1 Corinthians 13, commonly known as the “Love Chapter,” says, “Love keeps no record of wrongdoing.”
While love doesn’t keep a record of wrongdoing, I’m grateful that the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office has kept an unwavering record of Roman Polanski’s wrongdoing.
Polanski is the Oscar-winning film director who pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old in 1977. To escape sentencing, Polanski, who was 46 at the time, fled to France, where he’s been hiding behind the laws that prevent extradition of French citizens.
While the victim received a civil award, legal issues remain unresolved because Polanski continually refuses to attend hearings. Prosecutors argue it would be a “major miscarriage of justice to allow a man to go free who allegedly drugged and raped a 13-year-old.”
Finally, last month, justice reached out for Polanski while he was en route to the Zurich Film Festival. According to a CNN story, industry colleagues have been in an uproar ever since. They say Polanski is just a man who “made a little mistake 32 years ago” and should be excused because of his “exceptional artistic creation and human qualities.”
The logic is that since people love his work, “love should keep no record of wrongdoing.”
Well, drugging and raping a 13-year-old isn’t love, and it isn’t just a “little mistake.” If raping a child is just a “little mistake,” then shouldn’t we at least pardon Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick for running dogfights?
I wonder how people would have responded to this creative logic when Catholic priests were being arrested for child molestation. Might we have said their glowing accomplishments should overshadow their “little mistakes”?
No. These priests were rightly ferreted out from wherever they were hiding and faced criminal, ecclesiastical or civil judgment, no matter how much time had passed.
Sacred texts record a famous story with similar elements involving King David. On normal days, Dave was a caring ruler. But on one particular day he, too, made a mistake and impregnated an officer’s wife, Bathsheba. Fearful he’d be discovered, he had the officer killed by placing him in the leading edge of a battle. In a dubious display of chivalry, Dave took Bathsheba as his wife.
King David’s sin was discovered. And when his incitement was read by the Prophet Nathan, David pleaded guilty before God. The penalty was the loss of their child. David found no loophole for his indiscretions. There were no lawyers and no place of exile.
Polanski may have teams of lawyers, but they’ll find no loopholes for such things.
Much of our law is based on The Ten Commandments, and they do not contain loophole jargon like “Thou (hereinafter known as the Party of the First Part) shalt not covet thy neighbor’s (hereinafter known as the Party of the Second Part) wife, excepting insofar as the Party of the Second Part fulfills the obligations hereinafter set forth, including, but not limited to, all sections and subsections listed below.”
No. Moses was clear: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.
I presume that also implies your neighbor’s 13-year-old daughter.
I’d ask my regular readers to pardon me if this column sounds too much like it was co-authored by a high-voltage radio talk show host and short on love. But in this case, I’ll side with the German theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who said that the highest obligation of government is not love, it’s justice.
The sooner Polanski comes back to face justice, the sooner he can reap the benefits from 1 Corinthians 13, and love will keep no more records of this wrongdoing.
Burkes is a former civilian hospital chaplain and an Air National Guard chaplain. Write firstname.lastname@example.org or visit thechaplain.net. You can also follow him on Twitter, username is “chaplain,” or on Facebook at facebook.com/norrisburkes.