SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Niall Gooch

March 04, 2021
The Prime Minister says we are on our way back to normality. In England, the schools are back next Monday, and all being well outdoor sports will resume at the end of the month. In the week following the Easter Octave (which concludes on 11 April) gyms, shops and outdoor tourist attractions will reopen –
February 26, 2021
If Henry VIII had died in 1536, after the death of Anne Boleyn and before marrying his third wife Jane Seymour, England would have remained a Catholic country. Or would it? Perhaps there would have been a civil war in the 1540s instead of the 1640s, with England convulsed by the violet religious conflicts that
February 18, 2021
I’ll be honest. It took me a while to warm to Pope Francis. I was a great fan of Benedict; I loved his scholarly precision and well-constructed arguments, his weighing of words and his attention to detail, and his liturgical conservatism. As well as all that, he was the Pope when I was received into
February 11, 2021
This week, I saw someone Tweet about the rapid development and rollout of vaccines against coronavirus that “We’re living through one of the greatest achievements in human history, never mind just scientific history”. To a certain kind of modern atheist mind, a ready-made narrative will leap into action when they reflect on such successes. Science
February 04, 2021
What is worth falling out about? On a pretty regular basis the Catholic press reports that a parish has descended into acrimony and conflict because of changes made by a new priest. We had an example of this at Blackfen in London in 2014. Fr Tim Finigan was succeeded by a priest who did not
January 28, 2021
“I think that nowadays the Catholic Church is not an institution for respectable people.” So said the novelist Hilary Mantel in an interview with The Daily Telegraph in 2012. Ms Mantel was raised Catholic but has never practised in adulthood, citing as her reasons unpleasant experiences with nuns and priests during an unhappy childhood. Her
January 24, 2021
Last week I read Letitia Ochoa Adams’ challenging Chapter House piece on white supremacy. It is important, I think, for people like me – white, British and unaffected by the political and social difficulties that beset black Americans – to reflect on what we might not understand about the experience of fellow Christians from different
January 14, 2021
This was an intriguing artistic, moral and theological question thrown up by last autumn’s robust disagreements about the Synod on the Amazon. Areas of dispute included the role of women, married priests and the relationship between indigenous religions and Catholicism. Readers may remember that the Holy Father’s blessing of certain statues carved in the style
January 05, 2021
What do you do if you’re an ardent fan of a particular sport and you want someone else to enjoy it as well? Where do you start – by explaining the rules? Do you give them a history of the sport and a rundown of its great players? Or perhaps you take them to a
December 31, 2020
Here we are on December 31. Smart money says people are already turning out of Christmas and toward the New Year: to school or the office; to the sales; to resolutions; perhaps to Dry January or Veganuary or other horrors. Classic FM are dialling back on the carols and themes from Christmas films and returning
December 23, 2020
“I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.” So says Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle towards the end of CS Lewis’s The Silver Chair, in his brave speech resisting the enchantment of the evil witch
December 21, 2020
Niall Gooch is hopeful this Christmas – at least, he hopes he is. Hope is one of the great Christian virtues. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that hath promised”, as Hebrews chapter 10 puts it. We surely need some hope after this year. At the
February 26, 2021
Counterfactuals are great fun -- and the beginning of the Reformation in England is packed with fascinating ones Niall Gooch likes to explore. 
August 24, 2020
Science Fictions By Stuart Ritchie Bodley Head, 368pp, £18.99 When I gave talks on bioethical issues for the charity Life, for a while a staple of our discussions was the work of the Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk, who achieved international fame in 2004 for his apparent breakthroughs in embryonic stem cell technology. However, our presentations
July 17, 2020
Last year we finally left the Big Smoke and settled in rural Kent, bringing to an end my many years as a reluctant town mouse. Our village is straight from central casting: it has a 12th-century church next-door to a huge Georgian parsonage; you pass between the churchyard and the latter’s considerable grounds through the
May 16, 2020
Wagner was not a Christian believer, but remained fascinated by the rituals of the faith and the way in which it appeared to satisfy our deepest yearnings
May 04, 2020
Even if the outcome of having children is greater happiness, that is not its purpose
April 09, 2020
Well, here we all are. Confined to quarters. Recluses, by order of HM Government. No Mass, no pub, no meals out, no sports matches, no public gatherings. The Sealed Knot return to barracks and summer fete committees draw stumps. West London will no longer have to endure its annual invasion by Oxbridge hearties for the
March 12, 2020
Small Men on the Wrong Side of History By Ed West Constable, 352pp, £20/$20.70 Even before the death of Sir Roger Scruton in January, it was not unusual to encounter thoughtful people on the political right who were worried about the future of conservatism as a serious intellectual endeavour. Since then, the problem has only become
December 19, 2019
Apparently there is some scholarly debate over whether Jesus was really born in a stable. Close textual analysis, and careful study of the expectations and practices of Jews in 1st-century Palestine, allegedly suggest that rather than the draughty lean-to or chilly cave of the traditional imagination, Our Lady in fact gave birth in the more
March 28, 2019
During the Siege of Jerusalem, at the conclusion of the First Crusade in 1099, a priest led devotions on the Mount of Olives, attended by hundreds of Crusaders. After the Christian armies had captured the city, a thanksgiving procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre took place, attended by dozens of priests. In the
December 20, 2018
It’s almost Christmas, which means that somewhere a critic is sharpening his pen for that staple of Yuletide contrarianism, Your Beloved Festive Film Is Actually Bad. One classic that often comes in for this treatment is a favourite of mine, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and I’d like to offer the case for the
September 27, 2018
Niall Gooch on how ‘diversity’ dictates our moral climate The Tribe by Ben Cobley, Societas, 250pp, £15 Roger Scruton popularised the idea of “the culture of repudiation”, the tendency of educated people to treat with hostility any moral axiom, cultural artefact or custom redolent of what you might call Old Britain. Ben Cobley does not
August 03, 2018
As children are put to death, Belgium's experience shows the 'slippery slope' is real