Jennifer Merin reviews “Deliver Us From Evil”

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CLERGY CHILD ABUSE EXPOSED

A compelling expose of the Catholic Church’s schemes to cover up rampant child abuse by its clergy, Amy Berg’s documentary, “Deliver Us From Evil” focuses on the history of Father Oliver O’Grady, notorious priest pedophile who raped and sodomized hundreds of boys and girls aged nine months through adolescence, and one adolescent victim’s mother, during 20 years, while church superiors avoided exposure to scandal by reassigning him from one California parish to another, never punishing him and failing to prevent his ongoing predatory behavior.

O’Grady was eventually tried and incarcerated, but after his release from prison, he was deported to Ireland, where he now lives comfortably in retirement, still ordained, enjoying his pension, roaming freely and rooming with a family.

Supervising prelates were told of his pedophilia, but his host family and local police were not.

Berg uses archival footage and new interviews to reveal O’Grady’s flippant attitude. Oozing indifference, he’s utterly remorseless about his heinous behavior and the devastation he caused his victims and their families.

In contrast, as they recall O’Grady’s actions, the victims and their families erupt with anguish and anger– and enormous frustration that there’s been no prosecution of LA’s Cardinal Roger Mahony who, according to the film, knew of O’Grady’s crimes but did nothing to stop them. And, good God!, it’s easy to understand their rage: Mahony still rules the LA Archdiocese.

The film traces the trail of deceit and sham all the way to Pope Benedict XVI, who‘s been accused of conspiracy to cover up the crimes. The Vatican asked President Bush to grant the Pontiff immunity from prosecution, and got it.

When O’Grady’s victims traveled to Rome to petition for mercy and justice, they were turned away without an audience. The Church also declined to be interviewed for this documentary.

Filmmaker Berg substantiates her public awareness agenda by interviewing theologians, lawyers, psychologists and other experts about clergy child abuse. Especially alarming are their statements that that the Church’s only solution for ending clergy child abuse has been to scapegoat homosexual priests. Further, as victim Leslie Sloan points out, Church superiors considered molestation of boys ‘obscene,’ while they deemed abuse of girls to be ‘normal curiosity.‘

Breaking news from Los Angeles regarding the Catholic Church’s impending settlement of 45 child abuse cases for a sum exceeding $60-million makes the documentary’s release particularly timely, but the subject warrants long term attention. According to the film, Cardinal Mahony still presides over more then 550 priests whose child abuse has gone unpunished, and there’re 100,000 reported cases of clergy child abuse in the U.S. alone.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).