Thomas Merton and Daniel Berrigan were early and prominent critics of the Vietnam war. Particularly within the Catholic Church hierarchy they were criticized for their views. Fr. Berrigan was very much on the front lines of protest. Merton, due to his monastic vocation, registered his protest from a certain remove. Some suggested he should leave the monastery and join the efforts of activists such as Berrigan. Merton struggled with this but Fr. Berrigan told me that he felt Merton, living in a monastery, served the peace movement best by providing a more objective, long view of their struggle. Berrigan and other activists regularly
came to visit Merton seeking counsel and respite. Despite their friendship and mutual respect there were times of disagreement between the two men. One such time came after the activist Roger Laporte died in New York City while protesting the war in front of the United Nations. His death resulted from self-immolation. In this clip Fr. Berrigan describes how this controversial event impacted their friendship.
To learn more of Merton’s role as a peace activist see Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton.