On This Day — Did the CIA Kill Father Louis Thomas Merton? (December 10 1968) [2020]

“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

The Dalai Lama was 33 years old when he met father Merton. “I often describe him as a very, very strong bridge between Catholic tradition and Buddhist tradition,” says the Dalai Lama reflecting on his meeting with him.

December 10 2020 — 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. 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. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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“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)

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.

“Incredible barbarity of the Vietnam War. The ways of killing defenseless people, it is appalling. Surely the moral sense of this country is eroded.”

Father Merton — Journal

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.

Documentary : The Many Storeys and Last Days of Thomas Merton

The 2015 documentary “The Many Storeys and Last Days of Thomas Merton” recounts the monk’s life in 1968 and explores his crucial yet sometimes controversial pursuit of interfaith dialogue. The program was written and produced by Louisville filmmaker Morgan Atkinson.

The Many Storeys and Last Days of Thomas Merton is the story of Merton in the last year of his life, embarking on his greatest journey. It’s a story of adventure and search that takes the viewer from his home at the Abbey of Gethsemani, across America in the turbulent year of 1968 and finally to Asia for meetings with the Dalai Lama and other spiritual seekers.

The purpose of the journey? As always with Merton he seeks a fuller union with God. He believed serving as a bridge between west and east was one way in which his call could be lived out. The Many Storeys and Last Days of Thomas Merton celebrates the triumph of all that was gained by his journey, reflects on the tragedy of what was lost with his death and considers why Merton’s life and work challenges us today.

REFERENCES

Thomas Merton — Wikipedia

Did the CIA kill a turbulent, war-critical Catholic monk? — Irish Times

Merton – CIA Link? —  The Catholic Review  (CIA Website)

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On This Day — Did the CIA Kill Father Louis Thomas Merton? (December 10 1968)

On This Day — Did the CIA Kill Father Louis Thomas Merton? (December 10 1968) [2019]

On This Day — Did the CIA Kill Father Louis Thomas Merton? (December 10 1968) [2020]

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