If I may quote from my 1998 book Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church:
Both literary critics for whom transgressive is a word of praise and whose hero is the Marquis de Sade, and psychologists who desire an ever-expanding field of sexual; liberation put forward the idea that sex with boys is the next area to escape from repression. The media horror at the exposure of the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests has not been entirely convincing. Both advertisements and entertainment sexualize teenagers, and critics continue to praise Roman Polanski, who cannot enter the United States because of an outstanding charge of child molestation against him, but who received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Festival in 2002. (pp. 339-40)
In fact it was not a charge, but a conviction. He pleaded guilty.
The reaction to his recent arrest has been instructive. Clearly the Beautiful People think that they are above the law, and are astonished that it is being applied to Polanski. These BCBG Europeans think that the arrest is another demonstration of Bush-era American redneck prudery. The Dutch have long complained about how the FBI has encouraged the Dutch police to enforce laws against child pornography.
For many decades the idea that punishment is the propose of punishment has been rejected. The law imprisons criminals to keep them from committing further crimes or to rehabilitate them, but not to punish them. The idea that punishment is demanded by justice of increasingly foreign to the chattering classes, especially in Europe. American prison sentences are draconian by European standards, and some American states still execute the worst criminals. Europeans find this barbaric – and Europeans staff the Vatican, which I think in part explains the ho-hum attitude the Vatican has taken to the sexual abuse of children.
The reaction of the little people in Europe has been different. The blogs and letters to the editor have strongly come out against Polanski and in favor of his arrest, which demonstrates that not even the rich are above the law. But the European rich think they are above the law, that the law is for the little people, not for them. This attitude is a relic of the Ancien Regime which still persists in European class attitudes.
Priests and bishops who abused children committed an horrible act… but what do we learn from Polansky?
It does not matter what crime one commits… but who commits it.
Clearly people do not give a damn about the 96.000 and more children and adolescents who are abused each year in the US.
They only care about the small procentage abused by the clergy. Not because of the abuse, clearly, since they are utterly indifferent about abuses in schools, families and other sexual institutions.
I guess Polansky is the barometer of western sensibility and sense of morality:
As long as society likes you, it’s ok to abuse kids.