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USA 2006
Directed by
Amy Berg
103 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
4 stars

Deliver Us From Evil (2006)

Synopsis: Father Oliver O’Grady is the most notorious paedophile in the history of the modern Catholic Church. Following him as he reflects on his life, the film picks up the threads of broken lives and explores how the Church itself allowed such a man to function within its midst.

Without doubt one of the most harrowing experiences you'll have in the cinema, Deliver Us From Evil is an expert analysis of the many issues surrounding child abuse within the Catholic Church. What makes it so gruelling is the direct access to Father O’Grady, and his total lack of conscience for the destruction he has wrought. He muses on his crimes, thinks of having a cup of tea with his victims and apologising, but his complete lack of sincerity is obvious. Worse still are the interviews with his victims and their families. Their traumas are heartbreaking, as are the constant blocks they run up against as they seek some kind of justice from the Catholic hierarchy.

It’s remarkable that Amy Berg’s film never feels like a cheap church-bashing exercise. Instead, the film forensically delves into the structures and dogmas of the church to try and understand how such a situation could come to be. Internal documents show that O’Grady’s superiors knew full well what he was up to. So why let him continue? A sordid tale of political ambitions of cardinals and bishops, who could not afford scandal to damage their chances of promotion shows that man truly cannot worship both God and Mammon. Instructive also is the commentary of canon lawyer Father Thomas Doyle, who has, from within the church, been fighting for justice for the victims of these venal and cowardly men. That he hasn’t been excommunicated is a miracle as he exposes time and again the awful tactics used to hide the truth of what has occurred. That he still loves the church and fights for it as much as he fights against it is both confounding and inspiring. His most telling comment lies in his analysis of  the grip of Catholic dogma. Priests are viewed as being appointed by God, God is infallible, therefore a priest cannot really be doing the things he’s accused of. But do you reject the dogma and face reality, which is perceived as a loss of faith, or do you hide inside the dogma? The answer is obvious, but the evidence is that the men of the cloth found it far too hard to take the step of real faith and deal with what was on their doorstep.

It’s hard to imagine a more effective argument against institutionalised religion than Deliver Us From Evil. The revelation that these cover-ups go right to the current Pope is deeply disturbing. He has been guaranteed immunity from prosecution by the US government should it ever be decided that he participated in any cover-ups in the past. Disturbing, damning, frightening and occasionally inspiring, this is not a pleasant experience to sit through. But anyone seeking a deeper understanding of how an institution founded on the ideal of love could allow such terrible things to be done to its own people is well advised to watch this film.




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