The Chair of Peter Principle or the Difference between being a Bad Pope and a Bad Man or Priest

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The Chair of Peter Principle or the Difference between being a Bad Pope and a Bad Man or Priest

There is a prin­ci­ple in man­age­ment called the “Peter Prin­ci­ple” which states that a per­son who is suc­cess­ful in a job will even­tu­ally be pro­moted to a level in a com­pany that they are not qual­i­fied for and will become a lia­bil­ity rather than an asset.

Right now I can’t think of a per­son that this applies to bet­ter than Pope Francis.

There are sev­eral things that Fran­cis has done that I like very much, the empha­sis on mercy, the exten­sion of con­fes­sion (includ­ing the Soci­ety of St. Pius X) his increase in the num­ber of exor­cists and his pub­lic pro­nounce­ments that the Devil is not a fan­tasy but a real entity out to get our souls.

Fur­ther­more even in his poor pro­nounce­ments such as his let­ter on the envi­ron­ment he includes the pro-​life anti-​abortion mes­sage (which the left some­how always seems to ignore when prais­ing said let­ter) and that has been a pretty con­stant mes­sage, for exam­ple:

Pope Fran­cis has com­pared abor­tion to ‘hir­ing a hit­man’ dur­ing a Vatican-​sponsored anti-​abortion conference.


Abor­tion can never be con­doned, even when the fetus is gravely sick or mal­formed, Pope Fran­cis said dur­ing a pro-​life con­fer­ence held in the Vat­i­can this morn­ing.
He urged doc­tors and priests to sup­port fam­i­lies to carry all preg­nan­cies to term — even where death is the result.

Nev­er­the­less it seems to me that Fran­cis’ prob­lem is that he for­gets he is not the pas­tor of a small church try­ing to edge a cou­ple who are on rocky ground care­fully onto the straight path but the head of a uni­ver­sal church with ene­mies who want to destroy the prin­ci­ples that the church has advanced and defended for two millennium.

One of the hard­est jobs that a pas­tor has is coax­ing a per­son away from a state of mor­tal sin. Some­times said per­son has got­ten there through bad
cat­e­chizes, some­times though hard times, other times a cri­sis hat hit and finally you run into cases where that per­son is new to the church and has to be actu­ally taught what is sin and what is not.

A great exam­ple of this type of sit­u­a­tion was dealt with a while back at Fr. Z’s blog about a cou­ple civilly mar­ried or even remar­ried to wit:

If they then choose – for what­ever com­pelling rea­son sug­gested by the objec­tively vague Amoris, etc. – to stay together, then the priest must help them to make a choice. After Father lays out the options, they will tell the priest either that …
1) they will not live in con­ti­nence as brother and sis­ter, or
2) they will try to live in con­ti­nence as brother and sis­ter.
If they say they won’t, and they don’t, they can­not be admit­ted to Com­mu­nion. They must be told not approach to receive Com­mu­nion, for that would be a mor­tal sin and a sac­ri­lege.
If, on the other hand, they say that they will try, and if they con­fess their sins and intend to live in con­ti­nence, they prob­a­bly can be admit­ted to Com­mu­nion –
remoto scan­dalo – pro­vided that scan­dal is avoided.

and what hap­pens when or if they occa­sion­ally fail?

Or course there may be times when they fail in their deter­mi­na­tion to live in con­ti­nence and they have sex­ual rela­tions.
What then?
Sim­ple. They go to con­fes­sion and start over
with a firm pur­pose of amend­ment.
That’s what we all do when we sin in any way. We go to con­fes­sion with a firm pur­pose of amend­ment and start over with God’s help. In some Amoris sce­nario, they might have to live in a near occa­sion of sin, but for the sake of care of chil­dren, etc., they have to bear their Cross.

Now it’s one thing for an indi­vid­ual priest deal­ing with such a sit­u­a­tion to maneu­ver the sit­u­a­tion in a way that both gets these folks on the right track and do his best to avoid scan­dal and con­fu­sion in an indi­vid­ual parish.

It’s quite another for the Pon­tif of the entire church to sug­gest that the nor­mal rules don’t apply for the entire church, par­tic­u­larly given that:

  1. There are plenty of peo­ple out that both inside and out­side the church try­ing to bring it down.
  2. There are many peo­ple who can be eas­ily con­fused on the sub­ject of sin.
  3. The Devil is always look­ing for an opening.

Now if he was an indi­vid­ual priest work­ing with a cou­ple like the one above, then his approach, han­dled with pru­dence might be effec­tive or even desir­able as every soul counts.

But when you are pur­posely vague about the truths of the church to the point where you don’t even answer your Car­di­nals ask­ing for clar­i­fi­ca­tion (they’ve been wait­ing nearly 3 years) then you aren’t doing a good job of lead­ing a church whose founder said.

Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Any­thing more is from the evil one.

Even worse though he car­ries him­self as a hum­ble man when some­one dis­agrees or ques­tions him he car­ries him­self in a way that reeks of pride, the dead­liest of all the deadly sins.

Now every­one has their faults and par­tic­u­lar sins that they are vul­ner­a­ble to and Fran­cis is no dif­fer­ent than any­one else in that regard. Fur­ther­more there is a big dif­fer­ence between not being good at being Pope and not being a good Catholic or a good man. There are a lot of good Catholics and good priests for that mat­ter that I don’t think would make good Popes. Nor do I sub­scribe to the argu­ment that he is not in fact the Pope or some sort of cipher. After all despite the last 50 years decades of Saints in the chair of St. Peter is not the norm and with hun­dreds of Popes over thou­sands of years you’re bound to get a lemon here and there.

So just as we pray to be bet­ter Catholics than we cur­rently are let’s Pray for Fran­cis to be a bet­ter Pope than he cur­rently in trust­ing in the fact that the Holy Spirit knows what he’s doing even if he hasn’t told us.

There is a principle in management called the “Peter Principle” which states that a person who is successful in a job will eventually be promoted to a level in a company that they are not qualified for and will become a liability rather than an asset.

Right now I can’t think of a person that this applies to better than Pope Francis.

There are several things that Francis has done that I like very much, the emphasis on mercy, the extension of confession (including the Society of St. Pius X) his increase in the number of exorcists and his public pronouncements that the Devil is not a fantasy but a real entity out to get our souls.

Furthermore even in his poor pronouncements such as his letter on the environment he includes the pro-life anti-abortion message (which the left somehow always seems to ignore when praising said letter) and that has been a pretty constant message, for example:


Pope Francis has compared abortion to ‘hiring a hitman’ during a Vatican-sponsored anti-abortion conference. 


Abortion can never be condoned, even when the fetus is gravely sick or malformed, Pope Francis said during a pro-life conference held in the Vatican this morning.  
He urged doctors and priests to support families to carry all pregnancies to term – even where death is the result. 

Nevertheless it seems to me that Francis’ problem is that he forgets he is not the pastor of a small church trying to edge a couple who are on rocky ground carefully onto the straight path but the head of a universal church with enemies who want to destroy the principles that the church has advanced and defended for two millennium.

One of the hardest jobs that a pastor has is coaxing a person away from a state of mortal sin. Sometimes said person has gotten there through bad
catechizes, sometimes though hard times, other times a crisis hat hit and finally you run into cases where that person is new to the church and has to be actually taught what is sin and what is not.

A great example of this type of situation was dealt with a while back at Fr. Z’s blog about a couple civilly married or even remarried to wit:

If they then choose – for whatever compelling reason suggested by the objectively vague Amoris, etc. – to stay together, then the priest must help them to make a choice.  After Father lays out the options, they will tell the priest either that …
1) they will not live in continence as brother and sister, or
2) they will try to live in continence as brother and sister.
If they say they won’t, and they don’t, they cannot be admitted to Communion. They must be told not approach to receive Communion, for that would be a mortal sin and a sacrilege.
If, on the other hand, they say that they will try, and if they confess their sins and intend to live in continence, they probably can be admitted to Communion – 
remoto scandalo – provided that scandal is avoided.

and what happens when or if they occasionally fail?

Or course there may be times when they fail in their determination to live in continence and they have sexual relations.
What then?
Simple.  They go to confession and start over 
with a firm purpose of amendment.
That’s what we all do when we sin in any way.  We go to confession with a firm purpose of amendment and start over with God’s help.  In some Amoris scenario, they might have to live in a near occasion of sin, but for the sake of care of children, etc., they have to bear their Cross.

Now it’s one thing for an individual priest dealing with such a situation to maneuver the situation in a way that both gets these folks on the right track and do his best to avoid scandal and confusion in an individual parish.

It’s quite another for the Pontif of the entire church to suggest that the normal rules don’t apply for the entire church, particularly given that:

  1. There are plenty of people out that both inside and outside the church trying to bring it down.
  2. There are many people who can be easily confused on the subject of sin.
  3. The Devil is always looking for an opening.

Now if he was an individual priest working with a couple like the one above, then his approach, handled with prudence might be effective or even desirable as every soul counts.

But when you are purposely vague about the truths of the church to the point where you don’t even answer your Cardinals asking for clarification (they’ve been waiting nearly 3 years) then you aren’t doing a good job of leading a church whose founder said.

Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.

Even worse though he carries himself as a humble man when someone disagrees or questions him he carries himself in a way that reeks of pride, the deadliest of all the deadly sins.

Now everyone has their faults and particular sins that they are vulnerable to and Francis is no different than anyone else in that regard. Furthermore there is a big difference between not being good at being Pope and not being a good Catholic or a good man. There are a lot of good Catholics and good priests for that matter that I don’t think would make good Popes. Nor do I subscribe to the argument that he is not in fact the Pope or some sort of cipher. After all despite the last 50 years decades of Saints in the chair of St. Peter is not the norm and with hundreds of Popes over thousands of years you’re bound to get a lemon here and there.

So just as we pray to be better Catholics than we currently are let’s Pray for Francis to be a better Pope than he currently in trusting in the fact that the Holy Spirit knows what he’s doing even if he hasn’t told us.