Stockholm Syndrome at the CDF: Has Cardinal Müller Been Compromised?

Stockholm Syndrome at the CDF: Has Cardinal Müller Been Compromised?

Steve Skojec January 11, 2017

Dr. Joseph Carver, a clinical psychologist, describes four situations in which a foundation for Stockholm Syndrome is present. “These four situations,” he says, “can be found in hostage, severe abuse, and abusive relationships”:

The presence of a perceived threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and the belief that the abuser would carry out the threat.

The presence of a perceived small kindness from the abuser to the victim

Isolation from perspectives other than those of the abuser

The perceived inability to escape the situation

When Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, appeared live on Italian television last Sunday and criticized the dubia, saying that there would be “no correction” because Amoris Laetitia presents “no danger to the faith,” many Catholics found themselves examining his face to see if he was blinking out a distress signal in Morse Code. The bewilderment that has followed his interview continues to generate news, but the reasons why he would say something so obviously contrary to the truth — when Müller’s marginalization casts serious doubt on it being an exercise in fomenting power through the willful, positivistic subversion of reality — remains a mystery.

Nevertheless, I think the psychological descriptions above may shed some light on what we are witnessing. I’m certainly not trained in the subject, but I could not help but map the above-mentioned conditions for Stockholm Syndrome onto Cardinal Müller’s relationship with Pope Francis:

The presence of a perceived threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and the belief that the abuser would carry out the threat.

We have heard for some time about the “climate of fear” at the Vatican. This isn’t new — in an anonymous letter from a former member of the Curia penned in 2015, this exact term was used. More recently, we have seen this fear publicly discussed by not just journalists at LifeSiteNews and the National Catholic Register who have spent time in Rome, but Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who lived under Soviet communism and has compared the situation in Rome to his experiences. I have described what I call “The Dictatorship of Mercy” — the unrelenting Vatican agenda-by-diktat, couched in the terms of “mercy” and “accompaniment” but as authoritarian as any program implemented by an autocratic regime. We have been given several recent examples — from the exile of Cardinal Burke to the purges at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Pontifical Academy for Life to the assault on the John Paul II Institutes for Marriage and Family to the unexplained, papally-ordered firings at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — that opposition will be crushed.

Müller himself is often disrespected and passed over by Francis and his closest advisors. In an interview in January, 2014, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, a member of Francis’ inner circle, proffered naked scorn at Müller’s rejection of Holy Communion to the divorced and remarried, saying that the prefect “only thinks in black-and-white terms” and that “the world isn’t like that”. Archbishop Victor Fernández, another close friend of Francis who is believed to be the chief ghostwriter of Amoris Laetitia, gave an interview in May of 2015 that was perceived as a direct attack on statements made by the Prefect of the CDF. In May of this year, Maike Hickson reported that “Carlos Osoro, the archbishop of Madrid, Spain, forbade Cardinal Gerhard Müller from presenting his new book on hope at the Catholic University San Dámaso, because this book is — Osoro alleges — ‘against the pope‘.” In December,, an official publication of the Austrian Bishops’ conference under the leadership of papal ally Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, edited an interview with Müller in such a way as to leave some of his most important remarks about Amoris Laetitia on the cutting room floor. And on multiple occasions, Francis has signaled his preference — or even deference — to Cardinal Walter Kasper on matters of theology, such that the openly heterdox prelate is known as “the pope’s theologian”.

Meanwhile, it should be remembered that Müller contributed an essay to the book, Remaining in the Truth of Christ — seen as such a threat to the synod proceedings that it was stolen from the Vatican mailboxes of the synod fathers — and signed on to the so-called “13 Cardinals Letter” that was alleged to have outraged the pope.

Taking all of this into account, Müller has plenty of reason to believe that he is under threat. What form it would take remains an open question, but if he had a fear of reprisal in some form, it would not be without merit.

The presence of a perceived small kindness from the abuser to the victim

This condition seems, at least superficially, slightly less applicable. That said, despite his (rather tepid) opposition to heterodox interpretations of Amoris Laetitia, Müller still has his job as Prefect — a job which he seems to take seriously, even when others do not. This alone could be perceived as a kindness, even an openness from Francis.

Isolation from perspectives other than those of the abuser

I have often described Müller to others as “essentially under house arrest.” The fear of monitored communications on the part of CDF officials has been noted in these pages before. The forced firings of competent staff members of the CDF at the pope’s command — without any justification — is a clear power play. One source of mine described the situation at the Vatican, as I have previously written, as “like an occupied state.” Even when travelling in Spain, Müller faced the insubordinant behavior of an archbishop — his hierarchical inferior — who would, it is reasonable to conclude, only have made such a gesture of disrespect if he were protected by Rome. (Osoro has since been rewarded with a red hat. Coincidence?) So while Müller has, in theory, freedom of movement and access to outside perspectives, the dominant power base in Rome — and the very man to whom Müller reports — falls under the category of the “abuser”.

The perceived inability to escape the situation

Sources close to Müller have told me that the prefect and his close advisers believe they can do more good for the faith, and for the orthodox members of the CDF, by staying put — even though the situation is less than ideal. I have heard rumors that the Cardinal even considered retiring, but was persuaded to stay by those who have expressed fears over who might take his place. So while Müller technically possesses the autonomy to leave, one senses that he feels trapped by a moral duty to mitigate the damage being done by Rome. However, it appears increasingly clear that in so doing, he is being co-opted into the very agenda he is ostensibly standing his ground to resist.

So is some version of the psychological effect known as Stockholm Syndrome beginning to affect Müller’s judgment and sabotage his own self-interest? More importantly, is this happening in such a way that Müller himself is now undermining the Catholic Faith he is duty-bound to guard and protect?

This seems an increasingly likely possibility.

In Edward Pentin’s January 9 report at the National Catholic Register on Müller’s surprising televised remarks last Sunday, some striking facts were brought to light. Most notable was the contradiction between the Cardinal’s words in the interview and his previous actions. Pentin writes:

His remarks also come after it has emerged the CDF had clear misgivings about the document before it was published — concerns which were never heeded. One informed official recently told the Register that a CDF committee that reviewed a draft of Amoris Laetitia raised “similar” dubia to those of the four cardinals. Those dubia formed part of the CDF’s 20 pages of corrections, first reported by Jean-Marie Genois in Le Figaro on April 7, the eve of the publication of the document.

Another senior official went further, revealing to the Register last week that Cardinal Müller had told him personally that the CDF “had submitted many, many corrections, and not one of the corrections was accepted”. He added that what the cardinal states in the interview “is exactly the contradictory of everything which he has said to me on the matter until now” and he had the “impression of someone who was not speaking for himself but repeating what someone else had told him to say.”

Remember, too, this largely-overlooked piece of information in our story of May 2nd, 2016:

In addition, it has now been reported that that Cardinal Müller was not given the copy of the final version of Amoris Laetitia – but only, instead, a much less problematic text – for his own final doctrinal review. It is once more due to the important work of Guiseppe Nardi that this important fact – which has subsequently been confirmed by other sources – was reported first in Italy, and has now been made known far and wide. While it seems clear that the orthodox forces – with Cardinal Müller at the top – are being increasingly ignored, pushed aside and even bypassed, the progressive forces are in fact being further promoted and now also encouraged in other ways.

So it is more than a little odd to see Müller defending the orthodoxy of the text. Further, Pentin also reported that in his most recent remarks:

[Müller] said he felt it was “a loss to the Church to discuss these things publicly”, adding that Amoris Laetitia is “very clear in its doctrine and we can interpret the whole doctrine of Jesus on marriage, the whole doctrine of the Church in 2000 years of history.”

But certainly, Cardinal Müller’s own public statements stand in rebuke of these comments. In this image made by 1P5’s Matthew Karmel, we see the clear distinction made by Müller in December of 2014:

It is clear that with divergent practices being implemented by various bishops around the world, the pope himself confirming that Holy Communion can be given to the divorced and remarried in certain circumstances, and the official interpreters of the exhortation trying to pass it off as “binding”, we are faced with nothing less than a “separation of the theory and practice of the faith.” If that is, indeed, a “christological heresy” — as Müller himself has claimed — it would therefore constitute a “danger to the faith” by any reasonable standard.

With the stakes thus clarified, certain conclusions are inescapable. If Cardinal Müller thinks he can stand athwart the darkness by staying where he is, trying to tamp down the fires of discontent stirred up by the dubia from within the Vatican apparatus by means of a more subtle, diplomatic approach, he is seriously mistaken. And if he is being told what to say, and willing to do so (recall similar reports that Msgr. Pinto from the Roman Rota was given a papal order to attack the Four Cardinals) then it is impossible for him to be trusted — and it suggests that he has come to identify, somehow, with those who have essentially held him captive in his increasingly ineffectual position. Recall this synopsis of a recent article at Crux, which struck me at the time as being a description of precisely what has been done to Müller, particularly as regards the accolades and responsibilities given by Francis to Kasper and Schönborn:

In a nutshell, Pope Francis’s approach to difficult personnel choices is to keep people in place, while entrusting the real responsibility to somebody else and thus rendering the original official, if not quite irrelevant, certainly less consequential.

Though our readers have often pointed out Müller’s own theological discrepancies, he has consistently been one of the better prelates in Rome during this pontificate. It was sad enough to see him treated this way by the reigning cabal; it is far more disheartening to see him now speaking on their behalf.

It is worth noting that Pentin also reports that some 30 additional cardinals

having seen an advance draft of the apostolic exhortation, wrote to the Pope expressing their reservations, especially on the issue of communion for remarried divorcees, warning that the document would weaken the three essential sacraments of the Church: the Eucharist, marriage, and confession. The Pope never responded to that letter either, a Vatican source told the Register.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s well past time for these princes of the Church to man up. They have a moral duty to defend the Faith. Quiet murmuring does not a crown of martyrdom make. Will they or will they not defend their flock? Will they or will they not defend their mother?

Salvation history is quite literally at a turning point, and all that is required to help set things right is a bit of courage. How is it that there is so little to be found?

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4 comments on “Stockholm Syndrome at the CDF: Has Cardinal Müller Been Compromised?

  1. [Based on the second part of a recent issue of Sandro Magister’s Settimo Cielo (Seventh Heaven) A Firing, a Demolition: Behold the New Curia, some of the same aspects can be seen in Cardinal Sarah’s situation]

    The second measure taken in shadow concerns the Congregation for Divine Worship, the prefect of which is Cardinal Robert Sarah, he too the object of repeated public humiliations on the part of the pope, and now condemned to preside over offices and men who are pulling against him.

    Directed by the secretary of the congregation, the English archbishop Arthur Roche, a commission has been set up within the dicastery at the behest of Francis, the objective of which is not the correction of the degenerations of the postconciliar liturgical reform – meaning that “reform of the reform” which is Cardinal Sarah’s dream – but the exact opposite: the demolition of one of the walls of resistance against the excesses of the postconciliar liturgists, the instruction “Liturgiam Authenticam” issued in 2001, which sets the criteria for the translation of liturgical texts from Latin into the modern languages.

    With Benedict XVI these criteria had been further reinforced, in particular through the pope’s intention to hold firm the “pro multis” of the Gospel and the Latin missal in the words of consecration of the blood of Christ, against the “for all” of many current translations.

    But Francis immediately made it understood that this matter left him indifferent. And now, with the institution of this commission, he is meeting the expectations for a modernization of liturgical language championed, for example, by the [liberal] liturgist Andrea Grillo, a professor at the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm and in great esteem at Casa Santa Marta:

    > La traduzione/tradizione impossibile: i punti ciechi di “Liturgiam authenticam”

    There are those who fear that after the demolition of “Liturgiam Authenticam,” the next objective, of this or another commission, will be the correction of “Summorum Pontificum,” the document with which Benedict XVI liberalized the celebration of the Mass in the ancient rite.

  2. The Stockholm Syndrome applies to more than just those under the spell of Bergoglian modernism. The progressive modernism of the entire Spirit of Vatican II has the faithful in a hostage situation, the circus from John XXIII opening the windows to the modern world, Teilhardism, Bernardin, Hans Küng , and this latest progressive modernist clown Father Bergoglio obsessed with air conditioning and climate change. Every crazy modernist Novus Ordo parish, high school, and college under the grip of modernist ex-nuns and pastoral associates pushing Liberation theology and Enneagrams, from the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade to Georgetown and the flamer president’s office at Notre Dame. They have turned the Catholic Church into a modernist nuthouse run by crazy liberal queers holding the parishioners and students hostage to their demented agenda.

    Bergoglio is a kook.

  3. It’s definitely Stockholm syndrome at the lower levels. But for Müller it’s more likely false obedience along with the imagined beneficial work he does by holding onto his office. He’d help more souls by keeping true to the Faith rather than going along with Francis to keep his office.

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