Reviewed Jun 22, 2012
Robert Cettl’s review:
Father Oliver O’Grady has been described as “the most notorious paedophile in the history of the modern Catholic Church.” For decades, with the full knowledge of the Catholic hierarchy, O’Grady sexually molested child after child only to be forgiven, protected and shuffled around from parish to parish by his superiors, Bishops and Cardinals, all during the time when Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Pope) had domain over the investigation of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in Rome and America where, according to figures quoted in the Oscar-nominated documentary Deliver Us from Evil, no less than 10% of emerging priests from the San Francisco diocese that loosed O’Grady were paedophiles, a figure that makes a mockery of the Catholic religion as a whole and indicates that at its heart, Catholicism is a monstrous and vile ring of child rapists and those who sanction, forgive and protect them in the name of God rather than council victims or make restitution.
The unacceptable failure of the Catholic Church to curb paedophilia in its ranks is the subject of Deliver Us from Evil, which profiles child rapist O’Grady as a representative “good Catholic” and offers his victims and their families the chance to speak out of their suffering and betrayal by arguably the most repugnantly insidious of Christian religions – Catholicism. Full of outrage but at its core humanist and tender, Deliver Us from Evil is essential viewing, exposing the Catholic Church’s inherently hypocritical immorality for the scrutiny of all. The Catholic Church must be held accountable for the actions of paedophile priests according to Deliver Us from Evil and its reluctance to do so, contextualized in this film in terms of their beliefs in celibacy and forgiveness, is a human rights outrage that makes a mockery of their faith and their Church.
O’Grady’s pathetic self-absorption is contrasted to the once devastated but pieced together lives of Bob and Maria Jyono, parents of a girl who O’Grady molested and raped when she was as young as 5 after being invited in to share accommodation in their house. Once devout Catholics, they have turned atheistic as a result of their experiences and their complete abandonment by the Catholic Church in favour of protecting the paedophile who destroyed their lives and decimated their daughter’s childhood. O’Grady on his part retreats into ego-driven justifications and excuses, relating that he confessed his crimes in the proper Catholic manner to his Bishop (Guilfoyle) who at first tried to excuse it and when confronted with a signed letter of confession from O’Grady first fumed, then hushed and covered it up, transferring O’Grady to another parish some miles away to avoid controversy – a move which O’Grady took as sanction to molest again. O’Grady says with a hint of disbelief that upon confession of his crimes, he was merely forgiven and allowed to continue.
Interspersed with victim and paedophile Priest testimony is that of Father Tom Doyle, a Canon lawyer and historian who puts the tenets of Catholicism under the scrutiny of ethical examination and finds them hideously lacking in morality. Catholicism in his perspective is a hierarchy which protects its individual members over and above the “followers” because it believes such is God’s will – the priests are the elect messengers of God’s will. The horrific insinuation – that it is God’s will to protect child molesters and rapists because they are “chosen” by God to administer his will over the Earthly realm in servitude to God – is a frightening indictment of not only the Catholic Church but Christian belief in general. God’s sanction and the Church’s forgiveness for his acts of child rape allows O’Grady to molest children unpunished for decades, all with the full working knowledge of his superiors, more concerned with their own place in the Catholic hierarchy than justice or morality.
The Catholic hierarchy says that God will deal out punishment and that it is not up to the victim to seek restitution for damages done by paedophile priests. The deference to theism ultimately excuses and condones child rape. Indeed, the Catholic hierarchy here emerges as truly obscene – rationalizing to one of the victims that since she was a girl at the time they considered it natural curiosity on O’Grady’s part but had she been a boy they would have described it as obscene. Yet when confronted with evidence of O’Grady molesting boys, they hush up the “obscenity”, forgive him in the name of Christ and merely pass him on to another parish, and another child. The systemic abuse of children by the Catholic Church hierarchy, and the avoidance of law, as much as the culprit paedophile is presented as an abomination that must be exposed.
The terrible atrocity that is Catholicism is laid bare in Deliver Us from Evil, a potent and devastating account of Church complicity in covering up child rape rather than admit any kind of culpability or remove a known, admitted paedophile from access to children he could use his position as Priest to take advantage of. Yet, while the film is well aware of the continual threat posed by O’Grady, since relocated to Ireland, it reveals that had there been early intervention by the Church, he could have been prevented from continuing and perhaps received the treatment (or punishment) he needed. But: the bishops, knowing every detail, effectively promoted him to full pastor instead of assistant, all because of the need to present a good public image above all and avoid the taint of scandal. That ultimately makes the Catholic Church guilty of systematic child sexual abuse to the point of prosecutable criminal culpability.
But Deliver Us from Evil does not limit itself to the issue of Catholic culpability and emerges as a profile of victim testimony, exploring how those affected by O’Grady deal with the trauma he inflicted upon them, victims and families – as O’Grady admitted he spent as much time grooming victims as being a Priest in his 30 years of association with the Church, the true number of his victims reportedly being in the hundreds. As such, this is the screen’s finest study of paedophilia and the toll it takes on victims, giving O’Grady opportunity to explain himself, which it juxtaposes with victim testimony and exposure of the Church cover-up. Paedophilia is a horrific crime and its association to the Priesthood taints the Catholic Church beyond repair, the film emerging as a portrayal of a child abuser, an insight into the terrible toll of child sexual abuse and a totally justifiable condemnation of the Catholic Church as a modern obscenity.