And, ah, such a romantic film, and what a goddamn double-header following 'Kells':
I don't know or think fully that the Catholic Church is evil. I know that people have found genuine comfort from the priests and Fathers and Sisters in their lives, who give solace and comfort and words of wisdom in the Faith, which, as with almost all religions, is "The-One-True-Faith, Don't-Listen-To-The-Others." My father went with it, as did my father-in-law, and grew up relatively well-adjusted indivduals, albeit neither are in the faiths anymore but that's another kettle of fish and not to do with what Deliver Us From Evil is about... then again, this probably doesn't help fellow Catholics or ex-Catholics. It's one of the most devastating personal accounts of a long-known but long-covered up conspiracy by an evil corporation ever.
That's the key word here: think about it in those terms, outside of the usual God and Faith and Jesus and so on, the way the Catholic Church operates is much like a corporation, with its hierarchy and its tax breaks and enclosed system for men in high positions insulated from the rest of the world, and without a connection to the reality of the harm that they can cause... a lot. It's this that makes Deliver Us From Evil so shocking, that the abuse by these priests on kids- and while this may not be news now, even the Pope's at least acknowledged it, makes it no less awful and inhumane- went on for so long unabated. And more than that, aside from what many of us consider a given, that the Catholic Church has been covering up the biggest child sex-abuse scandal in modern history, is that director Amy Berg makes it personal, from belief scorned to families torn asunder.
We see the victims. We see their families. In interviews that are no-holds-barred the grown-ups who were abused by Ex-Father Oliver O'Grady, there's still shock and tears shed and rage at the embarrassment and total betrayal by someone who appeared, with all honesty, to be on the level. One family in particular was especially hurt, as they invited the man into their home- the mother a devout Irish Catholic connecting with another Irish Catholic- and it was abuse on a five year old daughter for years. Why not report it or say something earlier? Shame? Misbegotten guilt? It's also something to be said for what's revealed at one point in the documentary that when Presits do their abuse it's almost akin to an act of God, or something how they hold their robes or their symbols or whatever Goddamn piece of voodoo magic around at the time.
And, as well, it's something that kids did report and O'Grady did get in trouble for it... that is to say the Bishop, the even more corrupt Roger Mahony, transferred him to various other parishes and churches over the years, and always in the same California are (as a grab for power, the "appearance of Goodness" seemed a little stupid here, yet somehow, for over a decade, the cover-up seemed to stick). What's so troubling and yet so compelling with O'Grady is his dis-associative disorder from reality. By any reasonable reason he should still be in prison, or perhaps dead by shanking, but due to a plea deal while in the midst of trial he cut a deal, did seven years, and is now living fairly comfortably in Ireland, where he even took the time out to send letters to his former victims as a weird, seemingly-sincere way of apologizing. As if he could ever!
But here's the rub: O'Grady appears, in many moments of the film, to be sincere, to seem almost philosophical about what he did. And it fazes him, yet not so much about why his superiors kept moving him around and not doing anything. It's like the kid blaming his junkie parents for not taking care of him since he became an arsonist or something. It's strange all the same as he's a pure human monster - and make sure to take those two words, human and monster, into account. He's not some one-sided figure that is so easy to make as a figure of hate. On the contrary, compared to the other assholes in the Church seen here- Mahoney and some other old fuck on the stand- he seems rather genial! One can see how he could get so close to these kids, to these families. And yet Berg makes painfully, tragically clear, one must NEVER forget how twisted he was. When one rapes a 5-month old while also seducing the parents of the household, there's some problems going on in the mind of someone.
It's an indictment of a person like O'Grady who could abuse trust and power like he had, and yet the documentary's greatness comes from wrapping that to the higher issue of it being practically like a child-sex ring with the Church for years (the numbers revealed, in Los Angels alone, are staggering). We do see some attempts to try and curtail it, a trip with two of the grown-up victims going with a sympathetic priest to the Vatican to try to deliver a letter only (somewhat expectedly) turned away and further criticized for making a hubub. By now, hopefully, the Church has taken a very big hit in terms of the corporate-power structure (at one point it was thought it would be a billion-dollar loss for them, I cry my third eye over that), but the film doesn't give any easy answers as to whether this will be the end or not. Perhaps the documentary comes close to an attempt to give the most serious light yet on the subject.
It's a cogent, clear-sighted document of profound, almost incomprehensible crime perpetrated on various levels, from the ground-up (O'Grady, a mental case who at best should have been put under Nurse Ratched after the very first kid) to the Pope himself, who at one time looking every bit like his name (RATzinger, ho-ho) was in charge of covering up such child-sex crimes, of which the Church tried to make seemingly less serious by just grouping it in with all over sinful sexual acts. Oh, whatever, they might say, boo friggidy hoo. If Deliver Us From Evil serves no other purpose, it's to give as good a reason as any to reject a Church not because of what it preaches, but how it acts as a group, a company, made up of people who are not like Jesus. Indeed if Jesus were around he'd probably go on a ball-kicker-cum-castration tour on general principle.