The Peter Principle is the principle that “In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.” As Wikipedia references people are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their “level of incompetence”), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions. I have found this principle to be easily observable in real life.
But I want to write about another principle, the St. Peter Principle which in many ways is opposite to the Peter Principle.
St. Peter as a fisherman was likely no ones idea of somebody who go on to head what is the Catholic Church. No doubt a capable fisherman liked by his friends and peers. But he was also a bit exuberant in his opinions as evidenced so many times in scripture. At the Transfiguration much was lost on him as he planned to build booths as a testament to what happened. He was often quick in his opinions, just not necessarily quick in his thinking prior to his opinions.
As a religious man it was his brother that led him to Jesus. Those once led to Christ came to realize who he was following. In John 6 the great Eucharistic discourse when so many followers left Peter had the sense to say “”Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life;” He did not demand to have to understand everything, but realized the simple truth” When Peter witnessed the miracle after casting the nets he said “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man.” Of all the Apostles he was the only one to be able answer Jesus’ question that he was the son of the living God.
Peter certainly was able to respond to truth, but could also waiver a bit. His famous denial of Jesus three times is the most famous example. But even after the Resurrection Peter could preach the truth about the Church being for the Jews and the Gentiles, yet in practice did not follow this at times and was even rebuked by St. Paul.
If somebody was taking resume’s for who was going to be the first Pope, Peter’s resume would have been quickly pulled. A fisherman with no great learning and not the capacity to be a theologian like St. Paul or St. John. Lower management maybe, but not the head of the Church.
This is where the St. Peter Principle comes in and where grace plays the major role. Peter on his own would have been an example of the Peter Principle. It was the Holy Spirit which guided his answer to Jesus’ question that he was the Messiah. When Peter heard about the Eucharist, which must have seemed quite outrageous to a Jew, it was the Holy Spirit that guided him in the truth even if he did not fully understand it. It was the Holy Spirit that guided Peter into understanding that the truth of Jesus was for the Jews and the Gentiles. The same goes when the Apostles selected a new Apostle in that they acknowledged the Holy Spirit’s role.
The St. Peter Principle shows that no matter what ability and knowledge you have God can take it and make you a saint. No matter our abilities and our countless failures when we conform our wills to Christ and let the Holy Spirit transform us we too can become saints. With grace you do not rise to your “Level of Incompetence” because in the beatific vision there is no incompetence. Though our journeys can certainly be full of incompetence. The real incompetence is not to be a saint to loosely paraphrase Charles Peguy.
Peter would not be mans idea of somebody to be the first Pope and to lead the Church. Ourselves as saints might also seem equally ridiculous, yet Jesus in fact choose Peter to lead the Church, just as he chooses each of us to be saints. So repent and let grace guide you and be yet another example of the St Peter Principle.