C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church: An Interview with Joseph Pearce
Joseph Pearce, the author of C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church explores author C.S. Lewis’ relationship with the Catholic Church.
The Catholic News Agency recently published an interview with writer Joseph Pearce. He authored C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, a book that was almost not written if not for the urging of Walter Hooper, the former secretary and literary executer of the C.S. Lewis Estate. The book was initially going to be a simple republish an earlier book by Christopher Derrick, C.S. Lewis and the Church of Rome, however Mr. Hooper wanted a different approach to the subject. “I leapt at the opportunity to grapple with Lewis’ complex and problematic relationship with the Church,” said Pearce, who had converted to Catholicism after being inspired by C.S. Lewis.
What’s the Book About?
Throughout the interview, they look deeper into C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien’s relationship, as well as potential influences on Lewis to convert to the Catholic faith, something he never quite managed to accomplish. In response to those who say that C.S Lewis is quasi, or crypto-Catholic, Pearce claims it would inaccurate and “therefore unfair to the truth.” In his book, he details a few examples of how Lewis’ beliefs were more Catholic than Protestant, however. One such example is how he regularly went to auricular confession, “an extremely eccentric practice for an Anglican.” He had a deep belief in Purgatory, as well as a belief that he would go there.
Tolkien believes that Lewis failed to convert to Catholicism due to prejudices he inherited as a Belfast Protestant. It would be rare to see someone raised in an anti-Catholic culture to overcome those prejudices and convert to Catholicism. Lewis frequently exhibited an unease with the papacy, as well as discomfort with the Virgin Mary’s position in the Christian faith. In Pearce’s book, one can see Lewis moving closer to Catholicism, yet there is tension between his predisposed prejudice and his attraction to the Catholic doctrine.
Pearce stated that he could not draw connections between the loss of his mother to his Christian faith, and while his relationship with Mrs. Moore, the mother of a close deceased friend, was strange, it couldn’t directly be connected either. He does believe that the death of his wife, Joy Davidman, aided in deepening his faith in his final years, as one can see from his book A Grief Observed. However, the largest impact was his relationship with Tolkien. Their friendship cooled, though Pearce said it was not because of religious beliefs. “It seems to have had more to do with Tolkien’s lack of sympathy for Lewis’ work, especially his dismissive response to The Chronicles of Narnia… In this sense, it could be said that Tolkien was at least partially responsible for the cooling of their friendship.” However, it was Tolkien’s philosophy of Creation that drew Lewis’ conversion to Christianity.
According to Pearce’s book, Lewis was closest to entering the Church earlier in his conversion, but he appeared to step back from it. Pearce explained that “it must also be stated that Lewis would have been absolutely horrified by the Anglican Church’s abandonment of orthodoxy… It’s difficult to believe that Lewis would or could have remained in a church that had abandoned everything he fought to defend and reaffirm in his life and work.”
Pearce ended his interview with the wish to one day meet C.S. Lewis in Purgatory.