Holy Smoke

  • The strange journey of Europe’s ‘Christian’ Jews

    With writer Norman Lebrecht, whose book Genius and Anxiety takes a look at the exceptional intellectual contribution of Jews from 1847 to 1947, to the worlds of medicine, music, philosophy, engineering and more. Presented by Damian Thompson. […]

  • Has the Church of England surrendered to ‘soft socialism’?

    Just before Christmas, Dr Gavin Ashenden, a former Chaplain to the Queen, converted to Catholicism. In this episode, he deplores the Church of England’s surrender to secularism under Archbishop Justin Welby, who won’t enjoy his former colleague’s assessment of his talents... Presented by Damian Thompson. […]

  • Why it's a sin to sneer at 1970s Christmas specials

    With Dr Tim Stanley, journalist and historian. Presented by Damian Thompson. […]

  • Does the Church know how to deal with mental illness?

    We're all sick of celebrities making a meal of their mental health problems – but that doesn't mean that we aren't facing a potential crisis. The unique strains of living in the technology-driven 21st century are taking their toll on people who, in an earlier era, would have been psychologically robust. Many of us are affected by anxiety, depression, addiction and eating disorders; all sorts of compulsive behaviour are flourishing as never before. And the mainstream churches have got nothing useful to say about it. Many bishops seem content to blame it on Brexit. Damian Thompson talks to Professor Stephen Bullivant, Britain's foremost expert on patterns of religious belief. Both talk frankly – 'bravely', as they say of celebrities – about their struggles with mental illness. […]

  • Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala: a different sort of bishop

    On today's Holy Smoke Damian Thompson meets a one-of-a-kind bishop: one whose most important dialogue is with armed warlords and their teenage mercenaries. South Sudan's Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala (https://sdnrlf.com/about-sudan-relief-fund/bishop-eduardo-hiiboro-kussala/) runs a hospital that is desperately short of doctors and medicine amid a humanitarian crisis in which over 200,000 people have died. On the podcast, he talks about his work, and the apparent corruption of various NGOs who have set up shop in this terribly troubled part of Africa. […]

  • Why the Vatican is more corrupt than ever

    Last week, Vatican police raided the Church's own money-laundering watchdog (http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/vatican-raid-on-secretariat-of-state-a-portent-of-things-to-come) . Meanwhile, in a simultaneous raid on the Vatican Secretariat of State, prosecutors seized documents, computers, telephones and passports. It seems to be a dirty business. According to the Italian press, police want to know more about a multi-million-pound real estate transaction in Mayfair. Significantly, all the seized documents reportedly relate to the years when Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a close papal ally, was running the Secretariat of State’s offices.  In this episode of Holy Smoke, Damian joined by Vatican-watcher Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith. We discuss what he calls Rome's culture of 'obsessive secrecy', the unwillingness of the mainstream media to investigate Vatican scandals, and ask what John Henry Newman, who will be canonised this weekend, would have made of the cringe-making Amazon Synod... […]

  • The strange religion of cryptocurrency

    In this week's episode of Holy Smoke Damian is joined by Jamie Bartlett, one of the world’s leading experts on the dark web, radical politics and technology, whose gripping podcast series (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07nkd84/episodes/downloads) The Missing Cryptoqueen is currently being broadcast by the BBC. It tells the story of a shady Bulgarian tech entrepreneur, Dr Ruja Ignatova, who vanished just as her dodgy cryptocurrency OneCoin was raking in billions of euros from investors – or true believers – all over the world. Despite her disappearance, it still has footholds in African villages, the Chinese business community, Scottish housing estates and Britain’s Muslims – it claims to be Sharia-compliant. Not only does Dr Ruja's operation resemble a religious cult, it also gives us a glimpse of how technology and belief are combining in ever stranger patterns, often inspired by the utopians of Silicon Valley. Presented by Damian Thompson. […]

  • The Kremlin's persecution of Jews

    Damian talks to Jewish pianist Ariel Lanyi about the cruel cat-and-mouse game that the Soviet Union played with Jewish classical musicians at a time when it was sneakily trying to extinguish both their religion and their ethnic identity. Presented by Damian Thompson. […]

  • Why liberals turn a blind eye to the global persecution of Christians

    The new episode of Holy Smoke is about the persecution of Christians. That's a familiar concept, even if we don't read much about it in the media. Damian is joined on the podcast by a fearless campaigner on behalf of the suffering Church, Fr Benedict Kiely, founder of the charity http://Nasrean.Org. Tune in to what he has to say about the Vatican's cynical deal with China – and Britain's wretched Department for International Development. Presented by Damian Thompson. […]

  • The two time bombs threatening Pope Francis’s moral authority

    This week’s Holy Smoke podcast discusses two looming disasters for Pope Francis.  The first is the ‘Amazon Synod’ in October, at which the world’s bishops will discuss a bizarre plan to ordain Amazon ‘village elders’ as priests. The framework for the synod has already been published; Damian's guest Dr Ed Condon uses the word ‘Orwellian’ to describe the language it employs.  The second threat to Francis is more personal. When he became pope he lost no time making his friend Gustavo Zanchetta a bishop in Argentina. Bad move. Within a short time Zanchetta was facing allegations of sexual and financial impropriety. The Pope was informed of these allegations (and if you google them you’ll discover that they were pretty lurid).  His response? He plucked Zanchetta out of his diocese and created a plum job for him in Rome... managing the Vatican’s finances. Another bad move, now that Zanchetta, back in Argentina, is facing charges of molesting seminarians and other allegations of misusing money.  A mood of despair has set in at the Vatican. You’ll understand why if you listen to the podcast.  Presented by Damian Thompson. […]

  • Lessons learned from Carl Beech and what they mean for Cardinal Pell

    Damian speaks to journalist Catherine Lafferty, who was in court for Carl Beech's trial, about the sensitivities surrounding sex abuse allegations. Have the police jumped to conclusions in Cardinal Pell's case too? Presented by Damian Thompson. […]

  • How radical Islam taught the progressive left to blame the Jews

    It's less than four years since Jeremy Corbyn's hard-left sect seized control of the Labour Party, and yet already its anti-Semitic views – so alien to Labour tradition – seem too deeply rooted to eradicate. Today's 'Holy Smoke' podcast puts this sinister development in the broader context of the 'Red-Green' alliance – the love affair between the progressive Left and the Jew-haters of jihadist Islam. On the face of it, this is an unlikely, even surreal, relationship. But as Damian's guest, the historian Richard Landes, argues, the two have something in common: millennialism, the belief that some sort of Heaven on Earth, is not only imminent but historically inevitable. In theory, progressives believe that this transition to a new era will be peaceful; Jihadists, by definition, don't. But, as Landes explains, it's not as simple as that... […]

  • Does Boris Johnson have Christian values?

    With Harry Mount, editor of the Oldie and author of the Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson. Presented by Damian Thompson. […]

  • Why has big business become so woke?

    With the Daily Telegraph's Tim Stanley and Father Benedict Kiely, from the charity Nasarean.org, which campaigns in support of persecuted Christians. Presented by Damian Thompson. […]

  • Why Bach's The St Matthew Passion speaks to all of us

    Every year around the world, many people around the world listen to Bach's three-hour musical depiction of Jesus' trial and execution. Why?  Host Damian Thompson is joined by Thelma Lovell, musical scholar and writer, to discuss why St Matthew Passion exerts such a strong grip on our imagination. […]

  • Why are bishops so boring?

    For 30 years Damian Thompson has been bored senseless by the public pronouncements of bishops – Anglicans and Catholics. Why do they feel the need to speak in such dreary jargon? Why do interesting clergy never make it to bishop? He's joined by Harry Mount, editor of The Oldie. […]

  • Gay smears and the Vatican’s sex abuse summit

    The publication of In the Closet of the Vatican by the French gay polemicist Frédéric Martel has been meticulously timed to coincide with Pope Francis’s ‘global summit’ of bishops to discuss the sexual abuse of minors. But is it really the 'bombshell' exposé that it is billed as being? And what can we glean from the sex abuse summit this week? Damian Thompson talks to Ed Condon, canon lawyer and contributor to the Catholic Herald. […]

  • My sister Carmel on her cancer and her faith

    This is a picture of my sister Carmel and I having tea a few days after our mother’s funeral. She looks cheerful, doesn’t she? That’s because she was: although we both missed our mother intensely, and always will, we had done most of our grieving before she died, as we watched her tortured by Parkinson’s disease and severe dementia.  Carmel looks well, too. And she thought she was. Ovarian cancer plays that trick on women. The first symptoms tend to be annoying rather than alarming. A few weeks after this photograph was taken, I was reassuring her that Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common response to bereavement – which it is. But that’s not what was wrong with her. On November 1, I was sitting next to her in the consulting room at Guy’s Hospital when the specialist confirmed that she had advanced ovarian cancer.  Carmel is my guest on today’s Holy Smoke podcast. Please listen to it. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised by what she has to say. And you will understand why I’m so proud of my sister. Presented by Damian Thompson. […]

  • Is it a sin to be snobbish?

    With Father Alexander Lucie-Smith, moral theologian, and Lara Prendergast, Assistant Editor of the Spectator. Presented by Damian Thompson. […]

  • What has Pope Francis covered up?

    Just how much do those at the highest echelons of the Vatican know about former Archbishop McCarrick's sexual abuse through the years? Has Pope Francis been turning a blind eye to abuse carried out by his favourites, and will this be the end of his papacy? Damian Thompson talks to author Henry Sire. […]