Dear Friends,

From now until the Fourth of July I will be on the road: a bit of vacation, time for my own spiritual reflection, and time to do some professional research.

As I pack my bags, I encourage you to remember the Peter Principle. It has great significance in our contemporary church.

The Peter Principle we devoutly recall is a belief that in an organization, like the church, the organization’s leaders will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability. The principle is commonly phrased, “employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence.”

The Peter Principle was formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book “The Peter Principle,” a humorous treatise, which also introduced the “salutary science of hierarchiology.”

Hierarchiology certainly resonates with our contemporary Catholic scene…..

According to the science of hierarchiology, leaders are promoted as long as they work loyally and obediently. (In our hierarchy we know of course that the big leaders are rewarded with red dresses. It is hard to ask in our hierarchy “who wears the pants in this church?”) Eventually the obedient leaders — we used to call them sycophants — are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (they have exceeded their “level of incompetence”), and there they remain, being unable to earn any further promotions.

In time, every leadership post tends to be occupied by a leader who is incompetent to carry out his duties.

Institutional self-worship and self-justification take over. Leaders look for scape-goats and side issues to shift public attention away from their own incompetence and negligence.

A common refrain from incompetent leaders is: “They are taking away our freedom…They are persecuting us.”

A some point a reformation occurs……

We need a Fourth of July in the Catholic Church……..


And unless something really extraordinary happens….like Cardinal Tim Dolan publicly endorses the US presidential candidacy of Barack Obama…Or Pope Benedict appoints members of LCWR to the College of Cardinals, I will be silent throughout the month of June.

Peace be with you!
John W. Greenleaf

PS My email will be working for urgent thoughts…


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