The Mystery of Thomas Merton
The monk and hermit Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is hard to define. He was a poet, prolific spiritual writer, diarist, jazz buff, pioneer of inter religious dialogue, advocate of radial social reform and precursor of liberation theology. His works were known worldwide. However despite all his productivity, he was a man of inner turmoil, who died in unknown circumstances. John Cooney, journalist and writer was always intrigued by Merton, describing him as “the hermit who never was”. In two articles originally published in Doctrine and Life and later in The Irish Times, he explores a complex man who could never quite cut himself off from the sensual pleasures of the world, in particular drink and women. He left England after impregnating one woman and was nearly forced to leave monastic life after having an affair with another. John explains to Miriam Gormally that he has good reason to believe that Merton’s died by suicide. He further believes that under Frances and especially in this year of Mercy, that the writing and teachings of Merton should be re-explored.