Deliver Us From Evil (Review)

Tonight I decided to conduct my own documentary mini-film festival.  I kicked things off with Crips and Bloods: Made In America, which focused upon how and why these rival gangs sprung up in Los Angeles.  Though interesting, I found the second documentary, Deliver Us From Evil, conveyed a message which was less geographically (and racially) specific.

Warning: This post will include inflammatory content.
Deliver Us From Evil addresses the hugely hushed-up matter of child molestation within the Catholic Church in the United States.  It primarily takes the form of interviews with the abused, the abused's families, experts in theology and clerical history, lawyers involved in the attending trials, and finally, the pedophile himself, one Father O'Grady.  The film begins by tracing his movements through California, and has him describe his understanding of what took place with his victims.  One of the many interesting aspects of the film is listening to the way in which he describes and regards his actions.  What I noted was that he shirked responsibility, placed blame on everyone but himself, and seemed unrepentant; he didn't seem to understand on any real level that his actions had essentially ruined his victims' (and their families) lives forever.  Though at the end of the film he writes letters to each of his victims requesting a meeting so that he can apologize in person, his desire to have his victims personally recount his abuse to them suggests that his real desire is to relive his former crimes.  After describing the purpose of his letter writing, he then addresses the camera saying, "Hope to see all of you real soon."  He then WINKS.  It was quite possibly the creepiest and most horrific moment in a documentary which explores some of the worst elements of humanity.  That this person, who was in a position where communities trusted him and supported him implicitly, then went on to victimize their children, some as young as NINE MONTHS OLD, is bad enough, but it becomes so much worse when light is shone upon all the ways in which the Catholic Church actively worked to suppress any evidence of wrongdoing.  In the first instance of announced molestation, it was agreed that in exchange for not pressing charges, the priest would be sent to a monastery.  Instead, the clerical authority decided to send him only fifty miles away to a new parish, because it would be less injurious to the aspiring Bishop's career.  This happened at least twice more.

Some of the most interesting parts of the film apply more generally to the Catholic Church.  The filmmakers thoroughly explore the corrupt operations of the Church, while also providing the reasons why this came to be.  One memorable quote from one of the victims' lawyers was as follows: "I have taken the depositions of Cardinals, Bishops, and Archbishops across this country for twenty-three years and what I have encountered is deception, perjury, denial and deceit at the highest levels of the Catholic Church."  The film reveals that the current pope, Benedict XVI, was in charge of addressing child molestation within the Church between 1978-2005.  He failed colossally.  Furthermore, since 1960 a huge ten percent of the graduates of Saint John's Seminary, who form the majority of the Catholic clergy within the USA, were estimated to be pedophiles.  Since 1950, sexual abuse has cost the Church one billion dollars in legal settlements and expenses.  Additionally, while over one hundred thousand victims have come forward in the United States alone, it is estimated that over eighty percent of victims never report their abuse.  This means that there are a staggering half-million victims of clerical molestation in just the US.  Toward the end of the documentary, when two victims of O'Grady go to the Vatican to petition for some form of recompense, they are turned away (keep in mind Vatican City is technically its own little country) as "enemies of the Church".  Talk about adding insult to injury.  Though their abuser did wind up spending time in prison - a measly fourteen years, only seven of which were served for approximately one hundred victims - none of the victims were ever granted any kind of restitution.  To further grind salt in the wound, O'Grady is now living free in Ireland, and receives a generous annuity from the Church for his earlier refusal to testify against the corrupt Bishop who repeatedly ignored O'Grady's actions.

With statistics like these, I have to wonder how anyone can donate to the church in good conscience.  Yes, some of that money goes to local projects and good causes.  But one billion dollars of it also goes to defending child molesters and those who turn a blind eye to the abuse conducted with the Church itself.  Though I can hardly say that this documentary "converted" me ( I am already staunchly anti-religion), it did help me to understand how these crimes can be committed in this day and age.  For those of you who are imagining this documentary's account to be biased, I will say that the Catholic Church declined to comment on its content, BUT it did include the testimony of Catholic Church officials and it goes into events which may have caused O'Grady to become a pedophile.

On the whole I would enthusiastically recommend this documentary, if you have the stomach for it.