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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 62, Autumn 1994

A Conversation with Walter Hooper Original Article

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.”