Academy Awards' Turlock Connection
Film a Shocking Look into Clergy Sex Abuse

By Diana Sai Farias
Turlock Journal [Turlock CA]
February 24, 2007

EDITOR'S NOTE: Diana Sai Farias is a former Turlock resident who attended Sacred Heart. She is now a fine arts reviewer, mother of four and is part of the St. Agnes Parish in Concord.

Amy Berg's documentary "Deliver Us from Evil" is a horrifying account of the life-long psychological and spiritual scars endured by sexual abuse victims of a former Roman Catholic priest, Oliver O'Grady.

It focuses in on the devastating betrayal and humiliation experienced by their parents and exposes the Roman Catholic Church authorities who apparently did nothing but cover it up.

How would you feel if you found out that on a day you sent your son to help trim the rectory bushes, he was sodomized by a trusted priest? that while your pre-teen daughter went to a priest for counseling, he molested her in his car? that a priest seduced your wife to gradually gain access to your children so he could use them as his sexual pawns?

This film brings us face to face with victims and their parents, revealing how they really felt about these tragedies.

When one couple explained that their adult daughter had been repeatedly attacked as a child over several years by O'Grady in the family home while the family was asleep, the father cried out in agony, "He's not a pedophile, he's a rapist! He was raping my daughter when she was 5 years old!"

Stockton victim Nancy Sloan recalls that in 1976 her family was told by their diocese that if they did not press charges, O'Grady would be sent away to a monastery. The family agreed to the arrangement. But O'Grady was instead assigned to Sacred Heart Church in Turlock.

Former priest Oliver O'Grady, who spent time in prison for child molestation, is seen in the documentary "Deliver Us From Evil" that is up for an Academy Award on Sunday.

As the associate pastor of the large Turlock parish with a Catholic school, he was allowed to continue in public ministry with full access to children. I was a student at the school. He was friendly. Nothing about him stood out, except his Irish accent. My two brothers served as altar boys when he celebrated Mass. We knew nothing of his pattern of abuse.

O'Grady could've been given a sabbatical, psychiatric treatment or counseling, committed to a mental institution, asked to resign from the priesthood, excommunicated or at least reported to civil authorities. But he wasn't.

The film geographically follows O'Grady through transfers and abuses which took place again and again until charges were pressed and he was convicted in 1994. After serving seven years of a 14-year sentence, he was deported to his homeland.

Now we see him in the film walking amid scenes of churches and children, a free citizen of Ireland. Appearing to be completely disconnected from the pain he's inflicted on his victims and his own childhood sexual abuse pain, he nonchalantly, frankly and briefly describes the tortures he inflicted. He now says the abuses "shouldn't have happened."

But it seems that in his mind they were just pencil mistakes on a paper that can easily be erased. And as he nervously scratches one finger against another; it's as if he's subconsciously trying to do just that.

A psychiatrist who is an expert in pedophilia explains that because O'Grady was molested as a child by a priest, he has arrested sexual development and sees in children himself being abused and mirrors that behavior.

Berg effectively intersperses live footage of O'Grady with pertinent pre-recorded clips of depositions of Church authorities. It was almost predictable - those who may have been complicit in O'Grady's crimes, refused to accept any responsibility for him. They were offered the opportunity to participate in this film, but sent neither representation nor comment.

Not one apology, not one regret.

After the film was released, however, the spokesman for Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, who was bishop in the Stockton Diocese from 1980-1985, defended the prelate, saying he was "unaware of a secret file from the tenure of the previous bishop (Merlin Guilfoyle) dealing with a complaint about O'Grady."

Though O'Grady openly claimed that while a priest he spent as much time plotting the attacks as he did on the work of the Church, one diocese has given him a retirement annuity, allegedly in return for protecting the diocesan authorities.

As of today, O'Grady's whereabouts are unknown. After the release of this film he is believed to have fled from Ireland.

Every adult Catholic should see this film. I was shocked to know that so many children had been put at risk by O'Grady's presence in my home parish and other parishes. Families at Sacred Heart in the 70's were completely unaware that he had molested young children, leaving them emotionally crippled for the rest of their lives and their hearts turned away from God and the Church.

This documentary left me scared, angry and sad. It was sickening that O'Grady had so many victims he couldn't remember their names or how many there were. I couldn't help wondering which of my school friends had been abused and if they would ever come forward.

"Deliver Us from Evil" (Not Rated) opened in major cities across the country in October.


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