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Roman Polanski: Forgiveness or Accountability?

posted by Douglas Howe

Roman PolanskiThere are certain things that we Americans tend to forgive.
And things that we don’t.
So, where does Roman Polanski fall? Hmmnn. I don’t think we, as a culture, are sure.
You’ve probably heard that he was arrested in Switzerland this week, for a sex crime with an underage girl dating back to the seventies. There seems to be an outpouring of sympathy for him, summarized here. What do you think? Where do you stand?
I live in Cincinnati, where the once appalling Pete Rose now finds sympathy for his plight and forgiveness for his gambling on baseball, although few are ready to forgive his lying. I watch baseball, where really good guys who took steroids are forgiven for that practice by some, but not for their having lied about it.
Televangelists. Politicians. Celebrities. There are so many who’ve committed publicly known indescretions, who’ve found forgiveness over time. But if there a few things we don’t seem to forgive, they include lying, and doing anything to kids, and taking responsibility or accepting accountability.
And then there’s Polanski. On one hand, the man committed a heinous crime and he has never paid the price. He’s never answered for his abuse of a young girl. He pled guilty. He ran.


On the other hand, there seems to be a sense among many that he’s paid his price already. He hasn’t been able to live in this country. He’s been publicly humiliated. Yes, he’s made some movies over the years, but not nearly as many as he could have were he not persona non grata.
As a father of three, it’s hard for me to imagine an adult being involved with a child fo 13. Further, it’s difficult for me to consider forgiveness when there doesn’t seem to have been contrition. Finally, Americans can often forgive someone who’s really sorry, but not someone who runs and doesn’t stand up.
For now, it’s a media firestorm and newsmagazine feature from several angles. Underneath it all, I hope that people of faith will use this occasion to consider the Savior’s words about forgiveness, justice and accountability, and consider where He would have us stand. And we should probably apply our standard to those closest to us rather than a filmmaker in Switzerland, a citizen of France, a fugitive of the United States and a focal point of tabloid fodder for at least the next few news cycles.
[Image provided by Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary]
Roman Polanski



  • Susan Taylor

    If Mr. Polanski had not been a coward, not brave enough to accept his punishment when meted out, he would have been out of jail by now and living in the USA with a longer list of accomplishments than he has to date. Yes, people seem to forgive celebrities and scorn everyone else. However, he brought his situation on himself and characterizes his crime as mere youthful indiscretion. It’s time for him to face his punishment. He does not deserve any leniency whatsoever. It does not matter that the victim forgave him or that his admirers abroad have forgiven him. It seems to me that she’s just starstruck and their laws apply only to common folk. He should return to face the music with extra time added for running away. He can be creative behind prison walls.

  • Cherie Thomas-Wood

    It’s hard for me to see raping a 13 year-old as a youthful indiscretion afterall, Mr. Polanski was supposed to be an adult! I don’t think he needs forgiveness but instead punishment for his crime!!

  • klm

    I agree if he did his time way back when it would have been all over. Just because he’s famous doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have to pay. Even if the women has forgiven him it doesn’t matter.
    raping a 13 year old is a crime. I hope he is treated just like all the other sex offenders in this country. They can’t go within a 1000 feet of minors in some communitys. However somehow I think he’ll get a slap on the wrist.
    And the nerve of France’s president. I suppose they let their sex offender go. Oh I forget they don’t have any

  • Goodguyex

    I do not like the celebrity culture any more than most other conservatives, but there is far too much blow-hard noise on this from people I do generally agree with.
    This Polenski thing hits a lot of hot buttons. Polenski never said he deserved better treatment because he is a celebrity.
    And the notion that a 76 year old man with no prior criminal record (or record since) who was plea bargined out 32 years ago, and is reconciled with the victim in a very contexturalize case filled with judicial misconduct is going to do any serious time (even if he is extradited) is just plain nuts.

  • Henrietta22

    I didn’t pay much attention to this story 30 some years ago I do remember the judge after Polanski did a plea bargain seemed to give him a reason to think he would be given a much longer term than he was supposed to receive and he went back to his home country of France. Haven’t thought of it for years, but now I ask myself where was this 13 yr. olds mother? She knew she was going for a photo shoot with Polanski, she must have known what her daughter appeared to look like. In fact Angelica Huston was said to have described her as looking like 13 to 25 yrs. old. He was wrong to do what he did, girls 13 going on 20 act older, but it’s still no excuse for a 43 yr. old to attack or even accept a child’s advances. I don’t think for a minute this man is a sex pervert, but he probably should do a nominal time, because of socities laws. The young girl apparently received money from him and has forgiven him and has her own family to consentrate on. If he pays a few months of time it would be over and she would never have to go through having her story replayed in the media again. She has said the media has hurt her even more than Polanski.

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