Deliver Us From Evil (2006)

Reviewed By Erik Childress
Posted 09/28/06 18:14:52

5 stars (Awesome)

SCREENED AT THE 2006 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Eleven years of Catholic schooling. Four of them spent as an altar boy. Zero experiences with inappropriate touching even during the Junior year retreat to a commune in the woods where we were forced to sleep over in rooms without lighting. Some might consider me one of the lucky ones the way that accusations of papel molestation have increased over the years. It’s disgusting, it’s sad and there’s enough blame and rage to go around for there to be a run on such documentaries the way the anti-Bush, anti-war crusaders have discovered since Fahrenheit 9/11. Kirby Dick’s Twist of Faith was good enough to be the definitive doc on the subject to the point that it found a brief theatrical release after a premiere on HBO. I didn’t think any film could strike a blow to my heart as swiftly as that one did. So my guard was up in preparation of hearing much of the same about the after-effects of such an event and the blockade put up by Church representatives in Amy Berg’s theatrical doc. But by the end I was angrier than ever and ready to denounce the whole damn thing right to hell.

Father Oliver O’Grady, like all priests at some time, was the most respected member of his California community. Families invited him into their home for dinner and he took their children on various weekend retreats. The 70s were before the time when parents worried about the kind of betrayals whose exposure have grown over the years. O’Grady though may have single-handedly set the standard for the worst kind of offense to be put upon a child. As his actions were reported with one family, the diocese’s solution would be to simply ship him out-of-town to another parish – usually one less than 50 miles away. This would happen near a half-dozen times until he had nearly come full circle back to the first scene of the crime, finally incarcerated and shipped back to his birthplace of Ireland.

There are all manners of punishment which O’Grady deserves, but in the spirit of Christianity and forgiveness every man has the opportunity for healing. The most frightening revelation of all is O’Grady’s flippant, practically unremorseful attitude towards his past actions. In a coup that few documentaries or news reports would be able to muster, O’Grady is front and center without voice masking, shadow or pixilation to tell his side of the story. He appears somewhat goaded into admitting wrong; unsure if it’s a sickness or society’s misunderstanding of how an eight year-old child in a bathing suit might look appetizing to him.As he sits down writing letters of apologies to his victims it appears as if his time for healing has come. His true motivations have a sinister irony to them and one that takes balls that deserve to be castrated and preserved in a museum as the largest on record.

Berg’s film covers many of the same bases that Twist of Faith did, but goes beyond the effects of the individuals directly violated by O’Grady’s evil and brings to devastating life the aftermath of horror that child’s parents must now face. Tragedy is not befitting enough a word to describe the story of the Jyono family and Berg frames it as such. It was a love story from the beginning for Maria and Bob, who converted to Catholicism to marry his sweetheart. Father O’Grady was a part of their lives and they even defended him amongst friends when stories first broke in the papers about his abuses. No parent should have the question dawn on them after so many years, but two decades later there they were asking their daughter, Ann, about her experiences alone with the priest. When Bob cuts through the diluted terminology and calls it as it is, his reaction is like a knife through the heart and an immediate call for justice that isn’t coming from those who employ O’Grady’s services.

Every story’s villain though hopefully has a hero trailing them and no matter how far behind he may be the Mafia-like tactics of the Church to protect their own, Father Thomas Doyle is out there fighting the good fight on behalf of its victims. An expert in Canon law, Doyle wittily reminds us that “the only time Jesus ever got angry was when he went to church.” The shame people like Cardinal Roger Mahoney (seen in such stupefying and contradictory grand jury testimony), Monsignor Cain and even Pope Benedict (whom George W. Bush granted immunity from any knowledge of these events) have brought upon the institution is almost unmentionable compared to the indescribable loss of faith they have brought upon some of its most loyal and unquestioning clientel. This is the irreplaceable fact of what’s become of the organizational furor that has turned belief into doubt and rocketed quickly towards hatred. The work of Kirby Dick and Amy Berg is not merely the sour grapes and slipshod frustration of the vast anti-Republican rhetoric. It’s the proclamation for a crusade against anyone who supports and protects those who prey not just upon the children, but spit all over the teachings that assured us the path to Heaven went right through the Church. Clearly some left themselves out of the many travails our children may face along that path and it’s about time they start sharing the guilt they have put upon all of us for years.

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