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?

Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld

159 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

REALITY CHECK!!! The people defending Polanski are missing a few facts, no doubt misled by the hypocritical media depiction of his act as “unlawful sex with a minor”. What Polanski did was invite a 13-year old girl to a house, ply her with champagne and the sedative/hypnotic drug Quaalude, then vaginally and orally rape her, and sodomise her, against her will. That happens to be a crime, and a pretty heinous one at that. One for which he has pleaded guilty (albeit to a reduce plea bargain).
His celebrity status and contributions to culture make not an iota of difference. REMEMBER MICHAEL JACKSON? At least he didn’t run from justice: he went through a lengthy, gruelling trial and came out not guilty!!
The fact that Polanski’s victim received a settlement and has “forgiven him” is completely IRRELEVANT. She is not the law.
Others claime Polanski has suffered already enough in his life. So have most rapists and serial killers, so this argument is NONSENSE TOO!
In a civilised society, the law is the law. Commit a crime and you will be punished. Admit to a crime in court and run away from justice before you are sentenced, and your punishment will be even harsher. Period.

Posted by gobsmacked | Report as abusive

Father Polinski ????

Posted by peter | Report as abusive

I know of a bigger crime: some country invaded another on fallacious reasons.A few hundred thousand of innocent civilians were murdered.Do you think the perpetrators were brought to justice ? No way, the perpetrators were acting under god,and their commanders, good christians.Hopefully the victims took the matter in their own hands and they jugded, condamned and executed a few thousand of their tormentors.

Posted by Stefan | Report as abusive

The French are so upset by America wanting to stop a decades-long attitude in this country and others that there is somehow “consensual sex” if a 13 year-old child doesn’t fight back against the manipulative sexual advances of a rich and powerful man. Oh the French, they protest so much, they love their little girls, just like Maurice Chevalier sang about — “Thank heaven for little girls; thank heaven for them all, no matter where no matter who. . . “ Yes, without them what would dirty old me do?

And even though the victim is no longer 13 and wants the past to go away, (because she’s still a victim) there are still many 13 year-old girls who deserve protection under law from this sort of behavior.

Posted by SteveM | Report as abusive

Polanski should be extradicted and appear in court

Posted by Oleg | Report as abusive

He belongs in jail.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

Roman’s had it sooo good for sooo long. You’ve got the hollywood crowd wanting Obama to give this sleezebag a presidential pardon. It’s frightening when you think it could be your daughter or mine. The course of legal process and advocates will probably set Mr Polanski free, yet free he shouldn’t be and he should do the time. To do otherwise is a slap and a sneer at every parent in America.

RSP

Posted by robert Paris | Report as abusive

“Unapoligetic” “Missing from the Talk”
what kind of person muses such nonsenes when were talking about a 13 year old with a grown up Adult????
what planet do you ahle from?/

“he felt he had to flee” like he felt he needed to release himseld on a 13 year old.

Give me a break!!

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

A crime is a crime, it doesn’t matter how long it has been. Why does the world accept that nazis be brought to justice 50 or 60 years later? If Polanski wasn’t a well known jew, it would have been a different story. Just think about it if your daughter was the one that was raped, would you pardon him?

Posted by serene | Report as abusive

See my argument is, is that religious people such as priests are breaking not only state, country, and continent laws, but they are also breaking religious laws and guidlines by raping boys and girls. Not to mention whom they are not married to. I personally feel that anyone in power like that should have to have a mandatory phsycological evaluation monthly where as Polanski did have a troubled life and more importantley the victim has forgivin him and stated that he does not need to serve any more jail time, if the victims of the priests asked them same thing then I would ask that it be honered for them.

Posted by Ace | Report as abusive

one word:

NO

just google “priest arrest abuse”
many incidents of arrest and conviction

“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
September 30th, 2009
2:31 pm GMT

Give it a break Donna. I know of no one who is defending the abuse conducted by a small percentage of priests. However there does seem to be many who defend what Polanski did. Abuse is abuse; it does not matter that it is a priest, a cop, a famous person, who ever.

People love to bash the Catholic Church, call it a “cult” and throw up the priest abuse scandal. You know what, it was a horrific abuse of power and trust by those priests. But priests are people and condemning an entire religion with over 1 billion members for the acts of a very few is exactly what Fr. Reese is getting at. The disparity of “public outrage” between the two is palpable.

Come on Polanski.

You had a good run. And you were able to avoid justice up until now. You were lucky that France, being the cultural prostitute that it is, was willing to keep you safe from punishment. Not many criminals can be as lucky as you were.

But now its time for you to pay the price. You crept out from under your rock for kudos and you got nabbed. Let Europe complain all it pleases. They will just have to find another famous child rapist to worship.

Or possibly, as a crazy alternative, they should stop supporting them altogether.

And please, none of this “He’s a poor old victim of the system” bull. We hear it all the time. Considering he confessed to an open-shut case and skipped the country, not even he considers himself innocent.

Though seemingly, he thinks he is famous enough that the laws of society do not apply. And so do many people in Europe…

Posted by Hmmmm | Report as abusive

How about if he was a rabbi? Would he get a pass then? And how about if he was a Governor, or District Attorney, or a school teacher… Seriously, he’s a film director. Focus on reporting the news, don’t create news.

Posted by Erik | Report as abusive

In today’s varying Liberal convoluted societies, “Celebrity” brings with it the notion that being gifted with a talent places one above the law. For one to claim being counted among the intellectuals of society, one must first possess sufficient intellect to understand that in a civilized society, the primary benefit of the law is its consistent and indiscriminate application.

Jay David

Posted by J. David | Report as abusive

Donna, I know of nobody who is seriously defending the 4% of pedophilic catholic priests. Roman Polanski raped a child and admitted to it. Yes, he said it was consensual, but that is not an argument that can hold up in court when you are talking about a 43 year old man liquoring up a 13 year old. The man should be in prison for this crime. And if i were the father of the victim, his punishment would be far more severe. You can count on it.

Posted by Buck | Report as abusive

I’m truly surprised that so many people are defending Polanski. Yes this happened a long time ago, but he was a 40 year old man sleeping with a 13 year old. Where and when is that EVER okay?! Imagine if that was your daughter and take it one step further, imagine that your daughter had actually consented without the influence of drugs etc (which this girl didn’t). Even in a fantasy world where your daughter chases down this guy and has sex with him it is STILL a 13 year old girl with an old man who should know better and it is NOT okay.. EVER.

Everybody get on with life. The Polanski affair has been over forever. Father Reese has it almost right. Actually the new Trinity is Social Illiteracy, Computers, and Violence.

Posted by Andrew Franks | Report as abusive

I am shocked by the comments minimizing Polanski’s crime or pointing to his achievements. We threw off the rule of the elite centuries ago.

Please tell me, what accomplishments allow sex with thirteen year olds? What accomplishments, level of popularity or amount of power permit outright rape or murder? The law applies to all, or it is not law.

I do understand the comments about judical misconduct, although the sentence agreed to in the plea was light.

This seems to be divine justice where wrongs initially bring benefits, but after decades the judgement comes.

Posted by Lane | Report as abusive

The young woman forgave Polanski. This is another waste of our taxpayer dollars. See the documentary on the subject. This is just another tragedy from the American puritanical and rather disgusting fetishistic interest in pedophilia which is constantly promoted by the media circus. This blog included.

Posted by Dan | 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 | Report as abusive

I know if my 13 year old daughter was raped I wouldn’t be willing to forget about it. His brilliance as a director isn’t on trial, the rape is. Man up!

Posted by Jean Leger | Report as abusive

Absolultely Not!

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Sex with a thirteen year old is totally acceptable by hundreds of million of Muslims all over Africa and the Middle East, be it consensual or not.
From what I know in Polanski’s case it was actually consensual.
Ask Tammy Faye if it’s OK to have sex with an experienced thirteen years old girl, or maybe Louis Farrakhan.Black teens pregnant at thirteen are pretty common in the US and white teens also. The allegedly raped girl seems extremely happy now after she took some money out of the old rascal.
Are you all sure that there are no more important issues to care about when the US is going downhill at such a fast pace?

Posted by Fred Della Noce | Report as abusive

If it were my 13 year old daughter I would demand punishment regardless of the time factor.

Posted by Don Calvin | Report as abusive

I would also comment in support of Stephan. We can even take care of the biggest criminals here in the US. I am amazed that we ignore all that we do…is it because it is sex and not death? Interesting.

Posted by Anais | Report as abusive

C’mon Donna,
You can’t be that stupid claiming a Catholic conspiracy as a justification for ignoring the fact that Polanksi is a perverted pedophile who drugged, raped and sodomized a 13 year old and then ran away like the coward he is. Stick him in Soladad with the brothers and see how he likes unwanted advances.

Posted by th | Report as abusive

Anyone who rapes a child should face up to the consequences for their actions and not run away and hide. This goes for priests, movie directors, and every single one of us.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

Honestly, nobody’s going to care just how good your work is if you do the despicable deed of having sex with someone who is legally unable to consent. The girl apparently forgave him; that implies, of course, that something harmful was done.

Though if the charge is decades old, I suspect he has outrun the statute of limitations.

About all we can levy against him at this point is shaming him and giving him enough punishment culturally to match the sentence he evaded – no more, no less.

Also, the religion angle is disingenuous; to be honest, I trust clergy of any religion even less than any other occupation (I’m an atheist; I don’t trust bullshit artists by nature). At the same time, rape is rape, no matter whodunnit.

Posted by Katharine | Report as abusive

Trying to deflect blame by asking what ifs is stupid and childish. He drugged and raped a child, I wont even call 13 a teenager. Polanskis past should be no defense, his time in a concentration camp should have made him more sensitive to crimes againt the powerless. So because he is a influential Jew, Jews will scream he needs special slack, after all the girl was a dirty lil shitska goyim who exist for his plaeasure, according to the Talmud.

Posted by Dillon | Report as abusive

if you cant do the time, dont do the crime.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Have do remember the perspicacity of a 13 year old girl that insists she’s grown up? I sure do.. I thought I was so grown up then. My daughter is 13 also. Check out the documentary. It’s the parents’ responsibility to teach their kids the tools they need to make choices to honor themselves and their sexuality. There is much more to the “story” then the media will share. The woman did forgive him and herself. He’s not a criminal. He is a controversial person and dangerous to the powers that be because he is outspoken and people hear what he’s saying. Much more to the story..

Posted by Cathy | Report as abusive

The ones defending him are his co-ethnic Jews in the media. The names of his mdeia / Hollywood defenders sounds like a Tel-Aviv phone book: Goldstein, Weinstein, Applebaum, Cohen. Politically incorrect, but true.

And before anyone accuses me of racism, look at how the Jews are spouting venom about Catholics, Blacks, etc to divert attention from the deeds of a pedophile of their tribe.

Posted by Hardrada | Report as abusive

also lost is the fact that there was apparently a financial settlement to the girl and her family from Polanski…

the fact that she wants to see him absolved is irrelevant, if not obnoxious given that she may have been paid off for the crime…

Posted by john ewing | Report as abusive

If you have ever worked in Hollywood you would know that this culture is above the law.

Anything goes because they think themselves artist and that supersede cultural conformity.

Drugs, adultery, kids out of wedlock, tax evasion, even murder – anything goes.

This debate is only relevant to hard working law-abiding citizens who take life seriously.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

The real questions should be…

1. If he can get away with it… would he do it again?
2. Does he still like little girls?
3. Does he like little boys?
4. Does he believe Michael Jackson was innocent?

Since the little girl forgave Polanski, should Polanski forgive the Germans? The truth is Planski is a wuss (pu**y); he couldn’t face the truth in court and ran to France (Home of the cowards). Do the french even have a word for victory? The only cool french guy was Nopolean; and he was really Italian.

Whether American proponents of Polanski’s freedom wish to accept it or not, it appears that in Europe, Polansky’s talent as an artist is taken into account in this matter and is used to buttress their other arguments (the time delay and the allegedly “bad” judge). I believe that this is a vestige of European feudalism.

Of course, this idea, the idea that Polansky’s talent is relevent in the determination of whether or not to seek prosecution is almost completely foriegn in America, and I submit that this is due in part to two related circumstances:
1) America never had a truly feudal society, and
2) our revolution was firmly and expressly based on the principle that all men are equal in the eyes of the law (many of those who may have disagreed have long since emigrated to Canada).

Of course we did have slavery. And that slavery was followed by the vestiges of slavery, and since American slavery is the closest American analogy to European feudalism, it would follow that the vestiges of American slavery should be closest in analogy to the vestiges of European feudalism. Applied here, I think what we are seeing with Polansky is analogous to the past injustices perpetrated when white jurors acquitted white defendants for killing black victims.

Indeed, the idea that some men are better than, or deserve more than others is not new. It does, I believe, date back to at least the Bronze age. (ie differences in “honor price” or “weregilds” among different classes of men) Thus it is We who are the strange society in the eyes of history because we actually seek to treat all men equally under law, and so it should not surprise us that the ancient customs of our European cousins are still intact to some degree.

As for the time delay issue, its hard to see how one can hardly argue time delay when he himself was responsible for the delay. The moral hazard there is obvious and hardly seems to warrant much counter argument.

As for the “the victim forgave him” argument, it should be noted that this was done after nearly 20 years had already passed with no justice. To expect the victim to linger on indefinitely with no resolution would be cruel. Forgiveness was likely the only option she had in order to move on with her life. I wonder how she feels now? (I ask pointedly)
Finally, the victim’s feelings are just one of many factors to take into account in deciding whether or not to prosecute, and given the highly publicized nature of the event and the huge moral hazard it brings with it, I cannot see how her feelings in the 90′s would be enough to thrawrt prosecution. Perhaps if the victim vehemntly opposes prosecution, and it appears that the prosecution will adversely affect her now, in 2009, that will be enough to thwart prosecution.

The decent argument, and the one that the Europeans who support Polansky have not seized on like they should have is the one invoving the bad judge. I assume that is the route they will go from here. Its a question of belief, you can believe it or not believe it and at this point probably cannot be definitively proven either way. I have a feeling the pro Polansky crowd will choose to believe that the judge was a bad guy. (barring some kind of confession by Polansky himself that the Judge was not a bad guy – or some other miracle) From what I understand, Polansky fled when the judge would not accept the plea to statutory rape (when what was alleged was really straight up forcible rape of a 13 year old girl) and a sentence of about 2 months. Though, I must ask that the pro Polansky crowd ask themselves whether they would have granted such a plea give the actual allegations.

My two cents

Posted by Jeff Selden | Report as abusive

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

That title is offensive; it implies that priests (religious people) would not be prosecuted. The law did prosecute the pedophile priests; the church hierarchy failed, for years, to recognize that pedophiles are incorrigible; very regrettable, but somewhat understandable, considering the Christian theology.

Posted by GarryGR | Report as abusive

The real question here is why Roman Polanski is given the the consideration of the victim’s attitude to begin with. His traumatic past does not excuse his behavior nor does it give excuse to any other sexual offender. He should at least be brought back to the states for jumping bail and evading arrest.

Posted by Seamus | Report as abusive

If Polanski were a paedophile priest he would certainly be incarcerated. Polanski is a repeat Paedophile, people forget he was romantically involved with a then 15 year old Natasha Kinsky in 1975. How many other girls did he “fall in love with”? Polanski is obviously a serial paedophile and I find it astonishing that people around the world are upset over his arrest. I am gratified to see that France and Poland are backing off their original positions. Just a question, one with no answer but its fun to think abstractly about it anyhow: If G. W. Bush committed the same crime, would those who are supporting Polanski also support Bush? Like I said, just a question.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

Enough with the Catholic Church bashing! I’m an athiest and even I’ve had enough of it…especially when that isn’t the point of this story. Polanski RAPED A CHILD! He pled guilty and was awaiting sentencing when he fled. There is no further justice to be had, beyond him acting like a man and accepting the sentence for the crime HE PLED GUILTY TO! Stop making excuses for his avoidance in paying for his crime. Even the French and Polish governments have dropped the hysterical screams of injustice and toned down the rhetoric.

Posted by Charles | Report as abusive

I am glad that the Frenchies are finally waking up to this awful act. Hillary Clinton is one of those Americans who told us Brits really how to act. Nuff said. Cheers.

Pedophilia is a sexual orientation, not a sickness. A hundred years ago homosexuals and those who like sad-masochism were either jailed or sent away to asylums because they were considered a danger to society. Like it or not 13-year-old girls are capable of sexual consent. What’s the difference between two 13-year-olds having sex and one 13-year-old and one 40-year-old having sex? Come on, people! As long as no one is hurt and there’s no force involved, it’s okay. I don’t give a damn what the government says.

Posted by Mufaso | Report as abusive

As usual very sly from the US to choose Switzerland to ask Polanski’s extradiction, a rather non commitle country, do we ever hear from Switzerland’s politics?
Anyway is it if I am correct ‘Innocent before being proven guilty’? Polanski was charged on 3 accounts of a 13 years old being abused by him, he confessed on one and rejected the other two. Far from agreeing that a grown up man should have sex with a 13 year old girl, I find this request of extradiction rather late in the day, anyway Polanski has the French nationality and is very well liked and appreciated for his excellent work as a film director which I have liked very much,mind I am French though have lived in the UK for more than 30 years and have British and French nationality. Will this start a little ‘friction’ between the US and France well this would not be the first time….
Reading the article and the mention of the ‘beloved’ and sly Catholic church they should really look in their ‘quarters’ before attempting to make any comments and deal with their own problems of sex abuse and so on, so please do not get involved. This may bother some people but I really hope Polanski can return to France and carry with his great work. Catherine

To John Steppling, who wrote: “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.”

If it’s “puritan” to be against rape, then I’m proud to call myself puritanical. And I don’t know why Steppling is so flippant about the idea of an apology; it can help a rape victim greatly if the perpetrator apologizes.

I see no reason to forgive someone who has never exhibited the least remorse for what he has done. Take a look at Gailey’s grand jury testimony on thesmokinggun.com, and you might not find Polanski so sympathetic.

Posted by lifeboatb | Report as abusive

I can’t believe ‘catherine’ and other women are sticking up for someone who raped a 13 yr old. It doesn’t matter if he is famous, was famous, or whatever. His talent, and nothing else about him, excuses his putting his ‘manhood’ into a child, or anything else he did to her. RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE! No conditions!! If you all think this way, that it is OK what he did, or it was so long ago, God help your daughters. Because none of you will. Yes, I had this happen to me, many many years ago, and I still have nightmares at 72 years of age. And just recently this person decided enough time has passed that he can come back into my life, no apologies and act as if nothing happened. sorry, whoever, wherever, rape is rape is rape. Period!

Posted by barbara | Report as abusive

If this were a common man his butt would have been in jail a long time ago.He would have to register as a sex offender and be ridiculed the rest of his life!! The girl was plied with alcohol and Quaalude’s come on! Anyone who stands up for him never had a child obviously! He’s the lowest of the low. In prison he will become what the girl was to him, PREY!

Posted by neilrr | Report as abusive

“What’s the difference between two 13-year-olds having sex and one 13-year-old and one 40-year-old having sex?”

It’s called exploitation, Mufesto. An adult using their trust and position to have power over a small child to satisfy their own lust.

If you really don’t see the issue with it, then that is a bit worrying. It seems like something you would see on NAMBLA’s website.

Posted by Hmmmm | Report as abusive

Opinions on Polanski are coming out of the woodwork.
The scales of justice are not blind.
Money, power, talent, celebrity will win everytime.
This is how the system works.
He bought skilled lawyers – had plenty of money to flee – paid off the victim.
The system is fantastically corrupt.

Posted by Michael French | Report as abusive