Subscribe to Christianity Today
by S.M. Hutchens
C.S. Lewis and Mother Kirk
For many Catholics C. S. Lewis is an enigma that needs explaining. This is especially true for those who are strongly attracted to his writings, and most particularly those for whom he has been of aid in their own pilgrimages from Protestantism to Rome. How can it be that this man with such deep understanding of Christian life and faith, a master of so many masters, never converted? Why did he who gave so much light to others never himself lay hold of the fullness of the faith? Why in so many matters—the Church, the papacy, the sacraments, the Mother of our Lord, the priesthood, the doctrines of grace, the veneration of the saints, Purgatory, auricular confession, and Creed of which Catholic teaching is the best explication—did the brilliant and perceptive Lewis go so far and understand so much, yet not carry through to the reasonable end? Why was he content to remain an Anglican, in a church that at its best is a poor reflection of the Church of Rome?
This question is the burden of Joseph Pearce's C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church. Pearce's answer, reduced to its essentials, is that Lewis had a blind spot created by a bigoted Ulster Protestant upbringing; despite his exposure to Catholic teaching and the best of Catholics among his friends, he was never able to overcome this prejudice, even on his deathbed. Nor can this spiritual defect be dismissed as a regrettable quirk; it was at the heart of Lewis' life and thought, as fundamental to his being as his goodness and intellectual power. Pearce surmises that at death Lewis was dispatched to the Purgatory in which he had come to believe, there to be worked upon until the sins that made him a Protestant are dealt with and he leaves it a proper Catholic.
Let us begin by admitting that we all assign Christians not of our communion to whatever purgatories we can muster—or at least, this Protestant reviewer will admit it for himself. We have our opinions on where they have gone wrong that can hardly be articulated in a sociable ...