Who Can Forgive the Sins of the Father?

    Deliver Us From Evil” is not just a documentary — it’s a horror film. It’s nearly impossible to comprehend the sheer torture that Father Oliver O’Grady, affectionately known as Father Ollie to those who have had the misfortune of befriending him, inflicted on his parishioners in Northern California over two decades. What makes it worse is the now-known cover up of such abuse by the church into which so many put their faith.

    Courtesy of Lion’s Gate
    In its investigation into the pedophilic goings-on of the Catholic church, “Deliver Us From Evil” focuses on the story of Father Oliver O’Grady, who during his two-decade career in Northern California sexually abused hundreds of children, and now walks as a free man.

    The movie was released by Lions Gate, which is also known for equally cuddly films such as “Capturing the Friedmans,” “The Passion of the Christ” and “Fahrenheit 9/11,” and is directed by Amy Berg, a CNN producer who has long dealt with this topic. “Deliver Us From Evil” takes the single example of a Catholic church abuse scandal far beyond the level of any television special or news report. Those involved over the years — victims and their families, psychologists and church reformers — all tell their stories and provide the history of the scandal. Most revealing, and disturbing, though, is the presence of O’Grady himself, a seemingly charming Irishman with a sinister attraction to children. He walked freely around his town, even up to the wall surrounding a playground. One cannot help but fear for the well-being of the young boy who walks past O’Grady as he admires the art of a street vendor, and when he notices the boy’s presence, it produces shivers.

    Berg follows three victims — Ann, Nancy and Adam — all raped, some multiple times, when they knew O’Grady. In possibly the most powerful scene in the film, Ann’s father cries out in anger over the discovery that his daughter had been raped between the ages of 5 and 13. All the while, O’Grady discussed encounters like this, either in personal interview or footage pulled from his trial, with a hideously frank and innocent attitude, at one point even writing letters to his victims asking for a “reunion” and letting “bygones be bygones,” unaware of the damage he has inflicted. For over two decades, he molested or raped hundreds of children, boys and girls, some repeatedly, from 13-year-olds all the way down to a baby 9 months of age. The pastor matter-of-factly admits his attraction to children, and only children.

    O’Grady is used not just as an example of the scandal, but a segway to the Catholic church’s reaction. From 1976 to the mid ‘90s, when O’Grady was defrocked, he was moved from parishes in Lodi to Turlock to Stockton and finally to San Andreas — a new parish for every allegation. In other tapes from the trial, current cardinal Roger Mahoney, out of the Diocese of Los Angeles, denied having had any knowledge of O’Grady’s history and allegations when he approved some of the

    moves, although paper evidence

    and his own nerves indicate otherwise.

    The facial expressions that litter Berg’s screen are of confusion, anger, sadness, dishonesty, deceit, innocence (however false it might be), concern and even resolve — all sides of the story. The film could suffer from an almost overexposure of faces, especially from the classic talking-head syndrome found in many documentaries. But here it is necessary, bearing naked truth and defining the scandal.

    Though not for the faint of heart — the detail of certain events is graphic to the bone, an important inclusion which adds to the depth of O’Grady’s story — this documentary is also one of the best of the year in its unflinching revelation of a man who was given the most innocent of creatures and took that trust for granted. Berg has not condemned these people — they have done that themselves — but she has stripped away the flashy media sound bites by delivering personal accounts. And beyond emotional scars, the scandal has revealed the Catholic church’s knowledge of these wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    Currently, O’Grady resides in his native Ireland — free — in the home of a family unaware of his past.

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