Tuesday, February 2, 2010

C.S. Lewis Crypto-Catholic?

Had he lived to see the Anglican Church's modern abandonment of historic Christianity, would C.S. Lewis have felt compelled to become a Catholic?  It's an interesting question, the end-game of which is purely  hypothetical.

Over at Canterbury Tales, Taylor Marshall examines some of the very Catholic views that Lewis held.  His view of the Eucharistic Real Presence and Baptismal Regeneration were very close to what the Catholic Church teaches, he regularly frequented the Confessional, and he wrote with striking specificity of his belief in Purgatory:

"Our souls demand Purgatory, don't they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, 'It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy'? Should we not reply, 'With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleaned first.' 'It may hurt, you know' - 'Even so, sir.'

I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. But I don't think the suffering is the purpose of the purgation. I can well believe that people neither much worse nor much better than I will suffer less than I or more. . . . The treatment given will be the one required, whether it hurts little or much.

My favorite image on this matter comes from the dentist's chair. I hope 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. The rinsing may take longer than I can now imagine. The taste of this may be more fiery and astringent than my present sensibility could endure. But . . . it will [not] be disgusting and unhallowed."

Of course, despite the best efforts of his dear friend J.R.R. Tolkein (left) and others, Lewis never sought communion with the Catholic Church.  In fact, he had some very serious objections to it.  But one cannot help but wonder, given the distinctively Catholic trend of his beliefs on many aspects of the faith and his devotion to historic Christian orthodoxy, if there is any life boat -- other than the barque of Peter -- into which Lewis might have clambered when the Anglican ship went down in heterodoxy?
For a fuller treatment of this engaging topic, I highly recommend Joseph Pearce's excellent book, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church. 


  1. Goodmorrow, I was just pondering on the subject of your blogoshpere namesake. My question that I wish to pose to you is that do you realize your name is essentially exactly? x. zach lee/exactly! tis quite remarkable to say the least. If you had already realized this, cheerio! If not, I hope I have just provided you with some food for the soul, so to speak.

    Love and Handshakes,

    Lionel J. Whitcomb

  2. Thanks, Lionel. What can I say? I am blessed!