When filmmaker Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland over the weekend, my immediate reaction was to post something here. But, as I read the testimony of his 13-year-old victim, the girl he plied with quaaludes and champagne before raping and sodomizing her, I realized I simply couldn't put anything so graphic and disgusting on this website. After several days now of listening to heads of state and Hollywood celebrities come to Polanski's defense, signing petitions and railing against the "judicial lynching" that they think has occurred, it became impossible not to write about it.
As a parent, I find the whole case revolting. From the things Polanski admitted to doing to a young girl 30 years ago to the things that people are saying on his behalf today. How is it possible that people can openly and passionately excuse a man for raping and sodomizing a little girl simply because he is a film-making genius? I didn't realize there were laws for all of us that don't apply to rich celebrities with lots of high-placed friends. How is it possible that the same people who have shown appropriate outrage for clergy abuse can turn a blind eye when the crime -- which is no less horrific than the worst of the priest abuse cases -- is committed by one of their own?
Whoppi Goldberg of The View brushed aside Polanski's crime saying that it was "not rape-rape." Would she look at it that way if the same crime had been committed by a Catholic priest? Based on Goldberg's past anti-Catholic rants about everything from Communion to abortion, I would have to say no.
Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, writing on the Washington Post's On Faith site, asks what would happen if the Knights of Columbus decided to give an award to a pedophile priest who had fled the country to avoid prison:
"The outcry would be universal. Victim groups would demand the award be withdrawn and that the organization apologize. Religion reporters would be on the case with the encouragement of their editors. Editorial writers and columnists would denounce the knights as another example of the insensitivity of the Catholic Church to sexual abuse.Father Reese goes on to talk about the double standard, not just in the Polanski case but in Hollywood in general:
"And they would all be correct. And I would join them.
"But why is there not similar outrage directed at the film industry for giving an award to Roman Polanski, who not only confessed to statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl but fled the country prior to sentencing? Why have film critics and the rest of the media ignored this case for 31 years? He even received an Academy award in 2003. Are the high priests of the entertainment industry immune to criticism?"
"It is not as if Polanski is the only Hollywood celebrity to be accused of child abuse. Woody Allen and Michael Jackson come to mind. I am sure that with a little research the media could come up with quite a list. 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?A similar theme was taken up by Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, who issued a statement yesterday saying: "The Catholic League has long suspected that, in many quarters, the outrage over priestly sexual abuse has had more to do with the status of the accused than the crime itself. Now the evidence is indisputable: a child can be drugged, penetrated and sodomized—and the guilty can cut and run—and still maintain hero status. Provided he is a celebrity."
"The world has truly changed. Entertainment is the new religion with sex, violence and money the new Trinity. The directors and stars are worshiped and quickly forgiven for any infraction as long as the PR agent is a 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."
UPDATE: Don't miss the OSV editorial on the matter, either. It appears in the Oct. 11 issue.
To read Father Reese's full essay, click HERE. To read Bill Donohue's full statement, click HERE. And, to watch Whoppi Goldberg make a fool of herself defending a rapist, watch the clip below.