Did C.S. Lewis Become Catholic?

Hi Father Bloom,

Just noticed in your recent homily that you also love C.S. Lewis. I think that he is the greatest modern Christian writer. I also love him.

One of the leaders in my RCIA class said that C. S.Lewis had converted to Catholicism. I had not heard that before. I just knew that he was an Anglican. He helped me to see that it is not the church door that you walk through to worship God but the relationship that you have with him that is so important. It is a point of interest to me if he did convert to Catholicism and I was wondering if you know.....

Also, I really really do enjoy your homilies. They challenge me to go deeper into God's word and that is good.

Thanking you in advance,

Diane Gilman


Dear Diane,

Thanks for your email and kind words. Good to hear about your involvement in the RCIA and your love for C.S. Lewis.

He did not become a Catholic. He did have many Catholic friends, including Tolkien, and he ascribes his conversion to reading Everlasting Man which was the quintessential Catholic work of G.K. Chesterton.

Some have speculated that he did not become a Catholic because it would have been too difficult a step for an Ulsterman. However, I assume his reasons were more than simply emotional or cultural. Whatever they were, he avoided talking about them and carried on a wide and warm correspondence with many priests, sisters and Catholic laypeople.

Although he was not a Catholic, he brought many people to the Church's door - and continues to do so. I think his emphasis on membership (that as Christians we are in a relation to each other like that of bodily organs) has helped many Christians understand that salvation is not simply a matter of an individual relationship to Christ, but of belonging to his body, that is, his Church. He had a wonderful sense of the communion of saints - and he argued in favor of the distinctive Catholic doctrine of Purgatory. "I hope," he writes "that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am coming round, a voice will say 'Rinse your mouth out with this.' This will be purgatory."

It is impossible to know whether, if he lived longer, he would have become a Catholic. However, it is interesting that some of his disciples like Walter Hooper (an Anglican priest) converted to Catholicism. Back in 1948, C.S. Lewis wrote an essay titled Priestesses in the Church? In it he anticipated the arguments in favor of ordaining women - and answered them cogently. And he advanced arguments against women's ordination, which as far as I have read, no one has satisfactorily answered. He argued that, although ordaining women seems on the surface the most logical thing to do, it would go against the very nature of the Church and overthrow the core of biblical revelation. As you know, Lewis chose his words carefully, so we must take him seriously when he said, "if all these supposals (regarding women priests) were ever carried into effect we should be embarked on a different religion." It is hard to imagine Lewis would have remained an Anglican after they made such a radical departure from the two thousand year Christian tradition.

But all this is speculation. The fact is that Lewis died in 1963 as a loyal son of the Anglican Church. What he left behind was one of the clearest, most cogent explanations of the core doctrines of Christianity. Like you - and many others - I find him the greatest modern Christian author. When I read him - or re-read him for the twentieth time - I come away refreshed and with a greater love for Jesus and my fellow Christians, an awareness of my sins and the beauty of goodness (holiness). I owe so much to him that I look forward one day to thanking him, as I am sure many Christians do.

Prayers for you, Diane. Please remember me in your prayers. God bless,

Fr. Phil Bloom

P.S. One other aspect of Lewis is worth mentioning: He practiced confession of his sins to a priest - and encouraged his fellow Anglicans and of course his Catholic friends to do the same.


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