Damian Thompson

Damian Thompson

Damian Thompson is an associate editor of The Spectator

Calm fire: the consolation of listening to Bruckner

31 min listen

Here’s an episode of Holy Smoke to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Anton Bruckner later this year. This embarrassingly eccentric genius was, perhaps, the most devoutly Catholic of all the major composers – but you don’t have to be religious to appreciate the unique consolation offered by his gigantic symphonies. On the other hand,

The problem with cringe-making funerals

21 min listen

When did supposedly religious funerals turn into ‘celebrations of life’ that are more about entertaining the congregation than mourning the dead person – who, these days, hasn’t died but ‘passed’?  In this episode of Holy Smoke I’m joined by one of my favourite American priests, Fr Joe Krupp, a self-described ‘redneck’ from Michigan who reaches

How the Church of England patronises African Christians

17 min listen

In this episode of Holy Smoke, I’m joined by The Spectator’s features editor William Moore, who asks in this week’s issue of the magazine whether the Church of England is ‘apologising for Christianity’. A report by the Oversight Group, set up by the Church Commissioners to make reparations for African slavery, not only wants to see unimaginable

How much did Pope Francis know about Fr Marko Rupnik?

16 min listen

At a press conference in Rome last week, an ex-nun claiming to have suffered ritual sex abuse at the hands of Fr Marko Rupnik turned the heat on Pope Francis. How much did he know about the stomach-turning charges levelled at the Slovenian mosaic artist, who was a Jesuit until he was thrown out of

How liberal bishops are squeezing the life out of the Church of England

28 min listen

Can the Church of England escape from the deadly grip of bishops and bureaucrats who spend their entire time genuflecting to the metropolitan Left? Why does Archbishop Justin Welby wade obsessively into secular political battles when his churches are emptying? And do worshippers realise that eye-watering sums of money are being siphoned off from their

Does Trump have evangelical Christians to thank for his second coming?

23 min listen

Donald Trump now seems certain to be the Republican presidential candidate in this year’s US presidential elections. That’s a prospect that horrifies liberal America and quite a few other Americans besides. The former president secured overwhelming support from evangelical Christians in Iowa and New Hampshire and some commentators are speculating that we’re seeing a resurgence

Raymond Arroyo on the joys of a Sinatra-style Christmas

22 min listen

In this festive episode of Holy Smoke, we’re taken back to the Christmasses of the 1950s and 60s by Raymond Arroyo, Fox News and EWTN presenter, whose enemies in the Vatican have been trying to silence him for years.  They’ve failed, thankfully – and now silencing him is even harder. Raymond, who trained in musical

The strange appeal of Integralism

28 min listen

You might imagine that a political project to place modern nation states under the supreme authority of the Catholic Church would stand zero chance of success anywhere in the world, including in traditionally Catholic countries. And you’d be right. Even so, a movement known as Integralism – whose 20th-century incarnations were closely related to fascism

The Pope, gay blessings and the Rupnik scandal

13 min listen

Pope Francis’s much-hyped ‘synod on synodality’ began in Rome this week and to say that it has got off to a rocky start is putting it mildly. On Monday, five leading conservative cardinals bounced Francis into making a highly ambiguous statement apparently opening the door to gay blessings. Meanwhile, and this subject is being played

Genghis Khan and the Pope’s summer of madness

21 min listen

Earlier this week, the Rome correspondent of the Times found himself mugging up on the history of Genghis Khan’s Mongol Empire, and this is what he reported:  While the empire brought stability, it was created through the large-scale massacre of anyone who refused to submit to Mongol rule, leading to the death of millions. Mongol troops triggered famine

Is 2023 Pope Francis’s ‘Year Zero’?

33 min listen

Conservative Catholic critics of Pope Francis are referring to 2023 as his ‘Year Zero’ – a time of revolutionary upheaval initiated by an 86-year-old pontiff who feels liberated by the death of his predecessor Benedict XVI on New Year’s Eve.  Events are moving fast. This October, the world’s bishops will gather for a synod in

Katy Balls, Olenka Hamilton, Damian Thompson

24 min listen

This week: (01:08) Katy Balls on the tricky relationship between Labour and the Unions, (07:11) Olenka Hamilton on why Poland is having a row with Brussels over migrants and asylum seekers and (15:29) Damian Thompson asks whether the Vatican is turning its back on tradition and beautiful art.

Barbie’s world: the normalisation of cosmetic surgery

39 min listen

This week: Ahead of the release of the Barbie movie, Louise Perry writes in her cover piece about how social media is fuelling the cosmetic surgery industry. She argues that life in plastic is not, in fact, fantastic. She joins the podcast alongside the Times’s Sarah Ditum, author of the upcoming book: Toxic: Women, Fame and the Noughties, to

Escaping the atheist hell of North Korea

15 min listen

For 75 years, the most anti-Christian regime in modern history has thrown its citizens into prison camps if they are suspected of the slightest dissent. Ten per cent of people live in modern slavery; perhaps 200,000 are behind bars. I’m talking about North Korea, of course – a regime even more abhorrent than Stalinist Russia,

Inside the world’s most vicious liturgy wars

23 min listen

In the ancient Syro-Malabar Church of south India, clergy who try to change the liturgy do so at their peril. At St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Ernakulam last December, a long-standing dispute over whether the priest should face the people led to scenes in which protestors attacked clergy in the middle of the service, sending

Succession: five nightmares for the next pope

14 min listen

A charming octogenarian who plays ruthless games with the people who think they’re going to succeed him: I reckon Logan Roy would have recognised a kindred spirit in Pope Francis, despite their diametrically opposed politics. Like many of you, I’m heartbroken that Succession has come to an end – but if you’re missing the back-stabbing melodrama then you could always start following the real-life struggle to shape