Would Polanski get a pass if he were a paedophile priest?

September 29, 2009

polanskiIt’s hard to watch France’s political and cultural elite rush to support filmmaker Roman Polanski against extradition to the United States on a decades-old sex charge and not wonder exactly how they interpret the national motto liberté, égalité, fraternité.” It’s tempting to ask whether they’re defending the liberty to break the law and skip town, respecting the equality of all before the law and championing a brotherhood of artists who can do no wrong.

(Photo: Roman Polanski, 19 Feb 2009/Hannibal Hanschke)

Here in Paris, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner declared the arrest was “a bit sinister … frankly, (arresting) a man of such talent recognised around the world, recognised in the country where he was arrested — that’s not very nice.” He and his Polish counterpart have written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the issue. Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand said “just as there is a generous America that we like, there’s also an America that scares us, and that’s the America that has just shown us its face.” Directors, actors and intellectuals have been signing a petition demanding Polanski’s immediate release.

Almost all the focus is on the argument that Polanski is a brilliant director, the charge of unlawful sex with a 13-year old dates back to 1977 and the victim herself says she wants the whole issue to be forgotten.  Almost completely ignored is the fact that he fled the U.S. to escape sentencing, which added a crime to the original crime. There is such a widespread assumption that all artists and intellectuals would automatically support Polanski that Paris papers today — both the left-of-centre Libération and the conservative Le Figaro — wrote with an air of surprise that Hollywood was not storming the barricades to back him.

The French Greens leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit made headlines by bucking the trend and saying he was “ill at ease” with the rush to absolve Polanski of raping a minor and the culture minister should have been more cautious in his comments.

Across the Atlantic, by contrast, Hollywood’s hometown paper, the Los Angeles Times, reviewed the objections by Polanski’s supporters and concluded: “Plausible or preposterous, these arguments are eclipsed by a simple fact: Polanski fled the country … the Justice Department and L.A.’s district attorney are right to seek extradition.”

reeseAnd almost nobody in the media here in France asks the tough questions that Fr. Tom Reese, S.J. (photo at right) did in his Washington Post blog post entitled “Father Polanski would go to jail”:
“Polanski’s defenders … argue that he should not be punished. They say that the girl was willing and sexually experienced and she has forgiven him (after receiving a settlement). They even cite his tragic childhood and life as an excuse. And besides, it is ancient history. Such arguments from paedophile priests would be laughed out of court and lambasted by everyone, and rightly so…

“The Catholic Church has rightly been put under a microscope when 4 percent of its priests were involved in abuse, but what about the film industry? The world has truly changed. Entertainment is the new religion with sex, violence and money the new Trinity. The directors and stars are worshipped and quickly forgiven for any infraction as long as the PR agent is as skilled as a saintly confessor. Entertainment, not religion, is the new opiate of the people and we don’t want our supply disturbed.

“Is there a double standard here? You bet.”

There’s a lot to say about the different ways Americans and French approach the law. But let’s go right to Tom Reese’s question. Do you think Polanski’s supporters cut him slack they wouldn’t think of permitting for a paedophile priest? Is the entertainment industry setting our values?

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If Polanski used force to obtain sexual favors it wouldn’t matter to me if the girl was 13 or 30; rape is rape regardless of the age of either the perpetrator or the victim. My point is that if the sex was consensual, no crime has been committed. But if indeed he drugged and then had sex with this girl, then clearly she was unable to give consent, and he is guilty of rape and should be dealt with accordingly. Age is completely irrevelent when it comes to sex. The government has no business telling people who they can and cannot have sex with. Rape, defined as the use of force to procure sexual gratification, knows no age limit. The age of the victim or of the perpetrator makes no difference in my book. A 30-year-old woman can no more defend herself against an attacker than can a 13-year-old girl; therefore the penalty for the rape of a victim of either age should be the same.

Posted by Mufaso | Report as abusive

all of u condemners, dont be so sure he is a pedophle…she wasnt 6 years old..she was a 13 years old teen looking 18…
come on everybody…you are so naivelly judgmental and so angry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by cali | Report as abusive

“Rape, defined as the use of force to procure sexual gratification, knows no age limit.”

Wrong. Rape is defined as having sexual intercourse with a person, without a person’s consent.

And a 13 year old child cannot consent, because they are still at the age where they can be easily manipulated or pressured into sex by 30-year old pedophiles.

“The government has no business telling people who they can and cannot have sex with.”

Yes they can. Especially when those people are trying to molest or otherwise take sexual advantage of young children.

“A 30-year-old woman can no more defend herself against an attacker than can a 13-year-old girl”

You really think that? You believe that a 13 year old girl has the same physical strength of an 18-30 year old woman? What an odd thing to say.

“Age is completely irrevelent when it comes to sex.”

NAMBLA thinks so too. Funny enough, a lot of them ended up in jail for child rape.

Posted by Hmmmm | Report as abusive

I think many posters missed the point of the Polanski-priest comparison which had to do with public reactions to cases of pedophilia involving priests on the one hand and celebrities on the other, not if more priests than celebrities got away with sex crimes or if Hollywood would be more likely than the church to cover up pedophilia than the Vatican. A pedophile priest would be (rightly) torn to shreds if he tried to defend himself by saying that the incident happened a long time ago or that he should be forgiven because of his great accomplishments. But this is precisely what Polanski’s defenders are saying.

I agree that there is an extra layer of repugnance if the pedophile is considered a moral authority and is in a position of trust. But saying that this is the chief reason why we condemn pedophile priests is tantamount to arguing that raping children is no big deal as long as you’re you’re not their priest, teacher or scout master, etc. Pedophilia is wrong whether the perpetrator is a priest or a celebrity.

Posted by Georgina | Report as abusive

It may seem hard but the bottom line is…………….
He did the crime let him do the time !
with his money and power, he will just get a slap on the wrist and a fine.
gonna follow this case.

Posted by BklynOG | Report as abusive

12 is the age of consent in Vatican City; 14 in Italy

Posted by barbara | Report as abusive

In Italy, they discriminate against Gypsies and Romanians.

And they also have record approvals for their political leader (always a sign of not-so-swift populations)

So I would hardly look to them for inspiration for a better society.

Posted by Hmmm | Report as abusive

people love jumping to conclusions..love condemning!!!!!!!!!
if you want to condemn polanski, then condemn the 80% of the male population of this planet!!!!!!!
at some point they all have done or tried to do something similar……i am a woman, i was a girl once! i am talking from experience…
polanski happened to be famous so he has to be the scapegoat…thats all…he is no different ! the whole planet should go to jailthen if you want justice!!!!!!!

Posted by poppy | Report as abusive


Sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl is obviously a serious crime.

And being an artistic genius never constituted, for any crime, an attenuating circumstance.

Having said that, and considering the wave of madness currently sweeping the country, we should also remember the following:

1. The “illegal sexual intercourse” that Roman Polanski acknowledged he was guilty of 32 years ago is not, for all that, the deadly crime, even crime against humanity, that the avengers hot on his heels have been denouncing for the past 10 days. Yes, it is a crime. But there are degrees in the scale of crimes. And it is an insult to good sense, an assault on reason, a door left open to all kinds of confusion, to muddle everything, to try to make everyone believe that a rape is a crime of the same nature as, for example, the one his wife Sharon Tate was a victim of, eviscerated several years earlier, to risk, in other words, because that’s what we’re really talking about, seeing Polanski join Charles Manson in the penitentiary where, starting January 1, 2010, he will have the possibility of parole.

2. This affair is all the more senseless as the principal complainant has chosen to forgive, to turn the page and, if possible, to forget. Leave me alone, she begs every time the Justice Spectacle, or just simply the Spectacle, shines its spotlights on this part of her past! Leave me alone and, while we’re at it, forget this man that I, his victim, think has paid enough! But no. Defenders of victims’ rights are there knowing better than the victim what she wants and what she feels. We are dealing with people who would step over the victims rather than let go of their prey and renounce the drunken desire to punish. It is shameful.

3. When the victim withdraws her complaint, isn’t it up to society, that is to say the judge, to pursue the matter? Yes, without a doubt. From a strict judicial point of view, it is indeed the right of society. But this will be neither the first nor the last time that the strict judicial perspective misses the demands of compassion as well as those of intelligence. And just as I have never abstained from pointing out, in the Law of this America that I love, customs or punishments, found in every legal system, that distort the pure democratic idea, likewise there is no reason not to say it: arresting a man today about whom it was decided a long time ago, after 42 days in prison, that he wasn’t a pedophile, tracking him like a terrorist, and extraditing him like a former Nazi is perhaps right according to the law, but not according to justice.

4. Would it be, like we’re hearing everywhere, that his celebrity was giving Mr. Polanski refuge? No, of course not. I have spent my life trying to pull minuscule lives, nameless and faceless victims, from obscurity — and I would have exactly the same views if Mr. Polanski weren’t Mr. Polanski. Except… Except I precisely wouldn’t have to maintain them. Because he wouldn’t have been arrested. His dossier would have been buried for years. And there wouldn’t have been any prosecutor, on the eve of an election (because many American judges are elected by the people like mayors and sheriffs), to arrange this high-profile arrest. Celebrity is not protecting Roman Polanski; it is doing him a disservice. Far from Roman Polanski hiding behind his name, it is his name that is drawing attention to him. And if there is a double standard in this affair, it is making Polanski, not an ordinary defendant, but a symbol — and his eventual appearance a politico-media “grand bazaar” more than a fair trial.

5. The root of the matter lies in the whiff of popular justice that masks everything and transforms the commentators, the bloggers, the citizens, into so many judges sworn in on the great tribunal of Opinion — some weighing the crime, others the punishment; we have even seen one of the virtuous, apparently an expert in chemical castration, propose for this new Dutroux (sic) a definitive treatment… Strange sort of outrage in those who don’t find fault when it’s a truly powerful person who acts like a child predator in front of our faces (ah, Mr. Berlusconi’s escapades) but who become implacable when it’s a seemingly powerful person who, like Polanski, has no other weapon but his talent… Singular kind of moralists who take an evil pleasure in replaying over and over the details of this sordid affair in order then to throw the first stone…

This lynching is a disturbance of the public order more serious than Roman Polanski remaining free.

This tenacity on the part of the gossips, and this desire to see the head of an artist on a pike, are the very essence of immorality.

Either one of two things, Your Honors. Either Polanski was this monster — and we shouldn’t have given him either an Oscar or a César; we needed to boycott his films; we needed to turn him in to the authorities every time he vacationed with his family at his home in Switzerland. Or you have never found fault, ever, with his announced appearances on the red carpets of every world festival; you feel as I do the formidable hypocrisy of this prosecutor, craving recognition, who woke up one morning to deliver him like a trophy to the public condemnation of the white-hot anger of voters — and we must, like his victim, plead that he finally be left in peace.

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bernardhen ri-levy/on-the-polanski-affair_b_310397. html

Posted by gerri | Report as abusive