This mentality makes them impervious to criticism. I don't know how genuinely sorry Pope Benedict is for all the scandals that are breaking about his head (My guess is not very sorry at all) but there's a part of him that's going to be enjoying that feeling of embattlement. It's not as if his personal comfort and security are in any way threatened.
Peter Tatchell- who was bashing the bishop of Rome for an hour on Channel 4 last night- said a smart thing. He said Benedict really doesn't mind if the church shrinks on his watch. Yes, it would be nice if the whole world converted to Roman Catholicism, but it would be equally nice (and much cosier) to find oneself huddled in the catacombs with a remnant of the faithful. The ultra-religious mind is bombproof. You flourish and that's a sign of of God's favour, you suffer and that's a sign of God's favour too.
I don't hate the Pope. He's not a bad man. In fact from the point of view of those of us who would like to see the church humbled he's the best man for the job. His predecessor's charisma blinded us to the cruelty and hypocrisy of the organisation he fronted; with Benedict- who has never been a pastor but only ever an academic, a bureaucrat and an inquisitor- there's really no such danger.