For years I read in amazement his writings as Editor of the Jesuit magazine AMERICA that were so hostile to the magisterium of the Church.

I wondered how much longer the Holy See would tolerate his heterodoxy that was giving such comfort to liberal Catholics that were looking for support in their opposition to so many teachings of the Church and that was seducing so many innocent Catholics into dissent.

Finally, Rome acted and Father Reese was removed from his position as Editor.  However he has continued to spread his heterodoxy through the column which he regularly writes for THE WASHINGTON POST.

When I write that he almost gets it right for a change I am referring to his current column in the WP in which he points out the hypocrisy of the left liberal media and the legion of its supporters in the entertainment industry and the support being extended to the self-confessed child rapist Roman Polanski in contrast to the hysterical reporting of the clerical pedophilia cases.

To his credit, Father Reese has initiated a public debate which casts some light on the double standard in our society.

Here is his column, followed by selected comments from readers of his column.


Father Polanski Would Go to Jail



By Thomas J. Reese, S.J.

Imagine if the Knight 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 Victim groups would demand the award be withdrawn and that the organization apologize.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 columnist would denounce the knights as another example of the insensitivity of the Catholic Church to sexual abuse.

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?

The president and cultural minister of France, where Polanski has been protected for years, objected when the Swiss arrested Polanski at the Zurich airport when he arrived to attend a film festival at which he was to be honored. Good for the Swiss. Good for the Los Angeles prosecutors who have not given up on this case.

Polanski’s defenders, including a 2008 HBO documentary, 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 pedophile priests would be laughed out of court and lambasted by everyone, and rightly so. It makes no difference that the girl is willing and sexually experienced, it is a crime. It is the role of the court, not the victim, to decide who goes to jail and for how long.

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?

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.

Thomas J. Reese, S.J., is Senior Fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

By Thomas J. Reese |  September 28, 2009; 5:33 AM ET



Not sure the “if it were…” reflection holds up, as where is the benefit in comparative revulsion?

Posted by: marymary | September 29, 2009 4:33 PM
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There are just a few, and I do mean just a few, niggling details missing from the scholar-priest’s essay. At least, I’d thought he was a scholar up until recently. The only other explanation is that he has deliberately withheld the facts.

I. There was judicial misconduct in the Polanski case. This was the view of both the prosecutor and the defense attorney.

A. The defendant agreed to a plea in order to get on with his life. He pleaded guilty to one charge: Having sex with a minor.

B. He was sentenced to forty-five days in treatment, served his sentence, returned in good faith to Ito’s court.

C. Ito let it be known that he planned to renege on the plea agreement.

II. Polanski fled to France and requested asylym.

A. France accepted him, refused to allow extradition due to the above-mentioned and other irregularities in the case.

III. Since 1978, when he was originally sentenced, his attorneys have been pressing for an investigation into the judicial misconduct of Judge Ito.

A. Now, hopefully, they will get it.

IV. Unsurprisingly, as you know, Mitterand and other European dignitaries have expressed disgust and demanded the release of Polanski at once. The Swiss Embassy has received hate mail, and the US, as usual, is looking bad. Surely, you’ve seen the web photos of the demonstrations.

V. All this is quite understandable in light of our famous double standards. For decades, pedophile priests, who raped tens of thousands were concealed by the church right here, or else given treatment.

These, unlike Polanski, were repeat offenders, like Cardinal MaHoney.

Bennedict has sent out a memo telling priests to keep it on the downlow, as you know, Tom.

Then, of course, we let good old Catholic, Teddy Kennedy, get away with murder, watched as he paid off Mary Jo Kopechne’s family, watched as the judge resigned after the inquest.
I could, of course, go on. However, it is clear that there was judicial misconduct, that the investigation must go forward. Greimer, the victim in the case, has offered to help Polanski in any way she can.

He is not one of your pedophile priests Tom. Not by a long shot.

Religion of love.

My guess is (a) either you never where what I thought you were or (b) you are going through a bad period or (c) you have changed.

I’m hoping for the second. From a Jewish perspective, that is what I must do.

Posted by: Farnaz1Mansouri1 | September 29, 2009 4:25 PM
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I generally agree with Fr. Reese and am content to let the law resolve the Polanski issue. However, it seems to me that Fr.Reese is plain wrong on a major issue. If a priest had done what Polanski did in 1977, his superiors would never have permitted his crime to become public and thus, there would have been no penalty. I’m not convinced that the same reaction would not prevail today in the Catholic Church where the local bishop or superior thought he could get away with it.

Posted by: lckelly | September 29, 2009 3:43 PM
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Very well put, Father Reese. Also, for those who think consent is an issue in this case, this child did not consent, she repeatedly asked her abuser to stop and take her home. Also, Polanski can claim he didn’t know she was 13, but he knew she was underage, because he had her mother sign a consent form for the pictures he planned to take. In any event, the girl was raped, she did not consent, and she was only a child. Polanski is a criminal and should be in jail.

Posted by: mbs235 | September 29, 2009 3:05 PM
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I must admit that I was both surprised and disappointed at Tom Reese’s column in the Washington Post. He said some of the “right” things but missed an essential point. Roman Polanski and priests who rape children are far from analogous. Roman Polanski was a Hollywood director, not a Roman Catholic priest. He didn’t hold a position of immense trust nor did he come from an “industry” that preached chastity, purity and a sky-high standard of sexual morality. But even more important, Roman did not have an archbishop or a cardinal in his corner who would lie about what he had done, intimidate his victims and then send him off where he could find yet more young people to devastate.
The movie industry never tried to present a systematized illusion that all of its directors, producers and agents…to name a few…were paragons of virtue. That’s what the official Catholic Church has done and that’s a major difference between Roman Polanski and the priests.

Posted by: tpdoyle1 | September 29, 2009 2:28 PM
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You should know, she forgave him.

The California Court needs closure for the case as it is active until a ruling is made. That can’t happen when the accused is in absence. Which again is stupid because he served 42 days and was released. I notice you don’t acknowledge that part.

Look, here in Canada, he would have received probation, and community service.

It’s not like the guy didn’t have normalcy in his life before Manson came along. In other words, he ain’t no serious diddler. Unlike the many, many serial offenders who have been constantly re-released here in Canada. Or, the Catholic Church shifting serial offenders from church to church, victim pool to victim pool.

So what is your problem Tom?

Why don’t you reply directly, I’d sure like to hear a comeback to the smackdown I just gave you.

What do you really think of Judges who re-neg on plea agreements?

Do you a fixation with punishment?

Posted by: vangrungy | September 29, 2009 1:30 PM
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For the rest of us: Bravo, we should have the “Polanski, the Felon” in custody soon. Maybe he can direct his last film, the story of his sordid life from his jail cell.

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Great post, Fr. Reese. I am appalled that anyone can defend Polanski or question his arrest.

No 13 year old can consent to sex. Period.

Posted by: ckmedia | September 28, 2009 5:46 PM

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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