A Conversation with Walter Hooper

The Lewis Legacy-Issue 62, Autumn 1994 The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing

by John Mallon

CRISIS, July-August 1994, pp. 35-38

From Lewis to Hooper to Rome

“Walter Hooper was Lewis’s friend and personal secretary during the last months of Lewis’s life…. Hooper spoke with disarming modesty, genuine humility, and charm.”

Excerpts and Summary Extracts

Hooper said he thinks that C.S. Lewis would have become a Catholic if he had lived longer: “…what else can you do except go where the faith actually still is Christian?” The years since Hooper’s conversion have been the happiest five years of his life. He had delayed his conversion for years for the sake of his friends. When the time finally came, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church in the United States rather than England: “It would have been awfully awkward for everybody if I had just left the Anglican church and walked about 50 yards down to the Catholic Church.” Because he works full time for the Lewis estate, Hooper does not have time to seek Holy Orders in the Roman Catholic Church. But when he retires, if they want him they can have him.

Many Protestant evangelicals and fundamentalists who are Lewis fans have told Hooper they don’t consider him a Christian anymore, and many feel it is a disgrace for a non-Christian to be Lewis’s editor. “Even if I had been Baptist or something I would have been Christian.” Father Gervase Mathew once told Hooper that he wasn’t keen on Hooper converting because he feared these consequences. Hooper reflects, “The Pope is hated by many people, but at least for the right reasons [his faithfulness].”

“For many years — and this is an embarrassment for some people — I had been receiving much adverse publicity from several people in this country [the U.S.] — it’s hard to juggle all the claims of so many people who like Lewis, who claim him. Working on the Lewis estate, with a great deal of money involved, you have to be sure what is written about him is publishable….” The adverse publicity was a great weight like a stone on Hooper’s heart, causing him physical pain and mental anguish. He felt sure that if he could touch the Holy Father the pain would be relieved. After a few years, the Holy Father twice sent a request for Hooper to come to Rome to chat with him about Lewis. The second request was so strong that Hooper went to Rome. There he was afraid to eat or drink for fear of being poisoned. As soon as he touched the Pope his pain disappeared, and the Pope winced as if stabbed in the back. Thus the pain inflicted upon Hooper by some Americans was transferred to the Holy Father in an exchange related to the miracle of the woman who touched the hem of Christ’s garment and to Lewis’s belief in the way of exchange (Lewis’s acceptance of Joy’s osteoporosis into his own body). The Pope understood all about what he had done for Hooper. Meeting the Pope “was almost like meeting C.S. Lewis as he would have turned out to be, had he become a Catholic.”

Hooper is completing a “handbook to C.S. Lewis,” and then expects to edit three big volumes of Lewis letters. Mallon asked, “How many more manuscripts are still unedited and on deck for publication?” and Hooper answered, “There are not many more things to be brought out, just straggling pieces.”

“That Hideous Strength is my favorite book of all Lewis’s work.” The Natural Law isn’t believed today. “The Archbishop of Canterbury recently said that, though he personally believed in the Resurrection of Christ, those bishops of the Anglican church who don’t are also right, they have their own integrity, whatever they believe is true for them. If they don’t believe it, then it’s not true…. Because they say you make up your own truth…. I think this is the beginning of the end, or of a great deal of madness.”

“It’s a pretty lousy business trying to fight for right amongst people who feel they’ve a right to make up the truth.”