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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What if it had been a 43 year old black man who drugged, raped and sodomized a 13 year old white girl?

Give us a break! All this outpouring of sympathy in Hollywood and France only serves to show the hypocrisy that exist — particularly in those places.

Posted by Jack Staub | Report as abusive

he is not a pedophile…maybe he was high on drugs…anyway what was a 13 year old doing there? where was her mom?
plus he is 76…leave him alone……..its all ridiculous……

Posted by pol | Report as abusive

He is already guilty, if he wants to appeal he needs to come back. What the victim wants now is completely irrelevant.

Posted by cv | Report as abusive

I can’t believe some people are still supporting Polanski on this. The man WAS just disgusting.

His plight as a child, and whatever he has gone through does not give him an excuse to sodomize a 13-year old, plead guilty about it and run away from the law. He already had his 30 year of freedom, it’s time for him to pay.

Posted by Joey | Report as abusive

The way I see it this… Polanski should be extradited to the US. He committed a serious crime and should be brought to justice. However, what justice does with him is another matter. At sentencing it would be appropriate to bring up the fact that after his arrest and flight Polanski has contributed greatly to world culture, that he has committed no further crimes, and that his victim forgives him. These are reasonable things to bring up at sentencing a may allow for a more lenient sentence. But until that hearing is held, he is a fugitive from justice.

Posted by Frank | Report as abusive

Moral codes were allways different for the elite.The law books of the world have thousands of laws–the only law of the poor:”Love one another”. If a poor stole a loaf of bread(obviously from the rich)punishment followed,despite the fact,that the poor of society laboured and the rich reaped(throughout history)
God forbid— that the rich, who abuse and rape the world could be blamed for enjoying the fruit of the world.
You expect the elite to protect their own,they won’t throw stones at the sinner, because themselves wallow in sin.They all steal from the world,gratiously hand out pittance to the poor(charging hefty interest)and demand accolades and salvation.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

What is all this noise about anyway? He committed a terrible crime & he should pay heavily for it. The only misfortune is that he wasn’t caught sooner.

Make an example out of him, Please!

Posted by Mary Bicknell | Report as abusive

I do not think that the fact that he paid compensation has anything to mitigate the offence and the USA is correct to seek his extradition. He should be punished for the offence he pleaded guilty to back in the 70′s and also separately for fleeing the country prior to sentenceing. No amount of talent or time should absolve him from facing the consequences of his actions.

Posted by Hellfire | Report as abusive

It is a complete bias on behalf of anyone in the Entertainment industry to argue that Polanski should be freed and charges dropped. The fact that he is one of the most talented filmmakers to date speaks numbers about his creative ability. However what he did to this girl shows a very negative and disgusting side to his character. When someone breaks the law they need to face consequences and the fact that he has run from these consequences for thirty years does not mean the crime never happened. We live in a society where the media industry is very influential and the last thing we need to do is excuse a heinous act because the accused it talented and famous.

Posted by RLH | Report as abusive

How about KOBE BRYANT? Didnt he get off because he is rich and hired the best lawyer there is, and many cared more about watching basketball than upholding criminal justice in a rape case that was proved by DNA. The worst thing is, there were literally threats to the victim by many who just felt that doing justice to the crime would keep them from a good show. To that extent, Rev Reese is describing a phenomenon of abuse of authority or privilege by the media, in favor of people whom they identify as one of them— the club.

(2) The fact that the original person who brought the case now decides to quit, many years later, DOES NOT OVERTuRN. OTherwise, once it was blown that the person faked the story in Roe v Wade and now is against the verdict, things would be overturned. That’s apparently not how the law proceeds here in this country.

Priests are poeple in authority. MISUSE OF AUTHORITY is a terrible problem at many levels of United States. That needs to be addressed, AT ALL LEVELS. The defenders of Polanski defeats this effort for equal justice for all.

Polanki, as a famous director, was a person of authority. He determines who gets a job, gets to be in a movie, sometimes, who gets a good chance to be a star.
People in authority everywhere else does not get a bigger break, but in the entertainment industry they do— THAT IS DEPLORABLE.

Posted by jo | Report as abusive

@ Cali,

So lets get this straight. America is in the dark ages because they punish sex crimes against children…

And Europe is more evolved because it supports pedofilia and child rape when the perpetrator is famous?

You learn something new every day. And as this draws on, Europe is looking *really* bad as more of them talk on camera.

Posted by Hahaha | Report as abusive

Both Polanski and the District attorney agreed to a plea bargain. Polanski, indeed, admitted guilt in return for a specific sentence. The judge reneged and applied a significantly longer sentence. Polanski should serve the sentence agreed upon in good faith by both the prosecution and defense. He should serve the sentence in France. Justice would then be done.

Posted by D Blacher | Report as abusive

Polanski should face life at hard labor. A priest who molest a child should face life at hard labor. The law is the law and your “talent” or profession should not matter.

Priest can forgive each other and Polanski from sin in the eyes of God, but society has laws which are administered by man and there is no forgiveness for child abuse.

Posted by Derek | Report as abusive

As a swiss citizen I am proud of my country to have arrested Polansky. Hope they actually ship him off to the US so he can stand his trial. What he did to that teen (even if it was some years ago) is sickening and deserves sentencing. Just because he is famous is not an excuse in justice.

Posted by CK | Report as abusive

Priest or film director, it’s the same thing. A man abuses his power over other people to act out his self-aggrandizing fantasies on a child, woman, boy who he thinks is not important enough to be believed.
It’s the hard work of victim advocates that reformed the legal system enough to bring justice to some of these cases.

Mr. Polanski, like Marc Rich who committed different crimes of a financial nature, is a fugitive from U.S. justice. Why anyone would think Polanksi should be exempt from extradition for the rape of a minor girl merely because he won an Academy Award is hard to understand. Would they excuse O.J. Simpson of the alleged murder of his former wife Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman because he once won the Heisman Trophy? Not hardly. The crime should be considered serious in any country or culture. The pedophile crimes of a small percentage of former Roman Catholic priests have nothing at all to do with whether Polanski is brought back to LA to stand trial. That is a pointless tangent to the main Polanski story. How is that priest angle germane to anything about Polanski? Are there many–or even any–examples of a former pedophile priest in the US pleading guilty to a pedophile crime and then fleeing to his summer villa in France for decades to escape a US court? One commenter incorrectly says a judge \”reneged\” on a plea bargan between lawyers for Polanski and a prosecutor. A judge in American courts has an absolute duty to set aside any plea bargain that in his or her opinion is contrary to the ends of justice.

Posted by Mark Rhoads | Report as abusive

Unfortunately, the priest is right. I say “unfortunately” because I am an atheist. There is a double standard, and there shouldn’t be. If only 4% of all ordained priests are guilty of molestation, there shouldn’t be so much publicity. Yet Hollywood flaunts all standards of decency without so much as a little column in the newspapers. You bet Polanski wouldn’t get by as a paedophile priest, no way. Yet I do not know why his story is receiving so much attention nor why the authorities have an “axe to grind” with this man about a 32-year-old charge. Paedophilia is a sexual preference, no different than homosexuality, sado-masochism, or any other so-called “perversion.” As long as no force is used and no one gets hurt, anything goes, in my book.

Posted by Mufaso | Report as abusive

The sucker should fry. If it were me or anyone else we would burn. He’s not above the law and he proved he was guilty by fleeing the US and refusing to return. Burn Burn Burn!

Posted by Darrell | Report as abusive

Polanski could have been charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, practicing medicine without a license, a number of drug charges, sodomy, rape, statutory rape, and no doubt my list is not exhaustive. He plea bargained to get things down to one charge, pled guilty, and fled before sentence was passed. This invalidates the plea. This is the problem of running from justice. Polanski would have done his time and been out by now. Statutes of limitation don’t run while a defendant is on the run and his running violates the plea bargain so he’s on the hook for all the other charges.

He’s made a mockery of the US justice system and no doubt caused judges to think twice about leaving other defendants out on bail before sentencing. But that’s ok, he makes good films.


Pedophilia is a sexual orientation no different than homosexuality, sado-masochism, bondage, or any other so-called “perversion.” As long as there is no force and no one is injured, no crime has been committed; I don’t give a damn what a government or a church says. If Polanski were a priest, you better bet he would be persecuted for his orientation, but being a Hollywood producer he can live out his orientation without being persecuted. It IS a double standard that shouldn’t exist.

Posted by Mufaso | Report as abusive

Sex with a minor,regardless of their experience or willingness, is wrong and a crime. Jumping bale and failure to appear are also crimes. If it were your average citizen he would be delivered to the court and delt with. Polanski is a criminal. He owes the people of California a little time just like any other man or woman who commits a crime against children.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

Polanski’s movies are fantastic – loved Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby. He’s a very talented guy. Having said that, he should go to jail for a long long time – what a pathetic excuse of a man. Punk.

Posted by jamaljk | Report as abusive

Why could he not be compared to a pedophile Muslim Imam….Spread the HATE around…Polanski is a Leftist Liberal so why not compare him to a pedophile Ted Kennedy?!

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

Roman Polanski is very talented & has brought a lot of joy to the world. He is also guilty of crimes. As to the question in the title, “Would a pedophile priest be treated the same way?”, despite recent news (P.S. more priests got away than were caught) this has been going on for centuries. In my town, the head priest (I’m not Christian, don’t know the title) paid $20,000 not to be in the ill graces of government & media, for allowing abuse to continue & transfering priests when necessary.

Posted by Zal Moxis | Report as abusive

You Polanski supporters are short sighted and short minded. Your assumption that Polanski only did this to one girl is mind boggling. I would bet my life this poor 13 year old wasn’t nearly the FIRST or the last girl he did this to. And to bring his age into has no relevancy whatsoever. Actually I take that last sentence back. His age does have relevancy. Seeing that he’s so old and fragile (like a 13 year old, minus the old of course) perhaps bringing him to the United States for any type of extended sentence is too harsh. Instead, lock him up for one night in a jail with a bunch of just past teenage felons who don’t really care who they rape. That way the roles will be reversed. Instead of a 46 year old man raping little girls time and time again, it’ll be a 76 year old man being raped by 18 to 20 year olds time and time again. In just one night Polanski will feel the pain he inflicted for years on numerous children. Then in the morning open the cell and KICK his sorry azz out of the country. That would be plenty of justice for me, and I’d bet for his victims as well.

And to comment to the priest that wrote the article…hey buddy, you got no soapbox to stand behind.
The only way you have the right to write this article is if you’ve already written articles about how your “teammates” should not be given an leniency for their crimes. I know you haven’t so if you’re one of the good ones, you have a duty to God, the Church, and the people to focus all of your time and energy about such matters on the abusers that share your title.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

Today’s Headlines:

-Famous Rapist Arrested By American Warrent
-France and Poland Decry Punishment of Child Sexual Offences.
-French Foreign Minister Claims Arrest of Pedo is “Sinister, not nice”.
-French Cultural Minister Reportedly “Frightened” By Recent American Actions.
-Europe Film Industry Signs Petition Supporting Admitted Child Abuser.

The truth, as they say, is stranger then fiction.

Posted by Haha | Report as abusive

What about “The Ghost” , the film about Tony Blair endowing Great Britain in the war , film Polanski is presently producing? Is all that anything else than a battle about free expression ?

Posted by Thymert | Report as abusive

Well, statutory rape is not rape, and it’s not entirely child molestation. But it does have elements in common with both. It is a shade of gray. Rape and child molestation both get about 10 to 20, and statutory rape gets about 1 to 3. That’s appropriate, in my opinion. Polanski punished himself worse, by living a fugitive life all these years. If he’d faced it like a man, he’d be out by now. Oh, to the priest crying because people aren’t so supportive of them when they do it; shut up.

Posted by Richard Stiles | Report as abusive

I find the whole affair disturbing. Everybody jumped to defend this guy. He was having sex with a minor. A mature man with a little child. A pedophile. Maybe Europeans have less draconic and drastic laws on the matter and maybe true the victim has forgiven the culprit but bottom-line this guy fled the justice system, committed a crime and even though a genius he is no better than any other criminal. Maybe he never did anything so wrong for the rest of his life but still there was a moment where he went against law and decency and for that he has not paid. He should go through the justice system and maybe the justice system should keep in mind his behavior after the fact but he has a debt that he needs to pay not so much to his victim but to society otherwise anybody who is a v.i.p. might think that he/she is immune to the rule of law and as a society we would set the wrong example for our kids. Pedophile, criminal, genius. Still a criminal.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

Polanski raped a thirteen year old girl and the french minister defended him? Get over it already frenchies, your times of past glory is just that, PAST. Put Polanski in jail! Being famous and/or rich doesn’t give you an excuse to rape little girls bastard!

Posted by Steiner | Report as abusive

I understand that Polanski was unsure that he would receive the 42 day sentence he plea-bargained and might instead get stuck with 50 years. In the circumstances, I can’t blame him for running. The one sentence seems to me ludicrously light for ‘statutory rape’, and the other is just ludicrous.

Sure, he should not have done it, and he should have received some sensible penalty. On the other hand, the lady concerned feels no so badly about the event but knows that the court exposure and media hounding over the next year ruined her life.

I wish some people would leave their black-and-white preconceptions for a moment and show some humanity to the lady, and also to Polanski. There but for the grace of God…

No body ask about mother this girl? Why she send her to Jack N. house? She didn’t want to go to this house. Deep seek sens this situation shows Sasha Baron Cohen i last movie “BRUNO”, when parents wont send children to extreme dangerous Bruno show.

Posted by fan | Report as abusive

God sees the truth but waits.. I guess this is what has happened to Polanski. The heinous crime which he committed 30 years back should be brought to justice. May be his achievements in the world of films has bought him fame and glory, but that does not spare him from justice. Crime must be paid for and the time has come for repayment. In the world of crime, if people like him who hold social status can be dropped from all charges of crime then i do support criminals who are spending rest of their lives behind prison bars for the same crime. If he should be freed then the rest should also be freed. why show compassion towards one criminal and not towards other. After all everyone is a human.

Posted by arvind | Report as abusive

I suppose you could say something like ‘all are equal in the eyes of justice’. On the other hand the incarceration rate in the US is so stupendously, incredibly high compared to countries in Western Europe you have to ask if the US specialises in justice or in somthing a whole lot darker and muddier. I don’t think Polanski had anything to do with the movie Escape From New York but I figure if he goes to prison he can enjoy being in the cast of the reality show version come 2020.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Priest pedophiles who raped more than one kid for years did not go to jail. Bishops who allowed more than one priest rape more than one kid repeatedly walked. The judge who all admit was a crook and used bait and switch to get Polanski to confess died a free man. So Polanski who did one criminal act not nearly as heinous as rape was supposed to go to jail for decades?

Give me a break.

Posted by Ed | Report as abusive

Polanski is 76, has lived for over thirty years without subsequent criminal arrest — and besides the dubious aspects of this case, judicial mishandling, etc, and the fact that the victim says she wants it over … one does wonder why the state of california…strapped for money…feels its of such importance to arrest this man? As for preists, they have almost all gone with jail time. Not to mention the likes of henry kissinger.

Polanski has visited switzerland many times, in fact owns a house there. Why now???? What is the agenda for the LA district attorney?

In this punitive and puritan society, Polanski’s greatest offense might be that he has never said he was sorry. Something totally un-Oprah like and not to be forgiven.

Posted by john steppling | Report as abusive

meant to say WITHOUT jail time….re preists-

Posted by john steppling | Report as abusive

This isn’t pedophilia. This isn’t rape. This is rape and pedophilia and kidnapping (literally speaking if the victim is drugged).

You say the victim doesn’t care anymore…BS. I smell a pay off.

Posted by Robber | Report as abusive

The victim still works in the world of media. if her identity were not known ,would she feel more free to want her rapist punished? This is only rape, if you think it is inappropriate for a grown man to have sex with your 13 year old child. I would like to hear what Jack Nicholson thinks about Polanski doing this in his home? Do other movie royalty avoid commenting to this topic? Isn’t it sad that social status gives such a different view to what is just. I am sorry Mr Polanski has been the victim of such horrible crimes in his past. it does not change his accountability for his own acts.

If Polanski were a priest the media would be calling for his head!

Posted by lang | Report as abusive

I don’t think anyone should get away with it, priest or not. He has been avoiding the penalties of his actions and should be prosecuted. Anyone else without his money and stature would be prosecuted. He was certainly old enough to know better and went to a lot of trouble to evade arrest for a long time. Too BAD!

Posted by Patti | Report as abusive

Listen, you ignorant philistines. Polanski made one of the greatest mvoies ever, Chinatown. What is one teenybopper in comparison to that towering achievement?

Posted by Banjo | Report as abusive

Fr. Reese has really opened my eyes to a new dimension in this disturbing and contentious debate. I’ll never forget his insight:

“Entertainment, not religion, is the new opiate of the people and we don’t want our supply disturbed.”

Thank you for publishing this article. Sometimes comparison enlightens us as nothing else can.

Posted by Terry | Report as abusive

Perhaps the US ought to stop raping the Swiss with the ‘Swiss Gold’ extortion scheme, the shattering of national sovereignty with respect to banking secrecy, and this latest rather more minor rape of that small nation before it grandstands further in the name of the obscenities of American ‘justice’.

Posted by notsilentnotbob | Report as abusive

This is a question posed by the guilty. Mothers heare it all the time…..Bobby’s mom lets him do it….. Mary can stay out after dark….

Responsible people take responsibility for their actions. dolts, perverts, and dirty old men do not.

If Polanski were a man he would return on his own instead of trying to hide behind some french skirt. Responsible governments and people everywhere would not hide him or come to his aid. Life in Folsom prison would give the AH an appreciation of rape and be good for everyone everywhere.

Posted by JABUSSE | Report as abusive

Regardless of anything else, He fled a court date.
That is the entire story that the judicial system is dealing with currently .
Later we can all talk about if its ok for an adult person to put his wicket in a 13 your olds covey regardless of
any other point.

Posted by Tom Abbett | Report as abusive

to Jacqueline George [10:09 AM] ‘There but for the grace of God…’ Bull. Drugging and raping a 13 year old girl is so far from what I am about I can’t begin to explain the anger I feel at your inane comment. Would you feel so differently if the 13 year old was your daughter, your niece, the daughter of a friend? But hey, it was 30 years ago, who really cares….right? I ask this: At what date did this rape become just an excusable action on the part of Polanski? 1 day? 1 week? 1 month? 1 year?

Posted by Ron | Report as abusive

Are priests getting “passes”? Hardly. Most of the cases that were brought up in the past 10 years go back to the 50′s and 60′s.

Posted by Bryan | Report as abusive

Fr. Tom should take a lesson from the old testament. David impregnated another man’s wife then sent the man out to die in the war so he could have her all the time. He gets off with a few good psalms… go figure. It’s an old story of the prominent and powerful having their way.

In America there is a saying “Talk’s Cheap.” It is meant to be a challenge to someone who is trying to weasel out of something or boast without having the back-up. The lesson of David and Hollywood is that talk’s cheap… meaning if you can get out of something with words you can screw anyone. In their religion talk’s cheap is a religious mantra worthy of aspiration.

Posted by jabusse | Report as abusive

Why are people so incredibly and unapologetically stupid?

I noticed the one big issue that’s missing from all talk about Roman Polanski’s case: Exactly how backwards the American judicial system is to the point that Polanski felt he had to flee.

In this piece, you have contributed absolutely nothing to the discussion, except to say he’s a bad man for fleeing. He’s not. He was the victim of GROSS judicial misconduct, bounced around like a ball in a pinball machine by a narcissistic judge who was more interested in keeping his press clippings in order than in serving anything resembling justice.

And I really don’t care if you publish this. As with the Catholic cult, anything that doesn’t conform to your worldview just gets ignored.

You say quit defending Polanski. I say quit defending the horrible crimes that the Catholic Church committed by allowing priests continualy contact with minors and just praying that the situation would go away.

Posted by Donna | Report as abusive