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.
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."