SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Niall Gooch

April 24, 2021
Westminster Cathedral is not only one of the finest churches in the capital, but one of London’s best buildings of any kind. The exterior is glorious, with its neo-Byzantine domes and bold patterning. The mosaic over the west door — liturgical west, at any rate — portraying Christ the King is quite unlike anything I’ve
April 13, 2021
After Mass on Easter Sunday, a sweet elderly woman came up to us and gave each of my children £2 because they had been so well-behaved and because she wouldn’t have a chance to see her own grandchildren this Easter. I say this not to boast about my children’s behaviour in church, which is, shall
April 09, 2021
About twenty minutes’ drive from my house is St Augustine’s golf course, near Ramsgate in Kent. If you make a mess of your approach to the green on the eighteenth hole, your ball may end up in a small enclosure between the fairway and a minor road. This enclosure, bound by an elderly wooden fence
April 01, 2021
It seems very apt somehow that some of the key milestones in the easing of the Covid-19 restrictions should fall around Easter. Monday of Holy Week saw the resumption of outdoor sport and the beginning of the end of the strict ban on close-quarters household mixing. The first Monday after the end of the Easter
March 25, 2021
If you spend any time at all on social media, you have probably heard of Jordan Peterson, the Canadian academic. Until about five years ago he was a fairly obscure figure, outside of his field of psychology. He had a successful academic career in the US and Canada, and wrote a highly ambitious book of
March 18, 2021
The prolific Evangelical writer Adrian Plass, best known for his gentle satires of Christian foibles, invents in one of his books a short ditty: Freely I confess my sins, For God has poured his grace in. But when another lists my faults, I want to smash his face in. Many a true word spoke in
March 11, 2021
A short video was doing the rounds on Twitter a few weeks back, showing the demolition of a French church, the Chapelle Saint Joseph, in Lille. The video shows the east end of the church already gone and the chancel gaping open, as a JCB with a long extendable arm crashes its way through the
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
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