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Friday, November 10, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Deliver Us from Evil": An unforgiving look at an unforgivable sin

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3.5 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Deliver Us from Evil," a documentary by Amy Berg. 101 minutes. Rated R for sex-related dialogue. Varsity.

For an interview with director Amy Berg, see the Nov. 7 Northwest Life section or go to www.seattletimes.com/movies.

Watching Amy Berg's powerful documentary "Deliver Us from Evil" is a wrenching experience; her subjects reveal to the camera almost unbearable levels of anguish, and its audience walks away feeling both numbness and rage. It's the story of a soft-voiced monster, a priest named Oliver O'Grady, who during several decades in Northern California abused dozens of children while church officials moved him from parish to parish, covering his crimes. Three of those victims, now adults, speak in this documentary; most shockingly, O'Grady (now defrocked and, at the time of filming, living in his native Ireland) does, too.

Berg, a former CNN journalist, traveled to Ireland to interview O'Grady, filming him bathed in the dusty light of an ancient church, or in the sunshine of a public park filled with laughing children. The settings seem a bit over-the-top, but they make an emphatic point: O'Grady, who served seven years of a 14-year prison sentence (for "lewd and lascivious acts" with two preteen boys) and was subsequently deported, is living the life of a free man. He smiles pleasantly while explaining that he is sexually aroused by children; of his crimes, he says they "should not have happened," but expresses hope that his victims might one day shake his hand and wish him well.

Meanwhile, the survivors of his abuse seem imprisoned, trapped and haunted by their memories. Bob Jyono, whose daughter Ann was one of O'Grady's early victims, speaks with a face contorted by pain. "How could that happen?" he gasps, speaking of the horror of learning of his daughter's abuse, which began when Ann was 5 and continued for many years. Ann didn't tell anyone until decades later, Jyono tells the camera chokingly, because as a child she was afraid that her father would kill the priest and be sent to jail. "He's not a pedophile," says Jyono, contemptuous of the clinical term that seems to distance O'Grady's crimes. "He's a rapist." A sad-eyed Ann, now 40, says bitterly, "The church has destroyed me and my family."

Berg puts a variety of voices into the mix; along with the victims, we see deposition footage from O'Grady and his superior, then-Bishop Roger Mahony, who squirmingly claims that he knew nothing of any cover-up. Lawyers representing the victims speak of their cases; a psychologist speaks about the prevalence and causes of clergy sex abuse.

And while the Catholic Church declined to comment for the film, one of its own emerges from "Deliver Us from Evil" as a hero. Father Tom Doyle, a priest, church historian and longtime victims advocate, speaks movingly with the abuse survivors and inspires hope for change from within. A good Catholic, he says, "is in the model of Jesus Christ — a revolutionary not afraid to speak the truth." In this very dark but important documentary, he's a stalwart beacon of light.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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