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Clerical error

The kids haven’t got a prayer
By PETER KEOUGH  |  October 11, 2006
3.5 3.5 Stars

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THE PRICE OF POWER IS INNOCENCE: And Deliver Us from Evil shows it's the children who pay

Oliver O’Grady, “Father Ollie,” the pastor of a Catholic Church in a bucolic, tight-knit Northern California community, would have felt at home in The Bells of St. Mary’s. Jaunty, with an Irish brogue and brimming with wisdom and cheer, he ingratiated himself into the families of parishioners like the Jyonos, who invited him to stay over, little knowing that while they slept Father Ollie was raping their five-year-old daughter.

This went on for 20 years, at various churches in California, with O’Grady stalking victims male and female, the youngest nine months old and the oldest the middle-aged mother of one of his underage targets, victims numbering perhaps in the hundreds. Whenever unsettling rumors reached the authorities, the Church, specifically Bishop Roger Mahony, later archbishop of Los Angeles, would intervene, not punishing, defrocking, or even removing O’Grady from circulation but merely relocating him in a parish where he wasn’t known. It is a numbingly familiar story for Bostonians. But Deliver Us from Evil should renew the outrage and the incredulity.

The film is painful viewing, in large part because director Amy Berg relates the facts and depicts the victims and the culprits with detached gravity. She follows O’Grady’s trail from parish to parish, intercutting interviews with local law-enforcement officials who investigated him with videotaped depositions by prevaricating members of the Church hierarchy. Putting the latter to shame is the testimony of victims and their families as they tell, with heartbreaking variations, the same tale of trust and betrayal — both by O’Grady and by the Church they believed in,

I’m not sure what is most disturbing in Deliver Us from Evil. Perhaps when Bob Jyono, stoic until then, breaks down in a paroxysm of grief, guilt, and fury as he conjures the hideous image of Father Ollie molesting his daughter. Or maybe the ongoing apologia of O’Grady himself, delivered with the lubriciousness of a Sunday homily, as he rationalizes his guilt even while euphemistically describing his abominations. (Berg tracked him down to Ireland, where he’s currently a free man strolling about Dublin, peering into playgrounds.)

Mostly, though, I think it’s the truth hammered home by Father Tom Doyle, an early advocate of those victimized by the clergy. In the patriarchal hierarchy that is the Catholic Church, the rights of thousands of children mean nothing compared with the ambitions of, say, the future archbishop of Los Angeles. Or even the future Pope Benedict XVI. According to the film, Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was the person in the Vatican who should have been responsible for ending the abuse. He did nothing.

This is not the banality but the bureaucracy of evil, which as much as the trauma of abuse itself (O’Grady notes in passing that he was molested by his older brother) perpetuates the crime through decades and generations. Neither is the Catholic Church the only institution guilty of such misplaced priorities, as the current uproar over former congressman Mark Foley demonstrates. The price of power is innocence, and the children are the ones who pay.

  Topics: Reviews , Culture and Lifestyle, Religion, Christianity,  More more >
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