will." – Really, so you are speaking for God on this?

      "Catholics are not encouraged by priests to read and interpret the bible for themselves, but made to believe that they should follow the priests tell them" – This is the biggest load of crap I hear all the time. The bible is read at every Mass and every 3 years it is entirely covered. Who put together the "bible" for you? Who invented the printing press so you would have one? Catholics. You can thank them for your bible. Unless it's missing some of those books that Luther took out.

      I could go on and refute everything you have stated but I will point you to the scriptures: 2 PET 3 14-18

      February 28, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Sam Kinison

      There is too a purgatory!

      You take that back!

      February 28, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • TommyCelt

      @Mr. Alan-

      Hmmm...by what authority were the Scriptures declared inspired; how did the books of the Bible come together? And while we are on the subject of Scripture, did Christ promise the gates of hell would nto prveail against a Book? Or a Church? And in John 6, the Bread of Life discourse, why did Jesus allow so many for his disciples to abandon him...if the Bread he spoke of was merely symbolic?

      Have at it...

      February 28, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • lol??

      There is one mediator. No need for another.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  14. Tim

    Pope shmope, who cares, he is just a man, put any moron in there it really doesn't matter

    February 28, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • TommyCelt

      As a moron, are you submitting an application?

      February 28, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  15. Smarterest Human

    He looks creepy enough to be the right guy for the job...

    February 28, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  16. Going In Circles

    One more Pope to go before the end of the church.
    Thank you Saint Malechy.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  17. EarleG

    Rinsewind – you are absolutely correct!

    That is THEE issue here. Per capita there are no doubt more pediphiles in the Catholic priesthood than there are teachers in America. No doubt this is mainly due to the Catholic Church's policy of keeping its sins secret by protecting them since the early Church policy of preventing priests from marrying. And of course the congregation for centuries never questioned the Church as that was considered a sin in itself! Why Bishop Law from Boston sent to Rome – to protect him from legal persecution here in the States for his cover-ups. Pediphiles have a mental illness that should be addressed, and in this light to some degree they are not entirely at fault. BUT those who have protected them and allowed for further child abuse should be jailed for life! That is the issue and the Vatican purposely failed to due its duty in the name of Christ and public law.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • TommyCelt

      @Earle –

      "Per capita there are no doubt more pediphiles in the Catholic priesthood than there are teachers in America." – No doubt you've something resembling anything like support for this statement?

      "No doubt this is mainly due to the Catholic Church's policy of keeping its sins secret by protecting them since the early Church policy of preventing priests from marrying." – This is a non sequitur. Yes, I know you don't know what that means; no doubt you can look it up. That is THEE issue.

      February 28, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  18. lolrepublicans

    My uncle (a devout catholic) passed away last year; he had a traditional Catholic service that we attended, while none of us are catholic. It was horrifying; his son went up and read a bunch of verses from the bible, the priest singsang some latin crap, and his daughter read some more bible verses. Not one word about the man, what he loved to do, how he lived his life, nothing...just promotion of the catholic church and the lead priest prancing around in his robes with a microphone like a freakin rock star. Now the #1 priest in the biggest hat decides this job isn't for him and steps down..juust another hole poked in the fairy tale of organized religion.

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

      Perhaps you should have gotten off your butt and said something about him instead of the priest. Your not denied speaking. Nobody choose to, Most of the time people are too grief stricken to. You need to grow up. Some deceased request that no one speaks.

      February 28, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  19. nauj

    He is good pope, everyone is different. We just talking about the bad as always.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  20. shtick

    Peter had it backwards. People who are good at their jobs (or should I say too good) get left in those jobs. It's the people who don't care that much about their jobs or maybe care more about 'politics' that get 'promoted'. No wonder we're find all that 'covering up' in the Church or for that matter in any 'large organization'.
    Anyways, the Church could be in for some more tough times ahead and a 'feeble old man' would find himself in over his head.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:44 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.