I have written about Thomas Merton - the monk, author, poet, and social activist - on previous postings that briefly covered his life and his gravitation to a Catholic contemplative committal. I have always thought of him as someone enamored of God and passionate about His existence; and our obligation to love each other as instructed by Jesus Christ. In other blogs, however, I read a description of Thomas Merton that is vastly different from the perception I have of him. No exact details are mentioned to support their claims, but I've heard him referred to as a "heretic" and a "new age guru." Are we talking about the same Thomas Merton? I know he forged a dialogue between Catholic and Buddhist contemplatives that continues to this very day. I know he was appalled by the Vietnam War and the development, proliferation, and strategizing of nuclear weaponry. I know of his indignation over the racial inequities that plagued America during the tumultuous 1960's. But a heretic? Does his social activism and ecumenical conferencing make him a heathen? To my knowledge, Merton remained a faithful and observant Catholic throughout his stay in Gethsemane. It was not until the last few years of his life that he was given permission by his abbot to travel abroad. His works (the one's I've come across) are filled with beautiful spirituality that sees humanity as a marvellous creation, albeit fallen and oftentimes weak.
One thing I must mention, I read this derogatory characterization of Merton on a blog with an author who seems quasi-misanthropic and infuriated at anything and everything that is not to his liking. He focuses completely on what is wrong with the Church and never mentions - in a pleasant tone - some optimism over anything.
Maybe that's the problem. Merton wasn't enough of a Scrooge for this poor individual.
Let me know your thoughts on Thomas Merton. Perhaps there is something about him that I have failed to detect.