Time magazine’s religion top ten list had Park51 in the spotlight. The Religion Newswriters Association voted Osama bin Laden’s death (and the faith response to it) their number one story in a list that included Harold Camping, Rob Bell, and Mississippi’s Personhood initiative. Oh, and the top religion author of 2011? Tim Tebow, whose life story is a runaway bestseller for our friends at HarperOne.

But what about the stories that shoulda been, but weren’t? We’re thinking this list, drawn up Peter Laarman, might provide a template for 2012 coverage.

1. “Catholic” countries that openly flout Vatican policy

Significant defections from the Vatican party line are no longer limited to rich cosmopolitan countries with religiously mixed populations like Germany and Holland. Nobody does the Vatican’s bidding any more. Mexico, Italy, Spain, Brazil, and others have enacted legislation that plainly thumbs the Vatican’s nose. In Ireland, where extreme deference to the Church dates all the way back to the Republic’s founding, the prime minister now goes repeatedly before parliament to blister not just a few priests and bishops but Rome itself for massive criminality and concealment. Spain’s prime minister may have gotten the boot in November, but his Socialist government didn’t go down because it had pushed through fast-track divorce and legalized gay marriage: it only went down because of IMF/EuroBank austerity measures.

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