|DOCUMENTARY DRAWS REACTION “Mahony belongs behind bars.”|
|June 27, 2006|
On Saturday night, June 24, after the première showing of Amy Berg’s film DELIVER US FROM EVIL at the Independent Documentary Association’s Los Angeles Film Festival, a packed house stood amid thunderous applause as the father of victim who had been sexually abused as a five year-old proclaimed, “Mahony belongs behind bars.”
To say that the film documents the career of Fr. Oliver O’Grady, a priest born and educated in Ireland and ordained for the Diocese of Stockton, California would be true, but as deceptive as saying that Gone With the Wind is the story of how Scarlet O’Hara lost the farm.
Berg tells the story of people—parents, children, believing, faithful, church going folk—so easy to identify with that one is drawn delicately into a story as intriguing and riveting as a best-seller summer mystery novel. The story is woven between the families and kids who trusted the priest and the church—and how they became aware of the true nature of both—and O’Grady quietly, casually telling how he was abused by a priest as an altar boy and details the methods he used to groom, seduce, and sexually violate innumerable boys and girls in his parishes.
The camera follows the priest now freely walking the streets of Irish towns that are still unaware of the danger he presents and the trail of spiritual and psychic carnage he left in California as he was transferred from parish to parish to cover his trail of violations of children one as young as nine months old. (Yes, nine months old and vaginally penetrated.)
What could be visually as gruesome as open-heart surgery on TV becomes just the opposite in Berg’s production. It is like being drawn in to viewing Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholaes Tulp. It has a quiet, but somber, intriguing, and instructive mood.
The camera reflects with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel how the church delays, denies, deceives, and defies efforts to protect children from abuse. The anatomy of church control and the shield provided for abusing clergy is a powerful lesson. The depositions of Monsignor Cain, and especially Cardinal Mahony, speak louder than any imaginable commentary. Their performance exudes power precisely because it is literally unbelievable.
The church in predictable knee-jerk reaction will condemn this movie as anti-Catholic or anti-clergy. It is not. But this is no Da Vinci Code. Deliver Us From Evil is fact—well told fact and presented with artistry.
This documentary can be seen in Los Angeles August 18-24 during the Independent Documentary Associations’ DocuWeek. See it there if you can or hopefully in the future at a “theater near you” or the “Academy Awards.”
On June 28 this film was awarded $50,000 for Best Documentary