'Deliver' Chronicles Abuse

By Bob Strauss
Deseret Morning News [United States]
January 28, 2007,1249,655191552,00.html

Deliver us from evil — • • • — Documentary feature about child sexual abuse; not rated, probable R (profanity); opens today at the Tower Theatre.

The Catholic Church's pedophile-priest scandal is examined with extensive emotionalism, barely controlled outrage and persuasively obsessive backup research in "Deliver Us From Evil."

But at the center of this anguished cry of a documentary is a character of remarkable serenity. Remarkable because, by any measure, he is an incredible kind of monster.

Oliver O'Grady

That is Father Oliver O'Grady, who, as a priest in Central California, molested dozens of girls and boys, seduced a few of their parents and even abused an infant. Back home in Ireland after serving his prison sentence, the elderly pedophile spoke to director Amy Berg extensively on camera.

By all appearances at peace with himself and his crimes, O'Grady should come off like a defrocked Hannibal Lecter, but he doesn't. The man intellectually understands what he's done wrong, and to some degree the magnitude of his actions and how he's ruined lives. Yet he doesn't seem to possess a smidgen of emotional guilt over it.

O'Grady, who doesn't hold back anything but, maybe, his feelings as he admits to one horrific act after another, claims some form of psychological dissociation (and, near the end, he tells us in the same, matter-of-fact tone how he was abused by priests and siblings as a child).

May be how he's wired. But I wonder if the man has just totally rationalized for himself the idea that, while he committed the crimes, the church is a bigger culprit for enabling him. Moved from one parish to another whenever trouble arose, O'Grady probably — and his victims certainly — would have benefited from treatment more than the cover-ups that protected him until they couldn't anymore.

"Deliver Us" reinforces this theory with, well, a vengeance. In its fervent, thorough way, the film chronicles how church officials — our own Cardinal Roger Mahony, then head of O'Grady's archdiocese, most prominent among them — avoided taking decisive steps to stop O'Grady's depredations, then claimed ignorance when the law finally did it for them.

The film is so effective at this that it's reportedly inspired new zeal at the L.A. District Attorney's Office to investigate Mahony and company.

If O'Grady feels better about himself by shifting blame to his bosses, their behavior has certainly had the opposite effect on his victims. Berg has gotten several of the priest's now-adult victims to confess how not only the past physical violations, but the ongoing spiritual trauma brought about by church indifference and avoidance, has made their lives, well, hell.

And it's not just the children who suffer. One of "Evil's" more memorable outbursts comes from Bob Jyono, a Japanese-American who converted to Catholicism when he married his stepdaughter Ann's Irish mother. O'Grady had been a family friend, and it wasn't until decades later that the Jyonos learned what he'd been doing to their little girl on all those overnight visits. Still unable to forgive himself, Bob Jyono shockingly rejected God along with all aspects of the faith that once sustained him — except the one part of Catholicism that, unlike O'Grady, he can't kick: guilt.

Lawyers, historians, activists and others all contribute to "Evil's" crusade against, ultimately, the entire Catholic hierarchy from the pope on down. An end note tells us that the church declined offers to present its side of the story, and no one who sees the movie could mistake it for balanced.

However riled up "Deliver Us From Evil" does or doesn't get you, though, the modest, semi-repentant figure at its center is not like anyone you've ever seen on screen before. You may want to strangle O'Grady, or you might be able to view him with some of the objectivity that he does himself. I'll guarantee, though, that you'll never forget him.

"Deliver Us From Evil" is not rated but would probably receive an R for scenes of children in jeopardy and language. Running time: 103 minutes.


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