July 24, 2007 -- “Deliver Us From Evil” is a documentary of searing intensity which gives the viewer an inside look at the evil and devastation of child sexual abuse committed by priests, how it was covered up for years by the Catholic Church, and how that cover-up prolonged and multiplied the sexual abuse. It is a story of how church authorities looked the other way and unleashed a sexual predator upon unsuspecting congregations in California. The movie goes on to say that this was not an isolated incident and that similar kinds of abuse continue today. This is a movie everyone should see. It is a call to action.
The power of this movie is not due to any theatrical tricks. This film derives its power from the remarkable access it got to both the victims and a perpetrator of these horrendous crimes. People interviewed for this film expose intimate details of their life, including crimes committed as well as shame and regret for past mistakes. They laid bare their souls in front of a camera. It took a lot of courage for people to do that. The credit for what this film achieves goes to the director, Amy Berg, for her ability to get people to go on record and open up, and to those who agreed to be interviewed for this film for their tremendous courage.
This film presents a convincing indictment of the Catholic Church for failing to protect its congregation from sexual predators like Father Oliver O'Grady, who is interviewed at length for this film. He appears in his office in his office in Ireland, where he lives comfortably on a church pension, and in depositions filmed for various court proceedings in the United States. O'Grady, who appears to be only mildly remorseful for his actions, if at all, recounts numerous cases of sexual assault of children in the film. He assaulted scores of boys and girls as well as some women during his 30 years in the priesthood in California. During the interviews he seems to always try to minimize the impact of his crimes on his victims.
O'Grady's victims, however, make it clear that although O'Grady served seven years in prison for his crimes (which included raping a nine month-old girl), they are struggling to survive a life sentence of trauma caused by his sexual abuse. Heart-rending anguish is expressed by Bob Jyono, father of one of the victims, who clearly blames himself for trusting Father O'Grady with his daughter. Jyono also blames himself for behaving in ways that prevented his daughter from telling him about O'Grady's abuse. Jyono's anger at the church is so great that he declares he no longer believes in God. Some other victims in the film, however, still attend church occassionally, despite what happened to them. Some of them have lost their faith, another casualty of O'Grady's abuse and the church's indifference to their fate.
During the interviews with victims it is clear that most of them are trying to pick up the pieces and get on with their lives, but that this is easier said than done. One victim, now in her 40s has never married and has no children, perhaps because of the abuse she suffered at the hands of a priest. Another victim, a man, is also having troubles getting on with his life. One gets the feeling these scars last forever. The testimony of the victims is utterly devastating, while the interview with O'Grady made me feel like I'd been slimed.
Catholic Church officials declined comment for this film, but several are seen in videotaped depositions denying any memory about Father O'Grady's crimes prior to O'Grady's arrest. Several attorneys involved in lawsuits against the church are also interviewed for the film, along with Father Thomas Doyle an activist priest, medieval historian and cannon law expert, who opposes the church's handling of the sexual abuse crisis. As of this date, California church officials had settled hundreds of abuse cases for $660 million. Nationwide, the total settlement has reached $2 billion. The film argues there may be 1,000 abusers and over 100,000 victims. While the church is blaming homosexuals, the movie argues that most pedophiles are heterosexual.
The movie blames the Catholic Church's doctrine of priesthood celibacy for much of the sex abuse scandal. It notes that priesthood celibacy was first set forth as an official church policy in the Fourth Century A.D., but there is some dispute over the origins of the doctrine. Some argue it goes back to the very early days of the church. The movie argues the celibacy requirement was instituted in order to make clear that the property of priests went back to the church when they die, not to the sons and daughters of the priests, but that motive remains unproven as well. The movie traces the history of sexual abuse in the church back to the Fourth Century. It is widely assumed, but not proven, that allowing priests to marry would reduce sexual abuse in the church. The argument is also made in the film that the celibacy requirement results in arrested sexual development in priests. There are, in fact, a fair number of married Catholic priests in the U.S. who are converts from other religions who were already married priests when they were ordained. It would make an interesting study to contrast the instance of sexual abuse among married and unmarried priests in the Catholic Church.
While the movie is on less solid ground in its historical and reform assumptions, there can be no doubt of its power and its compassion for those damaged by this scandal. The Catholic Church has been a good deal less forthcoming about this situation. The movie notes that Pope John Paul II was in charge during much of Father O'Grady's reign of terror, and that the current Pope, Benedict XVI, who was earlier known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, held important leadership roles in the church when O'Grady was still a priest. The film notes that those who were in charge of supervising O'Grady were never punished for their roles in the scandal, and some were even promoted to leadership roles in the church they still enjoy. The film also notes that the church has spent millions of dollars in legal fees trying to keep certain documents from falling into the hands of the law, mainly “proffers,” the personnel files of priests that document complaints and misconduct. The film argues that the church has not responded to this scandal with honesty, compassion and openness. Instead, it has behaved like a criminal corporation, hiding the truth, evading responsibility and refusing to comfort those damaged by its predatory priests. In this film, the Catholic Church looks anything but infallible, anything but Christ-like.
This is a powerful film that will horrify you and make you angry, if you dare to see it. It is an unblinking look at unthinkable evil. This film rates an A.
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