Damian Thompson

Damian Thompson

Damian Thompson is an associate editor of The Spectator

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

A thrilling new recording of Messiaen’s Turangalila-Symphonie

Grade: A Pierre Boulez once called Messiaen’s giant Turangalila-Symphonie ‘brothel music’. That was mean-spirited but you knew what he meant: a typical performance comes in at just under 80 minutes, much of it consisting of the B-movie sound of an ondes Martenot wailing over lush harmonies. There’s a constant zig-zag of polyrhythms, plus great towers

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

Top oratorio-mongering: Elijah, at the Barbican, reviewed

As a young music critic, Bernard Shaw poked fun at anyone who thought Mendelssohn was a genius. Shaw conceded that Mendelssohn was capable of touching tenderness and refinement and sometimes ‘nobility and pure fire’, but his music was marred by kid-glove gentility, conventional sentimentality and – worst of all – ‘despicable oratorio-mongering’. Shaw’s pet hate

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

The wonder of Jon Pertwee and his frilly shirt

 When a friend asked if I wanted anything for Christmas I took a deep breath and replied: ‘Well, maybe I finally need to watch this.’ I handed him a video cassette retrieved from my sister’s attic and he took it to a place that digitises such things. On Christmas Day I nervously plugged in the

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

A marvel – how did Bradley Cooper pull it off? Maestro reviewed

As the overture to Candide blazed away during the ovation for Maestro at the Venice Film Festival, three members of the audience flung their arms around in an imitation of Leonard Bernstein’s conducting style. They were his children, Jamie, Alexander and Nina, and their reaction said it all. Bradley Cooper, the film’s star and director,

What do sugar and cocaine have in common?

Stephen Fry is a national treasure whom half the nation can’t stand. He drops his façade of loveability mid-chortle as soon as Brexit is mentioned. He threw a spectacularly pompous Remainer wobbly a few weeks ago and I remember thinking: is he determined to make the people he disdains actively hate him? If so, it’s

How not to talk to builders

It’s week eight of the installation of a cheap Ikea kitchen in my flat, and an Albanian builder is slumped in an armchair in my sitting room. He’s shielding his face with his hand, Princess Diana-style, to hide the fact that he’s weeping. My kitchen sink drama began when I rang a firm of local

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

So which Naomi do you think I am? The saga of Klein vs Wolf

Maureen O’Hara, the flame-haired ‘Queen of Technicolor’ celebrated for her on-screen chemistry with John Wayne, hated to be confused with Maureen O’Sullivan, who was Jane to Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan. But they were both Irish-born Hollywood actresses called Maureen, so it kept happening. I once heard John Sessions describe the time he met the octogenarian O’Hara.

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

Why I had to let go of my late sister’s house

On the window ledge of my sister Carmel’s bedroom there’s a tray of cards inscribed with the months of the year, days of the week and numbers from 1 to 31. If you can be bothered to adjust the display every morning, you’ll have what’s called a ‘perpetual calendar’. I need to remember that I