Why C.S. Lewis Never Became Catholic

By pintswaquinas March 5, 2024

C.S. Lewis is beloved by Catholics and Protestants for his accessible yet deep works elucidating the Christian faith and defending it from detractors.

Lewis focused on defending what he called “Mere Christianity.” By that he meant the beliefs that nearly all Christians hold in common, including the Trinity and the Incarnation.

Technically, Lewis was Protestant- a member of the Church of England. But many readers have noticed that his writings seem more Catholic than the works of other Protestants.

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For example, he postulated the existence of a version of Purgatory. Catholics believe in Purgatory; Protestants do not. Lewis also favored the idea of sacramental confession — a “popish” idea to the spiritual descendants of the Reformers. Near his death, he seemed increasingly open to the idea of seven sacraments.

Lewis seemed so close to crossing the Tiber and joining the Catholic Church, but he never took the plunge. Why?

Here’s one possible answer.

He didn’t live long enough.
G.K. Chesterton wrote a book about William Blake where he answered the question of why Blake never became Catholic. Chesterton said that he didn’t live long enough.

What did Chesterton mean? He claimed that if every man lived a thousand years, he would become either a nihilistic atheist or a member of the Catholic Church. While Chesterton did think that Blake had some erroneous ideas, he recognized that he was on the right road, moving toward the Catholic Church. He simply didn’t live long enough to make it there.

The same can be said of Lewis. A review of his writings shows a man going in the right direction. Lewis fell away from his Christian faith in his youth and later returned with help from J.R.R. Tolkien. His life from that point shows a progressive understanding and appreciation of the central truths of the Christian faith and, as mentioned, an entertaining of ideas more Catholic than Protestant.

Lewis’ late secretary Walter Hooper said that he personally believed that Lewis would have become Catholic had he lived longer. He pointed out that Lewis wouldn’t have liked the increasing liberalism in Anglicanism we’ve witnessed over the past several decades and that he would have realized that his “Mere Christianity” found its fullest expression in Catholicism.

Of course, all of this is conjecture. Still, we can appreciate Lewis’ contributions to Christian discourse in our time.


Image: Aronsyne, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


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