Deliver Us from Evil
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Oliver O’Grady is a kindly Catholic priest who worked among several parishes in Northern California back in the 1970s. He was polite, trustworthy, cared personally for many of his congregants, and would even come to their houses to perform housework, babysit, and give general spiritual advice.
Oliver O’Grady is a kindly Catholic priest who worked with children. He molested and raped countless children, boys and girls, in his years in Northern California. Whenever any child complained, or parents discovered his carefully concealed crimes, he would be transferred to a different parish where his cycle would continue.
Oliver O’Grady is a kindly Catholic priest who loves the children he had “been with.” He is not remorseful for his crimes, as he sees them as slight slips in his vow of chastity, and not monstrous transgressions of the law, of trust, and of faith in general.
In Amy Berg’s documentary “Deliver Us from Evil,” Oliver O’Grady, living safely in Ireland, never arrested, and only temporarily retired from the priesthood, talks openly and candidly about his victims and the details of his desires. It is a fascinating and nauseating sight listening to his confessions. He describes in detail the things that would turn him on, and some of the horrors he has bequeathed upon children, all with a genial smile, and a melancholy that he cannot do those things any more (not out of moral rediscovery, but out of inopportunity). He is not only not sorry for what he has done in the past, but seems incapable of remorse. His crimes, he seems to believe, were not crimes. He is not calculating, but oblivious. He even, near the end of the film, sent a letter to many of his victims, inviting them to a barbecue luncheon, so they can become friends again, and put these silly threats of legal action behind us.
The image of the pedophile priest has become so common in recent years that it’s almost a built-in punchline for comedians. The fact of the matter is, many clergy members in the Roman Catholic Church are indeed guilty of sex crimes, and the Church authority, trying to avoid scandal, bends over backwards to protect the guilty priests by transferring them to other parishes and leaving their crimes in the hands of their own prayers. The police are never involved, and when a court case does find a priest guilty, the church pays the bail.
Amy Berg interviews higher-ups in the local parishes, and the mob-like protection mentality is chilling.
Berg also interviews O’Grady’s victims, now adults, and what the abuse has done to them. People shout and cry and wail. Parents are outraged. And, most frustrating, their pleas for legal action are constantly blocked by the well-moneyed Catholic churches.
“Deliver Us from Evil” takes a touchy and topical subject, and tries to sum up the controversy and psychology in a 90-minute package. It largely succeeds. Yes, the priests who molest children should be punished. Yes, the Catholic Church should look into psychoanalyzing prospective clergymen (it’s well documented that many abuse victims or sexual deviants are attracted to the clergy in the hopes that it will quell their desires). Yes, the Church is a little too efficient in hiding sex criminals in their system.
Few would disagree with any of this. But Amy Berg often seems a little too intent on manipulating us. What the victims went through is undeniably tragic, but seeing so much ranting and crying and dwelling on their suffering begins to border on the fetishistic after a while. If the film has ay flaw, it’s its need make us cry in outrage rather than taking action or analyzing the problem.
The footage of O’Grady himself is what makes the film the most fascinating, though. This, take note parents, is how a predator really thinks.