Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 73(3) August 2023

Book Review

The House with a Hundred Gates
Catholic Converts Through the Ages

by John Beaumont
Angelico Press (15 Dec. 2022)
ISBN-13‏: ‎978-1621388920

Reviewed Dr Pravin Thevathasan

Book CoverThe author is an expert on converts to Catholicism. In many ways, this is his most personal work to date and as such is an especially enjoyable read. For the purpose of this review, I will examine three converts who promoted the culture of life in their very different ways. Joseph Sobran was a conservative commentator. Although he did not write much of his own conversion, it is clear from what is written here that Catholicism was at the heart of his moral beliefs. He wrote on pro-life matters in his regular columns in The Wanderer Newspaper for many years. I owe much of my own formation to reading them.

I always assumed that Walker Percy was a psychiatrist. In fact he was a pathologist and his novels are to some extent about human pathology in its various forms. Percy noted that science flourished in the Judea-Christian West. In spite of this, so many scientists in the West have expressed contempt for these religious traditions. Interestingly, the one philosopher who influenced Percy to become a Catholic more than anyone else was Kierkegaard, himself a non-Catholic Christian. For Percy, life is a mystery and love is a delight. So, one should not settle for nothing less than the "infinite mystery and the infinite delight." When Percy was reminded of the recent mess inside the Catholic Church, he responded that the very fact that the Church survives these crises points to its divine foundation.

Evelyn Waugh was probably not the best example of a convert. He was occasionally rude but had the humility to accept that he was occasionally rude. When a fan told him how good she thought Brideshead Revisited was, he replied that it must be very bad if was being praised by the likes of her. What Beaumont asserts is that Waugh was exceptionally aware in his writings of what happens to people when they turn away from God. This is found in his Catholic novels, but also in his satirical works.

The author's enthusiasm for his subject is clear. A very fine read.