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The media were ready for Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (search). The Associated Press in one of its first stories wrote, "He's a leading hard-liner." On AOL News he was called a "hard-line conservative." Even less-flattering labels included "God's Rottweiler" and "the enforcer," a reference to his previous position as interpreter of Church doctrine.

Such are the words the mainstream media use to communicate their disapproval, not only of a pope, but also of politicians and almost anyone else who holds convictions that the liberal elites don't like. And they tell us they are not biased.

One doesn't have to be Catholic to see how this game is played. The big media think the Catholic Church should conform to the secular agenda. They think the Catholic Church should be a cultural rubber stamp, endorsing, or at least not disapproving, whatever the world wants to do and not a barricade protecting people from the attacks of culture. Anyone who follows the big media line is dubbed "tolerant" or "progressive." Anyone who doesn't is "hard-line" or "God's Rottweiler."

I recall something my columnist colleague, Joseph Sobran, said some years ago about his Catholic Church. He said, "I would rather belong to a church that is 500 years behind the times and sublimely indifferent to change, than I would to a church that is five minutes behind the times, huffing and puffing to catch up."

That sounds about right for serious Catholics or for anyone else with convictions about things that matter.

And that's Column One for this week.

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Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist. He joined Fox News Channel in 1997 as a political contributor. His latest book is "What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America" is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.