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Letter to Hostile Professor on Thomas Merton’s Death

In my previous posting, Island Catholic News on Thomas Merton’s Death, I noted that the quoted email was the very first one I had ever sent to Professor Gregory K. Hillis of Bellarmine University. It was, in fact, the only communication of any kind that I had ever initiated with the man. However, the co-author with me of The Assassination of Thomas Merton: An Investigation, Hugh Turley, had made several polite attempts to establish a dialogue with him, but was rebuffed at every turn, and finally he was threatened with legal action if he continued. That is why I got the assignment of informing Dr. Hillis of the latest published articles about Merton’s death. Here is a letter that Turley sent to Hillis early last year by conventional mail:

February 22, 2019

Dr. Gregory K. Hillis
Alumni Hall 106
Bellarmine University
2001 Newburg Rd.
Louisville, KY 40205

Dear Professor Hillis,

Your twitter comments about the book that I co-authored reminded me of a meeting that I had a few days ago with [a Catholic nun who is a friend of mine].

By providence I saw her at Mass the other day at a place where we both usually do not go. I have known her for about 40 years, from before she entered the convent. I gave her a copy of my book on Merton last summer. She told me that she had read it but just “did not want to believe what I wrote about those monks.”

I told her that if someone had told her 5 years ago that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was a pervert preying on seminarians, she would not have wanted to believe that. As we walked, she stopped and stared at me. I then told her. “There was a sentence that I wrote in the book that my co-author thought we should leave out. He said we should avoid being too hard on the monks.” [The nun] asked, “What sentence was it?”

I told her that I wrote, “People make a big mistake when they think that members of a religious community who choose a cloistered life of prayer are less vulnerable to the sins that afflict mankind.” [The nun] and another nun who was with her both said in unison, “Oh, that is so true, you should have left that sentence in.” [The nun] told me that she now understood, and she told me that she wanted to share my book with other sisters in her community.

Your instinct to defend the monks at Gethsemani is natural and understandable.

I once lived next door to a very dangerous man. When we first met, he appeared normal, and he was very intelligent. After several years, he changed, and I became suspicious. I tried to warn my community. My family and other neighbors told me he was a good man and that he would never harm children. People cursed me. On the advice of a retired policeman, I wrote letters to the county police, the FBI and our county executive. Nothing happened for 10 months until a child disappeared. George “Junior” Burdynski was never found. My neighbor is serving over 200 years in prison. People did not want to believe the disturbing things that I suspected about a neighbor.

At Penn State University, no one would believe the children who came forward and told the truth about Jerry Sandusky. One school counselor told a child, “Jerry would never do that. He has a heart of gold.”

There is something to learn from Judas Iscariot in the Gospel. People very close to us can betray our trust and do great evil. It is the fallen nature of man. The brothers of Joseph in the book of Genesis sold their own brother into slavery. It happens.

Living in a monastery does not protect men from Satan.

I read this morning that Brother Patrick has died. I hope that what we revealed in our book may have moved him to try to get closer to God.

You may not want to believe that Brother Patrick was capable of sin, but the truth is that we are all capable of doing evil. We should not ignore the facts that Brother Patrick made up the story that Merton took a shower and he removed those three words “in his pajamas” from the Six Trappists letter when it was published in The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton.

Thomas Aquinas wrote that ignorance is voluntary when we do not take the trouble to acquire the knowledge that we ought to have. We ought to know when our neighbor is molesting children or a Cardinal Archbishop is a pervert preying on seminarians. We should be intolerant of evil.

Concealing the truth about the murder of our brother Fr. Louis is evil, and it should not be ignored or tolerated.

I am coming to visit Bellarmine. I would like very much to visit with you. If I need an appointment, please email me at [email address given].

Yours for the truth,

Hugh Turley

Professor Hillis responded that he had no interest in meeting with Turley. Turley did visit Bellarmine University, nevertheless, and met with Director Paul M. Pearson and Assistant Director, Mark C. Meade, of the Thomas Merton Center there, who received him graciously.

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