Friday 21 September 2012

Spoiled priests: Thomas Merton, Alan Watts, Bede Griffiths


I am re-reading that most valuable of biographies - Father Seraphim Rose: his life and works, by Hieromonk Damascene - and was reminded of the vast damage done in the late twentieth century by spoiled priests.

Thomas Merton - 3.5 million hits on Google search
Alan Watts - 700K hits
Bede Griffiths - 200K hits

The likes of these were instrumental in setting up and encouraging the sixties counterculture, the sexual revolution, syncretic and New Age spirituality, and the fusion of radical Leftism with the project for world government, the 'peace movement' and suchlike utopian plans for 'heaven on earth'.


The man who became Fr Seraphim was taught by Alan Watts in San Fransico during his pre-Orthodox Nietzschian beatnik era; the young Eugene Rose wrote to Merton, and followed his evolving apostasy with dismay.

Dom Bede Griffiths OSB had no connection with Fr Seraphim, so far as I know - but was a pupil and frequent correspondent of CS Lewis.


My impression is that few people have done so much damage as these spoiled priests - who brought 'inside knowledge' of what they attacked.

All were talented, learned, charming, eloquent, energetic, excellent writers - which of course only made them vastly more dangerous when they crossed over to serve the dark side.

If we add to them the numerous less famous priests, pastors, monks, friars (especially them!), bishops, archbishops and a Pope who were to a significant and crucial degree covert apostates (mostly in the sense of re-writing traditional Christianity to suit modern sensibilities) - then it can be seen that these foes masquerading as allies, these wolves in lambs' clothing, constitute just about the most important servants of evil outside of Communism (from which they were, of course, not distinct).



PhilR said...

By Merton's 'evolving apostasy' do you mean, specifically, his exploration of other religious traditions? Or his general cultural outlook?

Bruce Charlton said...

@PR - I mean his abandonment of Christianity, moving towards his final intention to "find a Tibetan guru and go in for Nyingmapa Tantric initiation".

This was accompanied, or driven, by a changing general cultural outlook from world rejecting monasticism to modernity embracing international travel, conferences etc.

Loic said...

Add Karen Armstrong to the mix. I can't give you precise details since it has been several years since I had the misfortune of reading one of her books, but at the time I formed the impression that she was subtly undermining the faith by extolling the study of comparative religion as well as less subtly disparaging Christianity while praising Islam.

The study of comparative religion trivializes one's own religion and slowly corrodes one's faith, partly because the rules and beliefs of one's own religion seem to increasingly appear arbitrary.

I'll make an off the cuff assertion by saying that only Darwinian biology studies convert more students into atheists or agnostics than does comparative religion studies.

Bruce Charlton said...

@L - good example! A spoiled nun.

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

The majority of Catholic clergy in the last 50 years has been wrong most of the time and a fair number have been really evil, not counting outright apostates, but I disagree about the Popes having been less than admirable in the past century and a half. If it weren’t for the Popes, the last remnant of the Church would be now hiding under the altar. We are not yet there, however near it might be.

A few days ago, you made a remark about the negative outcomes of Vatican II. Superficially, the apostasy that has been spreading from that time looks like it has been brought about by the Council, but in fact a mass of clergy, theologians and teachers that pretended to abide by the "spirit" of Vatican II were actually speaking and doing the exact contrary. If you read the actual texts and consider THE main outcome of Vatican II, which is the Catechism, Truth and Tradition have been kept alive – if only barely in many places.

Like most devout Christians, I hate it when the liturgy is not reverent and when the priests say inappropriate or awful things, or when I see churches falling in ruins and parishes closing, but the Eucharist is obviously still with us, and the Church is still teaching the Truth, as Jesus promised.

I have two short readings to recommend in respect of a cult not living to our personal expectations, a letter from Tolkien to his son ( and an article from H.U. von Balthasar (

Bruce Charlton said...

@SDR - I have modified what I wrote from 'Popes' to 'a Pope' - I meant Pope John XXIII, the Pope who set up Vatican II. Fr Seraphim Rose (from what is written in the biography) convinces me that he was not a true Christian but had abandoned traditional positions to embrace the modern liberal pseudo-Christian syncretic thing. No doubt this was an important reason why Vatican II had the appalling results it did.

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

The “modern liberal pseudo-Christian syncretic thing” is certainly a plague, though to attribute the responsibility for it to John XXIII, who died after the first session, or to Vatican II constitutions, is not very logical. Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI are the ones who lived to implement what nearly all the bishops had signed. It is to be noted that only one bishop signed none of the constitutions: Mgr Marcel Lefebvre. Lefebvre directed against Paul VI and John Paul II the same libel and slander he raised against John XXIII, which is at least internally consistent considering his view of Vatican II.

William Wildblood said...

I fully agree with you re Watts and Merton, Bruce. There's something of the spiritual magpie about both of them to say the least. I'm more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to Bede Griffiths. Having said that, I commented that he was well meaning but misguided. We know what is said about good intentions!