For much of the ’70s and ’80s, Father Oliver O’Grady was shuttled from one Southern California parish to another by a Catholic Church hierarchy that wanted to squelch any serious investigation into his child-abusing behavior. Former CNN reporter Amy Berg’s Deliver Us From Evil lays out the means by which the Church, through surreptitious and deceitful means, concealed (and continues to conceal) O’Grady’s predilection for infiltrating stable families and molesting their kids—victims which number in the hundreds and which included a baby as young as nine months old. As the most prolific domestic perpetrator of what has become an all-too-familiar crime, O’Grady was a monstrous wolf in sheep’s clothing, and Berg, aided by her subject’s willingness to speak on camera about his past, forcefully but fairly paints him as a man who methodically preyed upon and exploited his devout parishioners’ trust. Meanwhile, her raft of talking heads (which include victims, their distraught relatives, and Church critics such as Father Thomas Doyle) convincingly explicate how O’Grady’s inexcusable transgressions were acts of both physical and, because they were committed by what Catholics believe is one of God’s earthbound proxies, spiritual abuse. Bolstered by O’Grady’s commentary, which he delivers with a mixture of candor and smiling, “let bygones be bygones” hideousness, as well as damning video deposition testimony from Church bigwigs who blatantly lied about their enabling of O’Grady’s actions, Deliver Us From Evil proceeds with a sober clarity that lends credence to its devastating case. In the early going, the director relies a bit too much on manipulative tactics—such as shooting O’Grady as a series of close-up body parts, thereby obscuring his face in order to amplify tension, and in staged sequences featuring him sitting in church or at a classroom desk—that are unnecessary given the irrefutability of her arguments, while a primer on the Catholic priesthood’s celibacy requirement comes off as an awkwardly shoehorned-in attempt at contextualization. Such trivial slip-ups, however, can’t diminish the film’s depiction of abuse’s lasting impact on individuals and families, which is never more heartrending than when Bob Jyono recalls the helpless moment he learned of O’Grady’s offense against his daughter (“The whole world collapsed”), and then tries to reclaim some measure of power by defiantly, agonizingly condemning the priest not of the Church-promoted euphemism “inappropriate touching” but of rape.
- 101 min
- Amy Berg
- Amy Berg
- Oliver O'Grady, Bob, Maria Jyono, Ann Jyono, Nancy Sloan, Case, Jane De Groot, Father Tom Doyle, John Manly, Pat Wall, Detective Mike Walker, Adam M., Monsignor Cain, Cardinal Roger Mahony
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