but "charming" he's not

"More Zealous than the Pope."

He's head of the Vatican's "Holy Inquisition" [modern, formal name: "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith], and he's described as personally charming.

The man who wrote last week's Vatican document ruling out same-sex marriage is a soft-spoken Bavarian who was once a liberal but has served as Pope John Paul II's ultra-conservative guardian of Catholic doctrine for more than 20 years.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been at the Pope's side as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for so long he has been nicknamed "The Enforcer" or the "Panzerkardinal".

Cardinal Ratzinger is regarded as the second most powerful man in the Church. [oddly, his nicknames immediately suggest the next governor of California and himself soon one of the most powerful men in American]

If anything, he is even more zealous than the Pope, whom he meets every Friday evening, in laying down the law on social or sexual mores.

One joke told in the Vatican has Cardinal Ratzinger arriving in heaven with the church dissidents he has suppressed. The dissenters emerge after meeting God, crying: "How could I have been so wrong?" Then Cardinal Ratzinger goes in to meet the Almighty, there is also wailing and gnashing of teeth -- and God emerges, crying: "How could I have been so wrong?"

The former Hitler Youth member and Wehrmacht draftee was shocked by the reforms of Vatican II. The Australian site [news.com.au] linked above reports that he condemns Buddhism, Hinduism and other Eastern religions as offering false hope through "auto-erotic spirituality," that he insists the media exaggerates the extent of the American pedophilia scandals and that he's pushing for a return to the Latin Mass.

Well-informed queers have known about Rat for over 10 years. In 1992, during a period of particularly virulent antigay violence in the U.S., he authorized a Vatican proclamation which said that that when lesbians and gay men demand civil rights, "neither the Church nor society should be surprised when ... irrational and violent reactions increase"

Swell guy.

Ratzinger will preside over the Conclave which elects the next Catholic autocrat when Wojtyla kicks.

Off to the 17th century - in a hand basket!