“Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.’’
Pope Francis — Address to the US Congress (2015)
“The very thoughts of a person like me are crimes against the state. All I have to do is think, and immediately I become guilty.”
Father Louis Merton — A Signed Confession of Crimes against the State
Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968) was an American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, social activist, and scholar of comparative religion. On May 26, 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name Father Louis. In the years since his death, Merton has been the subject of several biographies. Fifty years later, his death remains mysterious. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
On December 10, 1968, Merton was at a Red Cross retreat center named Sawang Kaniwat in the town of Samutprakarn near Bangkok, Thailand, attending a monastic conference.
After giving a talk at the morning session, he was found dead later in the afternoon in the room of his cottage, wearing only shorts, lying on his back with a short-circuited Hitachi floor fan lying across his body.
His associate, Jean Leclercq, states: “In all probability the death of Thomas Merton was due in part to heart failure, in part to an electric shock.”
Since there was no autopsy, there was no suitable explanation for the wound in the back of Merton’s head, “which had bled substantially.” [Wikipedia]
In 1997, James W. Douglass claimed that Merton had been assassinated by agents of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In 2016, theologian Matthew Fox made a similar claim.
In 2018, Hugh Turley and David Martin published The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton : An Investigation. The authors dispute the claim of accidental electrocution.
Turley and Martin presented their findings this summer (2018) in Rome at the Thomas Merton Symposium. Most people now agree that the story of an accidental electrocution is not believable.
The CIA has strongly denied any responsibility in Father Merton’s death.
Thomas Merton — Wikipedia
Did the CIA kill a turbulent, war-critical Catholic monk? — Irish Times
Merton – CIA Link? — The Catholic Review (CIA Website)
On This Day — Did the CIA Kill Father Louis Thomas Merton? (December 10 1968)