Theology and Sanity is a profoundly wonderful book. For any “person in the street” type Catholic, it ought to be in the top 5 books they read, if not for the more advanced Catholic as well.
The *Nihil Obstat *is still the standard sign that a book is free from doctrinal error, with the Imprimatur acknowledging that the book is not only free from error, but is truly worthy of being published. However, it is not the same as it was in the past, when it was only these books that could be considered acceptable.
In the past, an Imprimatur was required for a Catholic book to be licitly published. However, this requirement is no longer there. One reason is that bishops simply have so much to do that they cannot take the time required to review every book someone wants to publish. There are also many more lay authors nowthan in the past. Many Catholic authors do not apply for these stamps anymore, or if they do they begin publishing and add the stamps to later editions once granted.
Therefore, the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur are certainly good things to look for, but you can find good books that do not have them. In fact, the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat are only as good as the bishops that granted them anyhow, and we know what that can mean.
So the moral of the story is, if it’s got one of those stamps and something seems fishy, ask about it, and if it doesn’t have them, just ask folks on tehse boards, or a trusted priest, or somebody else that’s knowledgable for their advice about a given title.
By the way, “published with ecclesiastical approval” means that Mr. Sheed’s wonderful book was published properly in accord with all Church laws in force at the time.
Peace and God bless!