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Speaking the Unspeakable: The Assassination and Martyrdom of Thomas Merton

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Beyond speculation, however, are the facts gathered by the authors that clearly prove that from the start there was a concerted effort to make a crime look like an accident. These efforts were initiated by de Grunne, who was the first to call it an "accident," but ably assisted by many others, including the Thai police or their surrogates, whose police report was released by the U.S. Embassy seven months after Merton's death and has no title, author, date, photographs, laboratory reports, or investigators' memos, and omits the testimony of the first two witnesses on the scene, Fr. Say and Fr. Egbert Donovan, who viewed Merton lying in a position and dressed in shorts totally inconsistent with the accidental death scenario. Most importantly, this "report" omits an autopsy report since no autopsy was conducted, a dead giveaway that a cover-up was underway. When a person is found dead, the first assumption of a competent investigation is that a crime may have been committed, and when the victim is found with a sever gash on the back of his head, is lying in a position inconsistent with an accident, an autopsy becomes essential. But none was performed in Thailand or when Merton's body arrived back at the Abbey of Gethsemani. That the United States Embassy, at the request of Most Reverend Dom Rembert Weakland, O.S.B., who was presiding over the conference, had the U.S Army take possession of Merton's body shortly thereafter, embalm it, and five days later fly it back to the U.S. aboard a military plane together with the corpses of American casualties of the Vietnam War is not only supremely ironic but downright suspicious.

The first public report of Merton's death was delivered on December 11, as Turley and Martin report:

On December 11, 1968, the Associated Press reported that Merton had been electrocuted

when he touched a short in a cord while moving an electrical fan, according to anonymous [my

emphasis] Catholic sources. The initial news reports did not include any important details such

as who found Merton, the names of any witnesses or officials at the scene, or who determined

it was an accident.

The Thai doctor's cause-of-death certificate and the official death certificate said Merton died of sudden cardiac failure, but failed to mention the bleeding rear head wound seen by witnesses.

Most importantly, when Say and Donovan first saw Merton lying on the floor on his back, his legs straight, and his arms straight down by his side with palms to the floor as if placed in a coffin, with a floor fan lying across a thigh to the opposite lower waist, Donovan urged Say to take photographs of Merton before the crime scene was subsequently disturbed. They were very suspicious. Through great detective work, Turley and Martin have acquired a copy of these two photos, but they have been prohibited by the current abbot of Gethsemani from publishing them or even an artist's rendering of them. The authors say:

The photographs taken by Say are the best available evidence of the actual scene of

Merton's death".The reason the monks took the photographs, as we have emphasized,

was to document exactly how they found the body. As we have seen, people whom they

would hardly have ever suspected, have consistently done their best to suppress those

images. The photographs are an essential resource to anyone interested in knowing the

truth about how Merton was killed.

But it is clear that many people would like to suppress that truth and have been hard at work doing so for half a century. But since this is intentionally a quasi-review because one must read this book from beginning to end to grasp the intricacies of this murder mystery and the cast of characters that comprise it (no review can do justice to such a detailed and brilliant investigation, and, even so, attempting one would spoil the book), I will end with the authors' words:

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Educated in the classics, philosophy, literature, theology, and sociology, I am a former professor of sociology. My writing on varied topics has appeared widely over many years. I write as a public intellectual for the general public, not (more...)
 
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