Turning on a Catholic? --- Did the new Pope actually pick a non-Catholic to be President of the United States over a -- gasp! -- Protestant? That what a lot of people think, as the reviews have been rolling in after the choice of Cardinal John Ratzinger to become Pope Benedict XVI.
Ratzinger, you see, was the author of a letter sent to U.S. bishops last summer urging them to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who are pro-choice. It was widely viewed as a repudiation of John Kerry, who is pro-choice, and a boost for George W. Bush -- despite Pope John Paul II's opposition to Bush's invasion of Iraq. Not all bishops agreed, and Kerry received Communion, but it still seems to have helped, as Bush, not Kerry, won 52 percent of the Catholic vote in 2004.
Religion and Politics -- Despite the Founding Fathers' horror at any blending of church and state (we can only imagine how they would react to Rome interceding in an American election), many observers see the Republican Party morphing into the closest thing to a religious-based political party that America has ever seen. Jeffrey Stout, professor of religion at Princeton and author of Democracy and Tradition, told an interviewer in 2004 that it's all starting to look just like what our Founders were trying to escape from when they declared their independence all those years ago.
"Kings and queens used to make a mockery of religion by presuming to be its caretakers," Stout said. "What most of them really wanted was a kind of religion that would justify their rule while pacifying the populace. Our elected representatives are prone to the same temptations. The religion that our politicians practice in public often smells of sanctimony, manipulation and self-idolatry. Its symbolic gestures make for bad religion and bad politics."
Supply and Demand -- If you're waiting for gas prices to come down, you can probably stop. If anything, a new report by the International Energy Agency suggests rising demand will keep prices high well into the future. According to the report, demand from developing countries like China and India could boost international gas needs by 47 percent by 2030. Unfortunately, the report adds, no one is sure where the additional oil will come from to fill that demand, as 50 countries that produce oil have found their reserves to be in decline. Last year, demand grew faster than any year since 1976.
"We should be worried," writes Chris Skrebowski, editor of the London-based Petroleum Review. "Time is short and we are not even at the point where we admit we have a problem."