SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Niall Gooch

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
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
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
August 02, 2018
Three children were given euthanasia during 2016 and 2017 One striking thing about modern Western societies is how quickly bioethical practices that would once have been shocking quickly become unremarkable. It happened with abortion, it happened with embryo selection, and now it is happening with euthanasia. Last week it emerged that during 2016 and 2017
November 29, 2017
In 1963, when it emerged that he had lied to Parliament about his affair with Christine Keeler, John Profumo apologised, resigned from the government and stood down as an MP. He then disappeared from public life. Despite being wealthy and well connected, he volunteered to do menial work for Toynbee Hall, a charity in the
July 20, 2017
As part of my glamorous jet-setting lifestyle, I recently stayed for two nights at a Premier Inn near the intersection of the M57 and the M58 on the outskirts of Liverpool. To get to the hotel from the station was only a short walk, but with one enormous obstacle: a six-lane main road. There was
July 20, 2017
Towns across England have been marred by inexplicably bad planning, but the outlook is improving
May 18, 2017
Arriving in Durham late one March afternoon, I realised that if I was quick I could just make Evensong at the cathedral. It was well worth the brisk dash along the river. Responses by Tallis, psalms by Barber and Pergolesi’s piercing Stabat Mater Dolorosa as the closing anthem, sung by a visiting choir from a
July 21, 2016
Perhaps in anticipation of the lengthy debates over leave or remain that would rage a year later, my son took his time deciding to exit the womb, entering the world under the bright lights of an operating theatre a mere four days after my wife had first begun her labour. That period of four days
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