Why Is the Unashamed Child Abuser Polanski Lauded While the Repentant Pope Is Vilified?
Byline: by Dominic Lawson
LAST weekend I went to see a new film by a childabuser. Very good it was, too. Roman Polanski's The Ghost shows no diminution in the artistic powers of one of cinema's most enduring talents: I understand why reviewers have been unstinting in their praise.
Yet Polanski has not been doing the usual TV interviews that accompany critical acclaim. He is under house arrest in his Swiss chalet, fighting the attempts of a Californian court to extradite him for the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl, Samantha Geimer, in 1977.
The world of film, indeed, of art in general, regards this (Polanski's arrest, not his abuse of a 13-year-old girl) as a scandal. This was clearly evident when Hollywood actress Whoopi Goldberg last year defended him with the observation: 'I know it wasn't rape-rape.'
With this remarkable neologism, Goldberg gave a new gloss to the old line (usually uttered by men) of 'she said no, but she meant yes'.
Yesterday, it emerged that Nicolas Sarkozy -- perhaps under the influence of his avant garde wife Carla Bruni -- handdelivered a letter from the film director to Barack Obama, pleading that Polanski should be spared jail.
Geimer's testimony to the grand jury of the Los Angeles Supreme Court therefore bears repetition. She told the court how the then 44-year-old plied her with the drug Quaalude mixed with champagne at the home of actor Jack Nicholson and, ignoring her befuddled requests that she wanted to 'go home', began to molest her.
Polanski, much less befuddled, asked her if she was on the Pill; not satisfied with the clarity of her response, he sodomised her.
Geimer told the court that she had not resisted more strongly because she 'was afraid of him'; but not so scared that she obeyed his demand that she not tell her mother about 'our little secret'.
The rest is more common knowledge: Polanski, aided by some excellent lawyers, bargained a plea of guilty to the lowest possible charge, of 'sex with a minor', but then fled the U.S. on the eve of his sentencing and has been, as the Americans would put it, 'a fugitive from justice' ever since.
As I say, the 'enlightened' view -- at least in this country and even more so in Polanski's adopted nation of France -- is that this was a long time ago and that the great auteur has suffered enough, if only in not being able to go to Hollywood to pick up any of his awards.
Pope Benedict XVI, by contrast -- without such creative achievements as the films Rosemary's Baby or Chinatown to adorn his CV -- does not enjoy similar indulgence.
So, the atheist Richard Dawkins has called for the head of the world's one billion or so Catholics to be arrested for complicity in the covering up of child abuse when he arrives in Britain for a state visit in September.
Professor Dawkins wrote in The Washington Post last week that 'this former head of the Inquisition should be arrested the moment he dares set foot outside the tinpot fiefdom of the Vatican and he should be tried in an appropriate civil court'. For good measure, he declared the Catholic Church to be a 'child-raping institution'.
I had always imagined that it was people who raped children, rather than organisations, but perhaps Prof Dawkins is not so much interested in bringing men to book for their abuse of children, as he is the Catholic Church for the opinions it propagates.
In fact this was made clear -- Dawkins is at all times wonderfully lucid -- in his book The God Delusion, published in 2006. …