Podcast

Holy Smoke

The most important and controversial topics in world religion, thoroughly dissected by a range of high profile guests. Presented by Damian Thompson.

The most important and controversial topics in world religion, thoroughly dissected by a range of high profile guests. Presented by Damian Thompson.

Holy Smoke

Can the United States be transported back to Christendom?

This week’s Holy Smoke examines the fragmentation of American Catholicism following the election of pro-choice Catholic Joe Biden. It focuses on the strangest current of thought among the many conservative Catholics calling for an urgent change of approach in order to confront what promises to be an authoritarian liberal administration. It’s called integralism, a label

Play 26 mins

Holy Smoke

Lockdown and the pandemic of loneliness

In 1930, the American novelist Thomas Wolfe wrote these chilling words: ‘The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.’ It’s an idea that, for many of us, is harder to shrug off now

Play 32 mins

Holy Smoke

How the Vatican tried to suppress criticism of the new president

Cardinal Blase Cupich, the ambitious left-wing archbishop of Chicago, must have imagined that Joe Biden’s inauguration last week would be a moment to savour. He and a small number of his liberal colleagues, known as ‘the Biden bishops’, have been working tremendously hard to make sure that, once their candidate was elected, any mention of

Play 28 mins

Holy Smoke

The death of the English parish – and the politics that killed it

The English parish has been a source of spiritual consolation, and a certain amount of social comedy, for more than 1,000 years. So it’s very old – and, it turns out, frighteningly vulnerable to the coronavirus. Countless parish churches, both Anglican and Catholic, will quietly shut their doors forever over the next few months. Bishops

Play 27 mins

Holy Smoke

The problem of paranoia on the Catholic Right

Every day there’s some sort conspiracy theory being aired by right-wing Catholics on social media involving the globalist agenda of the Pope’s UN/Chinese/Masonic/Soros foundation puppet-masters. No surprise, perhaps, given the fervour with which the Pope promotes a globalist agenda while his diplomats kowtow to Beijing. Some left-wing Catholics are into the conspiracy business, too: in

Play 25 mins

Holy Smoke

Goodbye to Catholic Ireland

Rarely has a religious culture collapsed more rapidly than that of Catholic Ireland, which just 30 years ago seemed indestructible. Incredibly, it looks as if the Irish Church will have ordained more bishops than priests in 2020. It goes without saying that the Irish abuse crisis has hugely accelerated the process of secularisation in what

Play 46 mins

Holy Smoke

Beethoven’s spirituality: a conversation with Sir James MacMillan

It’s the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven – in my opinion, the greatest creative genius in history and a man of extraordinary moral courage. In this episode of Holy Smoke, I’m joined by his fellow composer Sir James MacMillan to discuss a side of Beethoven that the postmodern artistic establishment prefers

Play 34 mins

Holy Smoke

Should devout Christians be scared of a Joe Biden presidency?

The next president of the United States is, we are told, a devout Catholic who scrupulously attends Sunday Mass. This is in sharp contrast to the current president, who has never been more than an occasional churchgoer with, to put it politely, ill-defined religious views. So why are many Christians worried that a Joe Biden

Play 17 mins

Holy Smoke

Why the fantasy narrative of the Vatican’s McCarrick report is already falling apart

In this episode of Holy Smoke, Damian Thompson says the Vatican’s report on allegations of sexual assault by Theodore McCarrick is a whitewash.

Play 16 mins

Holy Smoke

‘If necessary I’ll be arrested’: the lockdown defying priest

Has there been a single Covid death as a result of someone attending a socially distanced church service? The answer is no, as you’d expect it to be. But, despite this, the Government will ban public acts of worship from Thursday. This decision is so perverse that even the Catholic bishops of England and Wales

Play 20 mins

Holy Smoke

While other charities virtue-signal, here’s one that transforms lives: Team Domenica

Ask yourself: who are the most vulnerable and marginalised people in British society? My answer would be young adults suffering from learning disabilities, who attract sympathy when they are children but, once they enter their 20s, simply drop off the map of public consciousness The consequences of this are dreadful: 95 per cent of them

Play 19 mins

Holy Smoke

Is Pope Francis’s Vatican turning into Richard Nixon’s White House?

There was a point in the Watergate scandal when revelations came so thick and fast that journalists struggled to keep up with them. And we seem to have reached an equivalent point in respect to the scandals engulfing Pope Francis’s Vatican.  Last week I interviewed Vatican expert Ed Condon about the sacking of Cardinal Angelo

Play 11 mins

Holy Smoke

The humiliation of Becciu and the return of Pell: what lies behind this spectacular reversal of fortunes at the Vatican?

The Vatican is this week in the grip of a paranoia reminiscent of the days when Renaissance popes (and their dinner guests) were forced to employ food-tasters. Cardinal Angelo Becciu, until 2018 the sostituto at the Secretariat of State – that is, the Pope’s hugely powerful chief of staff – has been sacked by Francis,

Play 24 mins

Holy Smoke

Is it time for Christianity to go underground?

Boris Johnson’s package of Covid restrictions announced this week included a rule that weddings will be limited to 15 people and funerals to 30 – numbers plucked out of thin air that will have questionable effect on the transmission of the virus. You might think that a ruling that affects only weddings and funerals isn’t

Play 38 mins

Holy Smoke

Westminster Cathedral and an act of spiritual vandalism

Damian Thompson is joined by Dr Gavin Ashenden, regular Holy Smoke contributor, former chaplain to the Queen and former boy chorister at Canterbury Cathedral. Damian considers the ongoing row in Westminster Cathedral over a small number of new admissions, and asks why the quality of its music has declined in recent years.

Play 17 mins

Holy Smoke

Are the Habsburgs evidence of Catholicism’s relevance today?

Damian Thompson is joined by Eduard Habsburg-Lothringen, Hungary’s ambassador to the Holy See. A member of one of Europe’s most historically influential families, Eduard explains how his religious practices have adapted to the acceleration of new technologies, and tells Damian how the Habsburgs keep in contact.

Play 30 mins

Holy Smoke

The Vatican’s sinister deal with Beijing

Next month, the Vatican will talk to Beijing about renewing its 2018 deal with the Chinese Communist Party that effectively allowed President Xi to choose the country’s Catholic bishops. He has used this power to force Catholics loyal to Rome to join the puppet Catholic church set up by Chairman Mao in the 1950s. They

Play 24 mins

Holy Smoke

How a ‘biblically illiterate’ generation can discover Christian art

The new Holy Smoke episode is a significant departure from our usual formula. It’s a discussion about the profound and neglected meaning of Christian art. Professor Ben Quash of King’s College London is interviewed not by me but by Carmel Thompson – my sister, who has appeared twice on Holy Smoke to talk about her

Play 38 mins

Holy Smoke

Why the new Archbishop of York will lead the Church of England even further into the lunacy of wokeness

The Church of England has a new Archbishop of York and a problem on its hands. Or to be more accurate, the problem it already had – senior bishops who speak entirely in progressive jargon – has just got infinitely worse. Archbishop Stephen Cottrell made the headlines even before he was enthroned last week, when

Play 32 mins

Holy Smoke

The next pope: are we facing the nightmare of a Parolin pontificate?

Vatican officials are anxious to get their hands on an advance copy of The Next Pope, a survey of 19 leading contenders to succeed Pope Francis scheduled for publication next month. The author, Edward Pentin, discusses these papable cardinals in today’s episode of Holy Smoke. The full list is still under wraps, but inevitably we

Play 31 mins

Holy Smoke

Black Lives Matter: the deadly combination of violent activism and thought police

In the current episode of Holy Smoke, my guest Professor Richard Landes – a historian specialising in apocalyptic movements – explains what is so clever, and so dangerous, about the modus operandi of Black Lives Matter. As he says, it allows people to indulge their own fantasies, even if their visions of the future are

Play 18 mins

Holy Smoke

Suicide by secularisation: how the churches are dying

Today’s episode of Holy Smoke exposes the extent to which ordinary Christians have been betrayed by their own bishops. This is a process that began decades ago – but it is only this year, during the coronavirus pandemic, that we’ve seen just how corrupted church leaders have become by secularisation. The need to close churches

Play 31 mins

Holy Smoke

American Christianity will recover from the virus, but English churches are in big trouble

When the shadow of the coronavirus is finally lifted, the British public will have a long list of people to thank: doctors, nurses, cleaners, shop assistants, charities and – maybe – Boris Johnson. But there won’t be a round of applause for the parish clergy, that’s for sure, and it’s not really their fault: the

Play 23 mins

Holy Smoke

Is this the dawn of a new totalitarianism?

This week’s Holy Smoke podcast is about the strange and unstable world created by digital technology: one in which distinguishing between truth and falsehood is becoming almost impossible. It’s a follow-up to an article I wrote in The Spectator last week in which I argued that, trapped between populist conspiracy theories and liberal media bias,

Play 20 mins

Holy Smoke

Have the churches been betrayed by their bishops?

Last week I was sent a copy of a devastating 7,000-word letter accusing the Catholic bishops of England and Wales of grossly mishandling the coronavirus crisis by lobbying the government for a complete shutdown of their own churches, even for private prayer. The author called herself (or, more than likely, himself) ‘Fiona McDonald’ – and

Play 23 mins

Holy Smoke

My sister has cancer – here’s her recipe for enjoying life in lockdown

In this week’s episode of Holy Smoke, I get to interview my personal heroine – my younger sister, Carmel Thompson. She was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer in November 2018. She’s now undergoing a second round of chemotherapy after coming out of remission. And she’s enjoying life. In our conversation she explains how the

Play 32 mins

Holy Smoke

Unlock the churches!

Harry Mount, the editor of The Oldie, is appalled that thanks to the coronavirus regulations, he can’t seek spiritual comfort in any of Britain’s glorious churches. And he’s not a religious believer. Last week he wrote a short but withering piece on his magazine’s website, with the headline ‘Unlock the churches!’ It began: At a

Play 26 mins

Holy Smoke

Beethoven’s victory over sickness and fear

This week’s Holy Smoke podcast is a celebration of what must surely be the most inspiring piece of music ever written by a sick man recovering from illness – the slow movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet, Op. 132, which he entitled ‘A Song of Thanksgiving to the Deity by a Convalescent’. The relevance of this

Play 21 mins

Holy Smoke

As we confront mortality, why do our bishops have so little to say?

Do you sense that something is missing in the churches’ response to the coronavirus? No one can fault them for ignoring the dangers of spreading the virus: bishop after bishop has taken the difficult decision to suspend public worship, and offered sensible advice about precautionary measures their flocks can take. And, in many cases, that’s

Play 29 mins

Holy Smoke

Has the Vatican become a mouthpiece for Beijing?

Last week, Pope Francis sent a message to Chinese Christians urging them to be ‘true Christians and good citizens’. He didn’t mention the growing persecution they face under President Xi’s programme of sinicisation, despite the Vatican-China deal of 2018 under which Francis recognised China’s puppet Catholic Church in return for state tolerance of ‘underground’ Catholics

Play 20 mins