G.K. Chesterton is one of my favorite authors. On a lot of subjects, his way of looking at things really astonishes me. He can still show things in a fresh perspective, though his books are about a hundred years old.

In his later writings, he quite strongly scoffs at Protestants at times. This is disturbing, as I haven't quite figured why. I probably would find information about his conversion in some of his books, but frankly there's a lot to read. And with none of his books available where I live, it's also troublesome to get them -- call me old-fashioned, but I only read books on paper.

I'd like to get an overview of the reasons G.K. left the Anglican church for the Catholic, possibly along with some further reading recommendations.

This question was partly inspired by Why didn't C.S. Lewis convert to Catholicism? I've wondered about G.K.'s conversion for some time. I haven't dared ask about it here before, as I've been afraid it would be off-topic.

  • 3
    As a very influential author I think this is reasonably on topic. Besides I've wondered this myself. Frankly in some of his works he outright villainizes the Reformation but, while I know there are some legitimate reasons for criticizing it, his apparent reason for doing so don't seem founded in reality to me. If anybody know what his real beef was that would be very interesting material.
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 13, 2011 at 21:32
  • 7
    his words: because Catholicism is true
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Sep 13, 2011 at 21:33
  • 1
    @PeterTurner that should be an answer not a comment!
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 2:30
  • Yeah, I have a hard time getting his books from the library, but they're all available from Ignatius Press in 30 some odd volumes. And most of his early stuff is on Librivox in audiobook form for free.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 4:04

3 Answers 3


Chesterton probably wrote more than anyone ever so I'm sure he can tell you in his own words why he converted from Atheism to Anglicanism and from Anglicanism to Catholicism.

See: Catholic Church and Conversion and Why I am A Catholic and The God With the Golden Key

As an avid reader of Chesterton, I'm often perplexed at how much love he gives to Catholics even before he became one himself. He converted to Catholicism in 1922 and only spent 14 years on earth as a Catholic. But starting in 1908 with The Man who was Thursday the heroes of his books and stories have been predominantly Catholics (Father Brown, Gabriel Syme, Ian Maclan).

When reading Orthodoxy, he makes an incredible defense of Catholicism; he defends priests and Catholic doctrine.

the view that priests darken and embitter the world. I look at the world and simply discover that they don't. Those countries in Europe which are still influenced by priests, are exactly the countries where there is still singing and dancing and coloured dresses and art in the open-air. Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground.

If he wasn't talking about the same Catholic Church which he would convert to eighteen years later at the time, I sure as heck couldn't pick up on it.

Books to read with religion in it:

  • Everlasting Man

    About Jesus, I read it a while ago, don't remember much

  • Orthodoxy

    Chesterton's account of discovering that the religion he set out to found was in fact orthodoxy

  • The Ball and the Cross

    A novel with an atheist and a catholic looking for a place to kill each other.

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    I think the real question should be, "Why did it take him so long?" Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 14:24
  • @IgnatiusTheophorus My wife asked me that very thing ... :-) Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 18:07
  • Everlasting Man is a profound work! Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 22:37

As Chesterton himself has said,

The difficulty of explaining “why I am a Catholic” is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true. I could fill all my space with separate sentences each beginning with the words, “It is the only thing that…” As, for instance, (1) It is the only thing that really prevents a sin from being a secret. (2) It is the only thing in which the superior cannot be superior; in the sense of supercilious. (3) It is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age. (4) It is the only thing that talks as if it were the truth; as if it were a real messenger refusing to tamper with a real message. (5) It is the only type of Christianity that really contains every type of man; even the respectable man. (6) It is the only large attempt to change the world from the inside; working through wills and not laws; and so on.

(See the full article: Why I Am A Catholic

Also, you might want to take a look at Why Catholicism is Preferable to Protestantism (if these guys can come up with such good reasons, surely Chesterton had even better ones).

  • C.S. Lewis came to faith because he discovered that Christianity is" the myth that is true". Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 22:38

I read somewhere that Chesterton said he became Catholic “To have my sins forgiven.” Referring to the sacrament of Confession.

  • Welcome to the site ! Can you be more specific? Chesterton was already baptized and was a Christian in good standing in the Church of England. Did he believe that without the Roman Catholic sacrament of Confession his sins were not yet forgiven? In this site we would like answer to have support from external references. It would be great if you could provide that, as well as more specifics. Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 16:23
  • I read that somewhere too. If you provide a source, or a citation, that would support your answer. (Though his reasons were a bit more nuanced than that ...) Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 18:05
  • @KorvinStarmast one of G.K. Chesteron's many answers to why he became a Catholic was simply "because it is true". Not much more nuanced :) user, references are necessary, especially for Chesterton because for a guy who wrote a ton he's misquoted a lot!
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 23:49
  • @PeterTurner The nuance is in how he got there ... ;-) Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 1:12

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