In Amy Berg’s haunting new documentary, Deliver Us From Evil, the first-time director gets a convicted pedophile to talk in disturbing detail about the molestation acts he committed during his 22-year span as a priest in the Catholic Church. Yet what amazes beyond Father Oliver O’Grady’s seeming inability to comprehend right from wrong, or the gravity of his crimes, is the fact that he is willing to put his face onscreen at all.
While Berg’s film, focusing on O’Grady and Cardinal Roger Mahony (the head of the Los Angeles Archdiocese who allegedly quelled the rumbling sex-abuse scandal by moving accused priests from one church to an other) is set in California, O’Grady was ultimately brought to light by both the Boston fiasco and Cardinal Bernard Law, who himself employed the moving-around tactic with notorious pedophile John Geoghan.
“I was working at CBS News in LA [as a producer] in 2002,” says Berg, “and when it started to leak out about what was going on in Boston, I was assigned to find local angles.”
In pursuing those angles and later, in producing a more in-depth piece [about priest sex-abuse] at CNN, Berg became acquainted with O’Grady, who had already served jail time and been deported back to his native Ireland. “For five months we would speak on the phone every Sunday and I would record it. He wanted to have his story out there, but wouldn’t go on camera.”
That all changed following Pope John Paul II’s death in April 2005. When Mahoney, who flew first-class to Rome, saw Cardinal Law presiding over the funeral, he walked out in protest. “Mahony was trying to make a point, ‘How could this man be presiding over the mass when he did what he did in Boston?’, Berg says.
“Well, Mahony had 556 priests under him that were accused; Law had 85. Someone took a picture of [Mahony] and it ended up on the cover of the LA Times.” At that point, O’Grady said, “ ‘Screw this, I am going on record; this guy has dumped me.’ ”
In the matter of Geoghan (as reported by the Phoenix, go to bostonphoenix.com/pages/cardinal.htm), Law shirked his responsibility and served as an enabler, later resorting to ignorance and church law to deflect and redirect blame — exactly as Mahony does in Berg’s film.
As for Berg, he claims the parallel and unacceptable behavior by Church officials is the point of his film. “[O’Grady] gets to California [from Ireland] and straight-away he’s molesting people and he’s confessing to it and he’s told it’s okay. It’s like an alcoholic that goes and says, ‘I have a drinking problem.’ You don’t give them vodka; you put them somewhere where they can be cured. . . .
“It’s the institution that’s responsible to take him out. . . . I’m not saying Oliver is innocent, but they could have stopped him in ’73 or ’76 and there wouldn’t be as big of a problem.”
In the wake of the Boston scandal, Law has been “kicked upstairs” to Rome while Mahony lingers in LA. “Law is very powerful,” Berg says, “and Mahony spends more than two million dollars a month of churchgoers’ money to defend himself and avoid giving over documents. They shouldn’t be in power. They shouldn’t even be in the church. If anyone can sit through my film and then take communion from Mahony, that’s really hypocritical.”
On the Web
Deliver Us from Evil’s Web site: http://www.deliverusfromevilthemovie.com/index_flash.php