Father Thomas Doyle
Anne Marie Jyono
Bob & Maria Jyono
Directed by Amy Berg
Breaking down the walls of the Catholic Church to reveal one of its darkest secrets, “Deliver Us From Evil” is one of the most shocking and disturbing films this year, and yet, it’s hard to rave about a movie that makes you so angry.
During the ’70s and early ’80s, Father Oliver O’Grady, a California priest was discovered to be a pedophile, preying on his young parishioners. His superiors in the Church, knowing his crimes, tried to sweep them under the table, moving O’Grady from one parish to another before he was finally convicted and jailed and then deported back to Ireland. Amy Berg uncovers his story through in-depth interviews with O’Grady and his victims.
Amy Berg has spent many years exploring the subject of pedophiles in the church for CNN and CBS, but her first feature-length documentary starts fairly innocently with a nice couple talking about Father Oliver O’Grady, a Catholic priest they invited him into their home back in the ’70s. A few others corroborate with other nice things about this man of the cloth, but if you didn’t figure out from the title, Oliver O’Grady is not the kind, loving Catholic priest people are led to believe. For many years, O’Grady was the bane of many Catholic girls and boys in California, touching, molesting and even raping young children left alone with him. The Catholic Church seemingly knew what was going on, but they covered up, transferring O’Grady from one area of Central California to another, even giving him a promotion at one point. O’Grady is finally caught and jailed for raping two young boys, and after his release, he’s deported back to Ireland.
This is not a flashy documentary with lots of charts and graphics, but it allows the poor souls destroyed by Father O’Grady’s actions to tell their stories in their own words. Now in their forties, O’Grady’s victims candidly speak out about what happened to them and how it deeply impacted their lives, forcing them to question their own faith. The hardest interview to watch is that of the father of one a female victim who breaks down on camera about how O’Grady destroyed his family. Wanting nothing to do with the movie, Catholic officials’ only response comes via taped depositions at court trials regarding Father O’Grady. Seeing all that pain interspersed with the dishonest testimony of those who are supposed to be impervious to temptation and sin makes this movie as emotionally stirring as “Capturing the Friedmans.”
As stories unfold about O’Grady abusing his position by molesting his young charges, you might still be unconvinced until you hear from the offender himself. Seemingly without a modicum of guilt or remorse, O’Grady cheerfully tells the camera how he’s stimulated by the thought of naked children, a creepy confession that sticks with you for the rest of the movie, making you wonder how Berg could spend so much time in the presence of a monster who could cause so much pain in people’s lives. She drives home the point by showing shots of O’Grady in the vicinity of kids, having been allowed to roam free in a country sans Megan’s Law, which means there’s little to stop him from running rampant. Considering his past, it’s too disturbing to even imagine.
Berg’s documentary only loses its way when it shifts its focus to pedophile cases in other areas of the country, moving away from the tragic personal stories at its core, though at the same time, it introduces Father Thomas O’Doyle, a Catholic priest, who went after his benefactors to try to protect the innocents from more pedophiles within the church.
The last part of the movie deals with the unrepentant O’Grady trying to find closure, as he vainly reaches out to his victims in hopes of meeting and reconciling with the people whose lives he’s ruined. Not surprisingly, they decline. At the same time, the victims try to get a letter to the new Pope, who ironically is the same man who was in charge of investigating improper sexual behavior by priests while he was a Cardinal.
The film’s perfect timing so soon after the allegations by Florida congressman Mark Foley that he was molested as a youth himself makes “Deliver Us From Evil” even more politically relevant. It does an impressive job admonishing the Catholic Church for turning a blind eye to the sexual crimes committed by their clergy, though there’s nothing in it that gives hope that things will change.
The Bottom Line:
“Deliver Us From Evil” is a heartbreaking film, even horrifying at times, but it’s exposure of how the Catholic Church covered up internal sex crimes is so disturbing that once the shock wears off, you’re likely to get very mad about how something like this could have been allowed to happen. Obviously, it’s an ongoing issue that needs to be dealt with, but if nothing else, this documentary might offer some succor to those who feel they’ve been betrayed by their own faith.