A couple of weeks ago, Orange County Supervisor Bill Campbell told Orange County Register reporter Peggy Lowe that he and all the county's Catholics felt shame for their church's sex-abuse scandal. "I don't know of any Catholic who doesn't feel some shame and some distress over priests who were molesters, and who hasn't questioned the bishops who recycled them," Campbell said—this after Monsignor John Urell declined Campbell's nomination for a seat on the Orange County Human Relations advisory committee.
Urell, of course, was one of the main players in the Orange diocese sex-abuse scandal, and his name appears in many of the depositions taken for lawsuits filed against various diocesan employees over the past decade. Campbell knew of Urell's past but told Lowe he refused to read the depositions since they would make him feel "ill at ease."
Campbell probably also won't see Deliver Us From Evil, a documentary on a former pedophile priest, and neither will most of the Catholics Campbell claims feel "shame and some distress" at the Orange diocese sex-abuse scandal. After opening last Friday on a single Orange County screen at Edwards University in Irvine, the film this Friday shifts to alternating show times on the same screen with Cocaine Cowboys, a similarly small indie documentary about the true events that inspired Miami Vice.
It's probably for the best. If Catholics who still pledge fealty to Rome saw the film, the Catholic Church would no longer exist. Here in all its disgusting truth is the case study about how the Catholic hierarchy shields its pedophiles through shuffling, obstruction of justice and, most chillingly, by ignoring the repeated pleas of victims to do something about their abuse.
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Deliver Us From Evilfocuses on Oliver O'Grady, an Irish native who claims he himself was abused by a priest and who served at various churches in California's Central Valley during the 1970s. O'Grady readily admits to molesting dozens if not hundreds of victims during his tenure, from a nine-month-old infant to the mother of a family of children he was abusing at the time. O'Grady fits none of the stereotypes of a predator priest—he's skinny, weak, and not afraid to admit his crimes. But Father Ollie (as his parishioners called him) is instantly one of cinema's classic ghouls, a man who speaks with a calm voice as he describes in sickening detail how to seduce a child.
Director Amy Berg, a former television reporter with CNN and 60 Minutes, weaves in O'Grady's testimony with her own reporting on how Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony—then bishop of the Diocese of Stockton—shielded O'Grady from prosecution. She also excerpts filmed depositions of O'Grady and Mahony that Newport Beach lawyer John Manly took for a lawsuit against the Diocese of Stockton. But the most damning parts of Deliver Us From Evilare those involving O'Grady's victims and their families. Take the story of Ann Jyono. Her family welcomed a young O'Grady into their home, where he proceeded to repeatedly rape Ann over the years. Ann didn't tell her family about the abuse for years, and her father breaks down in tears on film when remembering the day, as he describes it, he stopped believing in God.
Some shots are deliberately provoking—O'Grady talking near a playground, longingly gazing at the children, or Berg following victims to the gates of the Vatican as they unsuccessfully try to meet with disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law. Non-Catholics can enjoy Deliver Us From Evil for its brisk storytelling and spot-on coverage of the Catholic Church's greatest scandal since the Inquisition. But ultimately, the film's main audience should be Catholics like Supervisor Campbell, who profess pity for the victims of their church but ultimately don't give a damn because the truth of the Catholic Church is embodied by O'Grady—and, man, is it fucked-up.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL WAS WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY AMY BERG; AND PRODUCED BY MATTHEW COOKE, FRANK DONNER, HERMAS LASSALLE AND BERG. AT EDWARDS UNIVERSITY, IRVINE.