C. S. Lewis's marriage to Joy Gresham

Hey, my question is since Joy Gresham had been married, and was still alive when she and her former spouse were both still alive, when she and C. S. Lewis married, did she or Lewis commit a mortal sin in marrying the other?
My question is really out of curiosity. I’m not for sure if the two ever had marital intercourse. But I didn’t if this would been as a sin.

Mr. Lewis was an Anglican and their view of Mortal v Venial sins is a bit different than the Catholic view.

From what I’ve read, Mrs. Gresham was an atheist when she was first married - so the sacramental nature of that first marriage may be in question in that the marriage most likely didn’t follow the normative for either a Jewish marriage nor a Christian marriage. There are also the suspected, to put it gently, the infidelities, of her husband that in and of themselves wouldn’t be grounds for an annulment - might be indicative of other issues in the marriage (which by all accounts appear to have been substantial) which could have also shown a cause for defect which might have been grounds for annulment - which she may very well have received before marrying Mr. Lewis.

So given the minimal requirements for grave sin (full knowledge, grave matter, free will - which I am not sure the Anglican Church follows) and the potentially non-sacramental nature of Mrs. Gresham’s first marriage and the fact that Mrs. Gresham was Mr. Lewis’ first wife - it would appear to not be mortal sin on either of their parts; however, I would have to have a lot more information than I care to dig up to determine this fact.

As has been said, Lewis was an Anglican, and Anglicans generally do accept divorce at least in the case of adultery, which Mr Gresham had been committing.

Unfortunately I don’t have the texts with me now, but I’ve read Lewis’s collected letters, and it looks as if Mr Gresham had also been married before he married Joy, and that wife was still alive - so in other words, we as Catholics would say that Gresham’s marriage to Joy was invalid, so she would have been free to marry Lewis. I think Lewis as an Anglican was not 100% convinced if adultery was grounds for divorce and remarriage, or whether the Catholic position was true - finding this out made him happy that no matter what, it would be “okay” to marry her. So I think he would have been convinced that marrying her was all right to do.

Interestingly, Lewis and Joy were first married in a civil ceremony, because Joy’s visa had expired and otherwise she would be forced to return to the US. It was purely a marriage of “convenience”, and they didn’t intend for it to be anything else - their relationship had been platonic up until then. It was only when Joy was diagnosed with cancer, and the two of them had fallen in love, that Lewis had an Anglican priest marry them “in the eyes of God”. They took their vows again in her hospital room, and afterwards she was discharged and allowed to go home, where she moved in with Lewis - her cancer would go into remission and she would live another three years instead of the expected weeks or months.

OP, doesn’t it seem a little odd to be judging the marriage of two Anglicans who have both been dead for several decades?

I agree, especially when today we so easily “overlook” so many just living together without the benefit of marriage, even with one person after the other!!! We desperatley need to better educate our young, and even older ones. God Bless, Memaw

For those who don’t know this, the film noir “Nightmare Alley” was based upon the book written by William Lindsey Gresham – her husband – who would have undoubtedly been inspired in large part by her conversion.

Wikipedia also reports:* “Gresham married Davidman’s first cousin, Renee Rodriguez, with whom he had been having an affair and who was herself suffering an abusive marriage.Gresham joined Alcoholics Anonymous and developed a deep interest in Spiritualism, having already exposed many of the fraudulent techniques of popular spiritualists in his two sideshow-themed books and having written a book about Houdini with the assistance of noted skeptic James Randi. He was also an early enthusiast of Scientology but later denounced the religion as another kind of spook racket.”*

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