AS writes: “Our book club leader is asking us to review A Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything by James Martin for our next book. This book looks like New Age to me? I would appreciate your comments on this book.”
I can certainly appreciate why AS would think any book with the word “Jesuit” in the title is suspect, what with all the dubious teachings coming out of that order these days. And this particular book would certainly seem likely to spew dissent seeing as the author is the culture editor of the infamous America Magazine, a Jesuit publication not known for its faithfulness to Church teaching.
While I have not read the book (as a rule, I can’t get involved in doing book reviews because that would be like another full-time job), I was able to peruse its content on-line and found it to be very centered on the Ignatian way. It did not appear to be promoting any New Age ideas and even mentioned a few of my personal favorites, such as Avery Cardinal Dulles and Fr. Walter Ciszek. But as I said, I did not read the book and can only offer a limited assessment of its content.
Having said all this, I question why a Catholic book club leader would be recommending a book by an editor of a publication that is so well-known for its dissenting positions. Why play with fire when you don’t have to?
America Magazine had become so scandalous a few years back the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had to put pressure on the owners to remove its former editor, Fr. Thomas Reese. Under Reese’s tenure, essays were published that explored the moral arguments in favor of approving the use of condoms for HIV/AIDS, criticizing the 2000 document Dominus Iesus (on religious pluralism), an article about homosexual priests and even a guest essay written by Rep. David Obey (D-WI) and challenging the idea of refusing Communion to Catholic politicians who do not vote in accordance with the teachings of the Faith.
As for Fr. Martin himself, he recently criticized the pope for equating abortion and same-sex marriage and mentioned that a gay friend of his had recently left his position at the U.S. Conference of Bishops because “‘abortionsamesexmarriage’ had become one polysyllabic word among some of his bosses.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Fr. Martin’s book has anything in it that is contrary to the Faith, but he’s obviously comfortable around dissent (or what the cultural elites like to call “intelligent discourse”). I can only question why your book club leader would want to risk it when there are so many other books out there that could be read instead.