Will Heaven

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June 28, 2018
“Will England’s great Catholic schools survive the century?” a journalist friend asked me the other day. I wished the answer was a simple yes. These remarkable institutions – Ampleforth, Downside, Stonyhurst and more – were built up in the face of open persecution and then a creeping anti-Catholicism. Against the odds, they came to rival
January 15, 2018
As on old boy, I think we must face up to a dismal truth about the school
January 11, 2018
Those who think that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is too big to succeed should have paid more attention to its hearings on England’s leading Benedictine schools, Downside and Ampleforth. As an old boy of Downside – one with very happy memories of the place – I was taken aback by some of
October 05, 2017
The Lord of the Rings has never been my thing (too many elves and spells), but one part of Tolkien’s fantasy has always grabbed me – how he brings trees to life. I loved his gigantic “ents”, with their booming voices and great, creaking strides, when I first read the books, and still do. It
September 07, 2017
When did customer service in this country become so unspeakably bad? I only ask because we’ve recently moved house – out to the suburbs: I’m in denial about that, even if our wisteria makes it very clear – and we have had to deal with more companies, and their Byzantine departments, than ever before. They
July 27, 2017
During my spell at the Ministry of Justice last year, I was allowed to visit some of Britain’s most infamous prisons. I was speechwriting for Michael Gove and his successor Liz Truss at the time, so the idea was to tour the estate and meet staff and inmates, just to get a feel of what
June 22, 2017
After a man-made disaster like the Grenfell Tower fire, the rush to judgment can be contagious. On the day of the fire, when acrid smoke filled the skies of west London, Jeremy Corbyn said that “if you cut local authority expenditure then a price is paid somewhere”. He was applauded for his frankness. But to
March 30, 2017
To understand gun crime in America, the Guardian journalist Gary Younge picked a date at random from his calendar: November 23, 2013. He then investigated every one of the 10 people shot dead that day all over the US: who they were and why they died – from the cornfields of rural Michigan to the
February 16, 2017
What if Dante was right?
February 16, 2017
A teacher friend of mine emailed the other day out of the blue, asking about life after death. Would I answer a short questionnaire for her class of 10-year-olds? They needed to know what Catholics believe about the afterlife, why, and what “you personally” believe. The last bit was telling, I thought. For most people
January 12, 2017
What sort of person is our Prime Minister? It’s weirdly difficult to answer, despite the fact that Theresa May was home secretary for six years before entering No 10. But there are some clues. In an interview last month, she revealed her plans for Christmas Day: she would be sharing a glass of sherry with
October 20, 2016
I first met Norman – not his real name – a couple of years before he killed himself. Coming home to my flat one evening, I heard a yelp at the other end of the dimly lit corridor. I approached the sound and found a short, middle-aged man, trying to unlock his front door. He
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