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The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton Multiple Choice Quiz

1. The wound in the back of Thomas Merton’s head:

a. Was “superficial” according to authorized biographer Michael Mott.
b. Had “bled considerably” according to the police report.
c. Had “bled considerably” according to Mott.
d. Was ignored by Mott.
e. Was “superficial” according to Brother Patrick Hart.

2. According to “traditional narrative” writer Fr. James J. Martin, SJ, Merton:

a. Came out of a bathtub, slipped on a tile floor, and grabbed the defective fan.
b. Slipped in the bathtub and grabbed the defective fan.
c. After stepping out of a shower, he slipped on a wet floor and grabbed the bad fan.
d. As he was emerging from the shower he slipped and grabbed the fan.
e. All of the above.

3. The first person to see Thomas Merton’s dead body was:

a. The monk who shared the first floor of the cottage with him.
b. The Benedictine Abbot Primate who presided over the conference, later convicted of sex-related offenses.
c. The monk who was also the last person known to have seen Merton alive.
d. The writer for the Jesuit America magazine who shared the cottage with Merton.
e. None of the above.

4. The unsigned and undated Thai police report said that Merton died from:

a. Cardiac arrest caused by electrocution.
b. Electrocution by a badly wired Hitachi fan.
c. Heart failure.
d. The wound in the back of his head.
e. None of the above.

5. According to Michael Mott, the Thai police likely wrote their cover-up report to protect:

a. The International Red Cross, which ran the conference center where Merton died.
b. Hitachi, the maker of the fan.
c. The Catholic Church.
d. The local conference center proprietors.
e. None of the above.

6. The initial Associated Press report on Thomas Merton’s death

a. Made no mention of Merton having taken a shower.
b. Was from anonymous sources.
c. Said he was accidentally electrocuted while trying to move a defective fan.
d. Contradicted Thai newspaper reports on the cause of death.
e. All of the above.

7. Merton was not described as wearing shorts or pajamas when his body was discovered in:

a. The letters of the witness Fr. Celestine Say.
b. The letter from six Trappists at the conference as sent around by the Gethsemani Abbey.
c. The same six-Trappist letter as published in 1973 in The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton.
d. The witness statement of Fr. Odo Haas.
e. None of the above.

8. Biographer Michael Mott said that on discovering Merton’s body the witness Odo Haas attempted to move the fan off Merton’s body and he was “jerked sideways and held to the shaft” according to:

a. The statement of Haas to the police.
b. The statement of the witness Fr. Celestine Say.
c. The statement of the witness Fr. Egbert Donovan.
d. Brother Patrick Hart.
e. Mott cited no source.

9. The first public report of Merton having been wet from a shower when he touched the defective fan was in:

a. 1968.
b. 1969
c. 1970.
d. 1973.
e. 1984.

10. Thai authorities did not perform an autopsy because:

a. The law required that anyone autopsied in Thailand must be buried in Thailand, and the Gethsemani monks wanted Merton buried at the abbey.
b. The American military took possession of the body too quickly.
c. They lacked proper facilities for an autopsy.
d. They said an autopsy was unnecessary because it was obvious that Merton had been accidentally electrocuted.
e. They falsely stated on their reports that they had done an autopsy in support of a “heart failure” determination as the cause of death.

11. Spokesmen for the Gethsemani Abbey said that no autopsy was performed because

a. They were told that the law required that anyone autopsied in Thailand must be buried in Thailand.
b. International red tape prevented it.
c. They said both a and b.
d. No autopsy facilities were available.
e. The abbey doctor actually did do an autopsy, determining that electrocution was the cause of death.

12. The Belgian monk, François de Grunne, who was in a second-floor room in the four-room cottage in Thailand said

a. When he came down and discovered the body, he was coming down to ask Merton for the key to the cottage.
b. He was coming down to ask Merton if he wanted to go for a swim in the pool.
c. When he came down the first time, he said that he had heard a shout and thought it was Merton.
d. He said that any such noise he heard was from the surrounding neighborhood.
e. All of the above.

13. In late spring of 1969 this person travelled to Bangkok purportedly to investigate the death of Thomas Merton

a. John Howard Griffin
b. Jim Forest
c. Brother Patrick Hart
d. Penn Jones
e. James Douglass

14. Abbot Flavian Burns contacted the American Embassy in Bangkok and confirmed that Merton died accidentally and

a. Nothing more than that.
b. Merton was electrocuted from a faulty wire on a fan.
c. Merton grabbed a fan as he was stepping out of a shower.
d. Electrocution caused a fatal heart attack.
e. A fan had fallen into his bath.

15. Brother Patrick Hart wrote in the draft of his Postscript to The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton that Merton “returned to his cottage at about 2:30 and proceeded to take a shower…” The best available evidence shows that Merton died around

a. 2:00 pm
b. 2:30 pm
c. 3:00 pm
d. 3:30 pm
e. 4:00 pm

16. The official Death Certificate issued in Thailand stated that the cause of Thomas Merton’s death was

a. Accidental electrocution
b. Electrocuted by electric fan stepping out of a bath
c. Heart attack
d. Electrocuted by a faulty wire
e. Sudden heart failure

17. The American Foreign Service Report on the Death of An American issued by the Embassy in Bangkok was found at the U.S. National Archives and it stated that the cause of Thomas Merton’s death was

a. Accidental electrocution
b. Electrocuted by electric fan stepping out of a bath
c. Heart attack
d. Electrocuted by a faulty wire
e. Sudden heart failure

18. The monks that discovered Merton’s body took two photographs before anything was disturbed to show the police exactly how they found the body.

a. John Howard Griffin told Brother Patrick Hart and Abbot Flavian Burns that the two photographs should never be published.
b. Biographer Michael Mott implied that the photographs were of no value because they were taken after the scene had been disturbed.
c. The original negatives mysteriously disappeared until they were discovered in 2017.
d. In 2017, Elias Dietz, the current Abbot of Gethsemani, refused to grant permission for even drawings of the photographs to be published.
e. All of the above.

19. The translated copy of the Thai police report on Thomas Merton’s death has

a. No title
b. No date
c. No author
d. All of the names of eyewitnesses misspelled.
e. All of the above.

20. Which account below described the circumstances of Thomas Merton’s death without revealing the names of any eyewitnesses.

a. The December 11, 1968, letter to the Abbey of Gethsemani from The Six Trappists at the Bangkok conference.
b. The December 11, 1968 Associated Press report.
c. Brother Patrick Hart’s 1973 account of Merton’s death in his Postscript to The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton.
d. The Courier Journal (Louisville, KY) August 3, 1980, account of Merton’s death.
e. All of the above.

21. Which monk from Gethsemani wrote this false statement, “…when they began to open [Merton’s] body bag for a viewing, the stench from the body, never embalmed, was so acute that they stopped and sealed it up again.”

a. Abbot Flavian Burns
b. Fr. John Eudes Bamberger
c. Br. Patrick Hart
d. Br. Paul Quenon
e. Fr. Matthew Kelty

22. Thomas Merton’s body was found

a. lying straight and face down.
b. lying flat on his back with his arms at his side.
c. lying on his right side in a fetal position.
d. lying on his left side in a fetal position.
e. in a bathroom.

23. The International Thomas Merton society responded to the discovery of the official Thai documents regarding Thomas Merton’s death by

a. publicizing them in The Merton Seasonal.
b. hosting a discussion during the 50th anniversary of Merton’s death
c. publicizing them in The Merton Annual.
d. ignoring them.
e. having a presentation at their 16th General Meeting in Santa Clara.

ANSWER KEY: 1. c, 2. e, 3. c, 4. c, 5. d, 6. e, 7. c, 8. e, 9. d, 10 e, 11. c, 12. e, 13. d, 14. a, 15. a, 16. e, 17. e, 18. e, 19. e, 20. e, 21. d, 22. b, 23. d

I don’t care how Thomas Merton died. What difference does it make? I am only interested in Merton’s spirituality.

– An anonymous member of the International Thomas Merton Society

Does it matter how Jesus Christ died?

Hugh Turley and David Martin

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