Review of Deliver Us From Evil written and directed by Amy Berg
This is a film about sexual abuse by priests and the cover-up of the problem by the church. The focus of the film is on one priest, Father Oliver O’Grady, and a number of his victims and their families. It is sometimes difficult to watch, but at the same time enlightening.
Anyone who is even tangentially aware of this problem knows that it is a situation that has been perpetuated by the church through its indifference and its attempts to solve the issues by transferring the offending priests to other parishes. The lack of accountability is still going on and goes all the way to the Pope, who I didn’t know has been charged with covering up sexual abuse cases.
The filmmakers do an excellent job of presenting the issue in a fair and balanced way. Watching the interviews with Father O’Grady you can see how he was able to conceal his crimes from the victims parents. He comes across as a very likable man who admits his faults.
On the other hand you get to hear from the victims and their families and see the devastation that has been caused by O’Grady’s acts. They continue to deal with what happened to this day.
Interwoven between the offender and his victims is the story of the church and individual Bishops who turned a blind eye. They are shown in depositions where their ignorance is astounding. You can see the deception and concealment in their responses to questions.
A voice of reason emerges in the film through interviews with a former priest and now lawyer, Tom Doyle, as well as others such as John Manly. They don’t hesitate to put blame where it rightfully belongs. This includes not only the individual priests but the church hierarchy.
The last ten to fifteen minutes of the film are dedicated to trying to explain how this could happen. It starts with the requirement of celibacy. They point out that this requirement has more to do with political and financial reasons rather than anything in scripture. When a priest dies his assets are transferred to the church. If the priest had a family then his assets would go to the family and not the church. Yet these same priests are required to counsel parishioners on family and relationships when they are obviously ill-equipped to do so for lack of experience.
This requirement for celibacy begins for many priests at a time when they are first experiencing sexual urges. My own theory is that when a male first becomes sexually aware the trigger for that awareness forms an imprint on the brain. In Oliver’s case, he was sexually abused as a young boy by an older brother and by a visiting priest. It doesn’t excuse his actions, but it does offer an explanation.
The disc contains several extra features including audio commentary by the director and editor. Highly recommended.