Deliver Us from Evil Review
By Shawn McKenzie 11/04/2006
Amy Berg documents the story of Father Oliver O’Grady, a former Catholic priest who was one of Northern California’s most notorious pedophiles. He raped or molested dozens of kids…boys and girls ranging in age from a nine-month-old infant to the middle-aged mother of the boys (in order to gain access to her son)…in the course of 25 years. The people who had trusted him named him “Father Ollie,” and the bishop of Stockton, Merlin Guilfoyle, would just move him around rather than embarrass the Church or to avoid litigation. When Guilfoyle died, Cardinal Roger Mahony, who succeeded him, and his former second-in-command, Monsignor Cain, continued the practice of moving O’Grady around to different parishes instead of getting him some help or removing him from the ministry. Most of his victims declined to comment, but a few of them agreed to be on camera. Ann Jyono is a 39-year-old victim who was molested when she was five years old by O’Grady when he had stayed in the Jyono household briefly. By the time she told her parents…her Japanese American father Bob, who had converted to Catholicism, and her Irish mother Maria…she was scarred for life. The same thing went for Nancy Sloan and Adam M., who get together with Ann at one point to share their common experiences (Adam was the one who had his mother Becky seduced by O’Grady to gain access to him.) Father Tom Doyle, a canon law expert, takes an adult Ann and Nancy to the Vatican in Rome to get some recognition of what they had gone through, but the guards turn them away. Berg’s documentary exposes the horrors of the cover-up of the Church itself and O’Grady specifically.
Not being Catholic (or a member of any other religion) myself, I couldn’t identify with the victims in Deliver Us from Evil, but that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t be shocked about the Church’s cover-up of this specific priest.
I am shocked that O’Grady agreed to be filmed on camera (he wanted to criticize Mahony.) He seems like a jolly, nice fellow when you see him, which is why it’s not hard to believe that he used that demeanor to do his dirty work. He is very deluded though…he prefers to call his abuse as being “overly affectionate.”
The reactions of two of the victims affected me the most. Almost every time Bob Jyono spoke (when he wasn’t being interrupted by Maria), he practically screamed out in rage over what evil the man did to their daughter. The other one was Adam, who seemed like he wanted revenge. When O’Grady decided to write a letter of reconciliation and extend an invitation to meet with him to help all of his victims get on with their lives, Adam looked like he almost wanted to take him up on the invitation so that he could confront him physically (O’Grady rescinded his invitation two weeks later anyway.) It almost makes me wonder why there weren’t more victims who assaulted the priest…or at least considered it.
O’Grady was a monster, but his superiors share some of the blame. If Guilfoyle and Mahony had nipped this problem in the bud, then many children would have been spared. Mahony himself was set to become the Archbishop of Los Angeles, and he knew that if he made public about the O’Grady problem, he might not have gotten that post. Now the Church has to pay $2 million dollars a month paying high-priced attorneys to prevent the release of incriminating information.
Even though that money is spent to hide the trails of the 550 priests charged within Mahony’s Archdiocese, I’m not going to say that all priests are prone to sexual perversity. Berg interviews Clergy abuse psychologist Dr. Mary Gail Frawley O’Dea, who explains that their vow of celibacy has something to do with a priest’s inheritances going to the Church instead of going to the eldest son. Some more progressive Catholics think that getting rid of the celibacy requirement may severely curb the abuse.
I was glad that Berg decided not to speak or show up on camera while interviewing the participants involved in Deliver Us from Evil, because otherwise it might make the movie look like a “very special episode” of some TV newsmagazine. I think that it might get a Documentary Feature Oscar nomination this year, because I think that it might affect voters in the same way that it affected me. By the way…you can find out more about people who have been affected by the abuse of priests by checking out the website of the Survivor Network for those Abused by Priests (S.N.A.P.) at http://www.snapnetwork.org.
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