Damian Thompson

Is Boris Johnson, baptised a Catholic, really a Christian?

Is Boris Johnson, baptised a Catholic, really a Christian?
Text settings

In today's Holy Smoke podcast, Harry Mount and I discuss the mysterious religious beliefs of the man who will be the first baptised Catholic to enter Number 10.

Boris Johnson's Catholic baptism – as a baby he was given the faith of his mother, Charlotte Fawcett – has received little publicity. Understandably, perhaps, because he was confirmed an Anglican at Eton, which makes him someone who chose to become an ex-Catholic (and, according to strict interpretations of the Magisterium, thereby placed an obstacle in the path of his salvation).

My guest is Boris expert Harry Mount, who tells me that our new PM's godmother is Lady Rachel Billington – daughter of the ardently Catholic Lord Longford.

What a curious situation, incidentally. Britain has never had a Catholic Prime Minister. But, as of today, Downing Street will have been occupied by a former Catholic, Boris Johnson, and a future Catholic, Tony Blair.

The latter was virtually a Catholic while he was in office, attending Mass weekly and illicitly receiving Communion until Cardinal Hume stopped him. Not that he's ever paid the slightest attention to Catholic teaching on such crucial matters as the right to life. And don't expect Boris to, either. He's a firm supporter of 'a woman's right to choose' – which, as I say in the podcast, is really no surprise (you may have to google that one).

But orthodox Christians should't write off Johnson completely. He's theologically literate: I can't think of another senior politician who peppers his pronouncements with so many biblical quotations and analogies.

He enrages not only the secular left but also its heavily politicised Christian allies – take a look at this comic spluttering by the Rev George Pitcher in the Guardian. He, in turn, finds them preposterous and can't resist goading them.

Boris's disdain for preachy internationalists is potentially good news, because these are the people who control the ghastly Department for International Development, which is militantly uninterested in the persecution of Christians.

Could our new prime minister force DfID to pay attention to their plight, rather than tipping money into the bank accounts and vanity projects of their persecutors? Do listen to the podcast.