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C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church Paperback – December 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Joseph Pearce is Writer in Residence and Visiting Fellow at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, NH. He is a renowned biographer whose books include Candles in the Dark: The Authorized Biography of Fr. Ho Lung, Missionaries of the Poor (Saint Benedict Press, 2012); Through Shakespeare's Eyes: Seeing the Catholic Presence in the Plays (Ignatius Press, 2010); and Tolkien: Man and Myth, a Literary Life (HarperCollins, 1998). He is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Higher Education from Thomas More College for the Liberal Arts and the Pollock Award for Christian Biography. He is co-editor of the St. Austin Review, editor-in-Chief of Ignatius Press Critical Editions, and editor-in-Chief of Sapientia Press.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press; First Edition edition (December 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898709792
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898709797
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,762,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Gord Wilson VINE VOICE on November 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
In picking up a book like this, the most obvious question is "why read it?" The most obvious answer is given in the title: to explore Lewis's views of, and relation to the Catholic Church. I picked up the book with that idea in mind, but instantly discovered a much wider appeal. More interesting than Pearce's attempt to answer that question are the many byways he treads to get there. What impressed me was his skill as a researcher: in turning over stones to find things others have overlooked, in drawing odd, if plausible parallels between things that seem disconnected, in tracing some of the rich streams that fed Lewis's imagination and flowed into his works. In particular, Pearce looks at The Pilgrim's Regress and The Great Divorce, two widely-read works of fiction, and Mere Christianity, Lewis's most popular nonfiction work. Pearce probes into the "troubles" of Lewis's native Belfast and the later atmosphere of inquiry and debate at Oxford, following him from an atheist to a convert and well-known Chrstian apologist. Would that road have eventually led to Rome? he asks. Why or why not? One can only speculate, and Pearce imaginatively considers the question. Interestingly, he notes, the Anglicans of Lewis's own denomination less and less read him, while he is becoming more and more popular among two other groups: Catholics and Evangelical Protestants. A Catholic convert himself, Pearce naturally leans towards the former readers, but it would be unfortunate if the latter group missed this book by an author in so many ways in sympathy with them, and which sheds so much light on what both groups find in common in an author they both love.

For more on Lewis' relationship to the Catholic Church see my interview with Richard Purtill, author of C.S. Lewis' Case for the Christian Faith (available through Amazon) at in the Ignatius Insight online magazine.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Fr Phillip Bloom on May 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
Many people have had an experience of C. S. Lewis similar to mine. I have read all of his popular works - the space trilogy, Narnia, theological works, essays and letters - several times. However, I have found practically no value in books that attempt to explain Lewis. No one could make him any clearer than he already is.
Joseph Pearce's book is the first exception I have encountered. Pearce focuses on an aspect of Lewis' writing which is genuinely ambiguous - his relationship to the Catholic Church. Reared in the Ulster Protestant milieu, he had a revulsion to Roman Catholicism, which never completely left him. Yet, "papists" (e.g., Chesterton and Tolkien) played a major role in his conversion. And he embraced distinctively Catholic doctrines such as purgatory, the Blessed Sacrament and the impossibility of female priests.
Pearce asks why Lewis never became a Catholic - and whether, like many of his disciples, he would have, if he had lived longer. Although the questions cannot finally be answered, Pearce's lively attempt sheds light on a major aspect of Lewis' thought.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Karl B. Erickson on December 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
It is important to note that Lewis' conversion to Christianity in September of 1931 might not have even come about at all without the presence of an orthodox Catholic by the name of J.R.R. Tolkien. It was Tolkien and Hugo Dyson who were instrumental in persuading Lewis to see Christianity as the "True Myth". One criticism of Pearce's work by a Mr. Hutchins (in Books & Culture) erroneously asserts that Lewis recognized the supposed impossibility of creating the perfect church here on earth, and that it can only be a weak reflection of what is to come. He claims that it is foolish for any church to claim the title of the one true church. The Catholic Church, then, is condemned by Mr. Hutchins as a fraud. It is interesting to note that this view was not shared by C.S. Lewis himself. In fact, Lewis believed in Purgatory, the sacrament of confession, had concerns regarding the morality of birth control (as inferred in a letter to Mrs. Ashton on March 13, 1956), acknowledged the validity of honoring the saints (as discussed in a letter to Mrs. Arnold on June 20, 1952), and placed great significance on the sacrament of communion--referred to by Lewis himself as the "Mass" in a letter--and opposed the ordination of women as priests within the Anglican Church.

What gave Lewis trepidation concerning a move closer to the Catholic Church? While he does mention concern with certain Marian doctrines and elements of church authority,I think Joseph Pearce's insights into the man give us a distinct possibility for his inability to ford the Tiber. Based on the letters of C.S. Lewis and other writings of his, I also would suggest that verses such as Romans 14:21 played an important role.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Paul on December 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
C.S. Lewis surrounded himself with Catholics at Oxford, immersed himself in literature written by Catholics and accepted Catholic teachings that Protestants are not supposed to (like the doctrine of purgatory). So many have wondered why he never converted to Catholic Christianity as did many of his peers. To point to his "Ulster Protestant prejudice" is a natural, but somewhat overly-simplistic, explanation when applied to this remarkable former atheist turned premier Christian apologist. This well-researched and insightful book shows both the points of convergence and divergence between Lewis's brand of Christianity and Catholic doctrine and seeks to unravel the reasons why Lewis never went the way of Newman and Chesterton. Speculative at times but always cogent in his arguments, the Catholic author always deals with C.S. Lewis and his "Mere Christianity" with great respect, demonstrating his vast knowledge of the circumstances Lewis's life and great familiarity with his writings.
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