Rebels in a Death-Wish Culture: Opposition to the Death Penalty in the Writings of Thomas Merton and Albert Camus

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2011


Thomas Merton wrote little and published even less on the death penalty. At those rare times he mentioned it in publication or in his private journals and correspondence, he expressed opposition to it and solidarity with the condemned. His ethic on capital punishment and horror at its use were similar to the ideas and feelings of Albert Camus. Unpublished manuscript entries from reading notebooks on Camus donated by Merton to Syracuse University shed new light on how these writers, the Trappist monk and the unbeliever, could find common ground on the death penalty from divergent points of intellectual departure.