Poynteronline's Book Babes wonder how much significance lies in editor Sam Tanenhaus' decision not only to review a spiritual memoir in The New York Times Book Review, but even to open the review on the cover. Granted, various readers may consider either decision equally blasphemous to the Times' orthodoxies. Book Babe Margo Hammond makes the point that asking Andrew Sullivan to review Tony Hendra's Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul was less daring than having Sullivan review an earlier biography of Billy Graham: "If [Tanenhaus] was signaling his intent to enter more into the religious realm, Sullivan -- who is Catholic, conservative, and gay -- certainly was a safely ambiguous choice."
The choice looks less bold still when considering how well Father Joseph Warrilow's views on the Vatican and sex agree with those expressed regularly on the wildly popular Andrew Sullivan Online.
Father Joe first enters the story after a man catches 14-year-old Hendra in an amorous embrace with his wife. Sullivan writes:
Tony's sin was not the groping or the lust as such but the subjection of a "hungry, trapped, unhappy woman" to his own narcissistic pleasure and needs. Father Joe, in one swoop, both undermines the current hierarchy's obsessive horror of sex itself and illumines the real point of Catholic sexual ethics: the respect and love for another human made in the image of God.
GetReligion is eager to applaud any time a publication pays serious attention to the topic of religious faith, and Sullivan's review is one example of a step in the right direction. But I'll also entertain the dream of The New York Times Book Review someday publishing, say, George Weigel on anything Catholic. Sam Tanenhaus' new job makes that more likely than before. May God bless his work.