The most important and controversial topics in world religion, thoroughly dissected by a range of high profile guests. Presented by Damian Thompson.
The Catholic Church is falling apart at the seams
This headline may seem sensational, but the evidence is overwhelming. The Catholic Church is experiencing a bewildering range of crises, some of them long-term and familiar, such as demographic collapse and the continuing scandal of sex abuse. Others are being manufactured by a Pope who is allowing a faction of Catholic boomers to push an incoherent 'New Age' agenda. Whether Francis truly supports their ideas is anyone's guess – but he's increasingly willing to spout their inanities. On Saturday the Pope's official Twitter account told the faithful:
'The plant paradigm takes a different approach to earth and environment. Plants cooperate with all the surroundings [sic] environment; even when they compete, they cooperate for the good of the ecosystem. Let’s learn from the meekness of plants!'
This was tagged #TimeofCreation. But creation of what? Yesterday, Luke Coppen of The Pillar reported that the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam in the Netherland – where plant-based spirituality has been trendy for decades – will be closing 99 out of its 164 Catholic churches over the next five years.
This may be a depressing episode of Holy Smoke – but, given that the mainstream media isn't interested in the fate of the Catholic Church, I do recommend that you listen to it.
Why has the West caved in to the progressive witch-finders?
Is western society in the grips of a progressive hysterical epidemic comparable to the Salem Witch Trials?
My guest on Holy Smoke this week, Andrew Doyle, argues precisely that in his book The New Puritans. He suggests that gender ideology, and particularly the dogmas of trans activists, together with the fantasies of Critical Race Theory, are dragging society into an alternative reality that resembles a fanatical religion. But it's one that doesn't have to employ its own ideological police – because actual police forces, along with other powerful institutions including the churches, have signed up to the New Puritanism (usually without understanding it).
Andrew Doyle has a doctorate in Renaissance poetry from Oxford University, so he's well acquainted with the postmodern manipulation of language and epistemology that equip proponents of so-called cancel culture. He'e also someone the new puritans would dearly love to cancel, in his roles as broadcaster, comedian and the creator of Titania McGrath, the hilarious Twitter parody account that's been suspended several times for poking fun at people who enjoy being satirised about as much as your average witchfinder-general.
Don't miss my interview with the formidable Dr Doyle!
Is Pope Francis protecting a convicted sex abuser?
In this episode of Holy Smoke, I look at the ever-deepening mysteries surrounding Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, who was given a job assessing Vatican finances after he was forced to resign from his diocese in Argentina following allegations of abusive behaviour and financial mismanagement.
This year Zanchetta received a lengthy jail sentence for abusing seminarians. But he’s serving his time in a comfortable monastery, while the clergy who investigated him are the targets of a mysterious Vatican investigation. Now one of the abused seminarians has spoken out, accusing the Pope of protecting Zanchetta. This is potentially the biggest scandal involving a reigning pope for decades – and yet the mainstream media seems to be looking the other way. But I’m not. Don’t miss this episode.
Why the Pope's 'Synod on Synodality' has become a joke
The Catholic Church is half way through a two-year consultation exercise that will culminate in a 'Synod on Synodality' in the Vatican next year.
A synod on what? Don't worry if you're confused. No one in Rome seems to be able to define synodality, either. What will the world's bishops discuss? Probably not the figures revealing how many Catholics have taken part in this exercise, because they're acutely embarrassing. The English and Welsh bishops couldn't even get 10 per cent of Mass-goers to take part in a consultation process that many observers suspect has been shamelessly rigged by Pope Francis's bureaucrats. And in Belgium, a country where some six million people identify as Catholic, the number of participants is somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000.
My guest on this episode of Holy Smoke is Ed Condon, editor of the influential Pillar website. His judgment is as impartial as ever – but, make no mistake about it, we're looking at one of the most expensive and self-indulgent fiascos in recent Catholic history.
Produced by Damian Thompson and Cindy Yu.
The Queen's powerful Christian faith
In this week's Holy Smoke I offer some thoughts on the impressive and distinctive Christian faith of the Queen – impressive because it's so refreshingly direct compared to that of many of her politics-obsessed bishops, and distinctive because Elizabeth II is one of a dwindling band of Low Church but not Evangelical Anglicans whose favourite Sunday service is old-fashioned Matins. Questions of churchmanship aside, however, there is no doubting the intensity of her convictions, about which she has spoken with increasing candour and confidence in recent years. Will she turn out to be the United Kingdom's last robustly Christian monarch?
Why is the Church of England so obsessed with racism?
My guest on Holy Smoke this week is, many people believe, a victim of the intolerant progressive ideology currently gripping the Church of England. He's Calvin Robinson, a name possibly familiar to you from the row over the Diocese of London's decision not to ordain him.
Calvin is a young TV presenter with conservative Christian views that conflict with the liberal opinions of the hierarchy. He's been told they are too divisive – which is a bit rich coming from an organisation whose senior bishops routinely express opinions far to the left of those of the average churchgoer. Particular offence was caused by his insistence that the C of E isn't 'institutionally racist'. The fact that he's mixed race and London's bishops are white made no difference: he had expressed a heretical opinion. So much for 'diversity'. Do listen to what he has to say.
As entertaining as it is provocative
I greatly enjoy these podcasts. Erudite, knowledgeable, but also delightfully vituperative at times. They are opinion pieces with strong but well expressed opinions. However, I thought they were better when Christine Odone contributed & there was a broader range of opinions as a result. Furthermore, it would be better still if he interviewed more people who disagree with him, though I suspect few such people will risk going in front of a microphone with him. Finally, the programmes devoted to his sister were very touching. Keep up the good work, Damian, but see if further broadening of your approach brings more benefits.
Always amusing, usually on purpose.
At its frequent best, stimulating and sparkling with Damian’s waspish wit. Amusing in other ways when it’s two gentlemen rhubarbing on about their problem with women, while reassuring each other that this is OK because a lot of other gentlemen have a problem with women too. One way or the other, it’s always worth a listen and one of my favourites.
Bishops should listen to this
We are fortunate to have such an articulate, well-informed and passionate presenter as Damian Thompson whose guest list is a surprise every week.
Would that the podcast were required listening for all bishops in the Anglican Church who are driving it to the cliff. Keep the broken record, Damian!
While there is plenty of material within the Catholic and Anglican denominations, I would appreciate the occasional foray into the state of others such as the Methodists, Reformed and Evangelicals. African churches!