I find the reasoning quesionable. Merton still remains the best known American Catholic.
Bernardin made the cut probably because other bishops were voting on it--but given some recent statements by Richard Sipe on his situation, he hardly seems like a good choice.
From Catholic bishops approve national adult catechism:
"However, the final draft removed the Trappist monk and author Thomas Merton, who was originally the opening story. Every bishop on the committee had read Merton's bestselling 1949 autobiography about his journey from atheism to faith and thought he was an excellent example of a young American searching for God. But Merton, who died in 1968, is rejected by conservative Catholics who believe his later interest in Buddhist forms of prayer compromised his faith.
The main reason Merton was removed was because 'the generation we were speaking to had no idea who he was,' Wuerl said. 'Only secondarily did we take into consideration that we don't know all the details of the searching at the end of his life.'"