By Dryw Keltz
The church in question is the Catholic church, and the reason for its stumble is numerous child molestation charges brought against its priests. In "Deliver Us From Evil," the priest in question is Father Oliver O'Grady.
O'Grady was accused numerous times from the mid-1970s through the 1980s of such actions. In one of the film's most disturbing moments, it is revealed that O'Grady's youngest victim was only 9 months old.
Amazingly enough, O'Grady actually agreed to be interviewed for this documentary. On screen, O'Grady admits to his wrongdoings, and says that his actions certainly were an abuse of his power and trust as an official of the church, but his testimony comes across as oddly cold and lacking true remorse. It's as if O'Grady expects that his simple admission of such actions automatically erases his guilt and the effects of the crimes.
What writer/director Amy Berg does so expertly in this film is juxtapose the the attitudes of the victims and the perpetrator. Beyond the actual victim, Berg shows with stunning clarity how the victim's entire family is permanently altered for the worse when such crimes are committed.
Whereas O'Grady seems capable of shrugging off his crimes as bygones from the past, his victims seem to be living their repercussions daily. Perhaps most telling of this situation is a couple, Bob and Marie Jyono, whose daughter, Ann, was molested by O'Grady in the mid-1970s. Then a young couple, Bob and Marie granted enormous trust to O'Grady, whom they even allowed to sleep over at their house on numerous occasions.
Unbeknownst to them, O'Grady was raping, as Bob Jyono cries out in one tearful recollection, their grade-school-age daughter.
It took years for Ann to disclose what O'Grady had done because she feared that if she revealed what had happened, her father would kill O'Grady. In another tearful recollection, Bob Jyono relates how he told his daughter that if anyone ever tried to hurt her, he would kill them.
Fearful that her father would go to jail after finding out what O'Grady had done, Ann held out on telling her father until O'Grady had struck another young victim. She only revealed what had happened when her father asked her if any similar events had ever occurred between her and O'Grady.
This is very, very heavy material with numerous onscreen breakdowns from O'Grady's many victims. As the film progresses, O'Grady's calm presence becomes increasingly infuriating, especially when you factor in the true bombshell that is eventually revealed in "Deliver Us From Evil."
Though it is certainly nauseating and disturbing to think that many priests molest young children, it is also somewhat common knowledge these days. What "Deliver Us From Evil" slowly reveals is how the Catholic church is trying to cover up many allegations. In the case of Father O'Grady, he has bounced back and forth between different parishes, usually no more than 50 miles apart, as allegations against him surfaced.
When he was removed from one parish, the accusers were told he was no longer working as a priest. The reality of the situation was that the church had simply moved him to a different parish in the same or similar position, and neglected to tell his new congregation of the prior criminal allegations.
Coming out of this entire debacle as a minor hero is Thomas Doyle. Doyle is a Catholic lawyer who also happens to be an ordained priest. His mission seems to be to expose and, most importantly, fix a problem that is obviously a major issue for the church at the moment.
His tireless effort has been a struggle as the church seems reluctant to admit that there is actually any problem to fix. In the film's emotional finale, Doyle takes two of O'Grady's victims to the Vatican to hand-deliver a letter to the Pope expressing their grief and pain.
The trio are blocked by security guards at the entrance and are not even allowed on the grounds. In essence, the two former victims are once again victimized as they are shunned by the church.
Besides the disturbing nature of its subject and his many, self-admitted instances of molestation, "Deliver Us From Evil" is also unnerving in how far it shows a church can slip.
"Deliver Us From Evil" is playing at Landmark La Jolla Village Cinema.