Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Review: "Deliver Us From Evil," both the banal and the blithe

The pedophile-priest documentary, Deliver Us From Evil, deserves its Oscar nomination based on how well and how gut-wrenchingly it does its job. It takes the abstract reality in the newspapers - pedophile priests, anguished victims, and a Catholic hierarchy that facilitated their crimes through coverups and parish transfers - and turns all of them into real people. I don't know how practicing Catholics can watch this, I found some parts of it truly horrible.

Banality of evil is cliched, but you see it up close in the videotaped depositions of Bishop (later Cardinal) Mahoney and other Catholic higher-ups. At least twice they lied to police and to families, saying the particular priest in this documentary would be transferred away from contact with children, when he was just shuffled to an unsuspecting new parish. They weren't initially worried because the first molestation reports was with little girls, which wasn't all that deviant to them.

The pedophile, Oliver O'Grady, was blithe instead of banal in his evil. Intelligent but with no self-understanding and completely selfish, he agreed to participate in the documentary and admitted wrongdoing, but not its importance. He first wrote a letter to his victims suggesting a reconciliation meeting and is taped speculating on how well it would go, but later decided it wasn't convenient. He claims two random acts of priests molesting him as a child along with a lot of sexual involvement with siblings, but appears to think it wasn't that harmful, which may be the basis for his being blithe. I don't know whether to believe him. Some people might be able to move past molestation more easily than others, although he did far more than two acts to many of the children.

So it's hard to watch but very worth watching. Another reason why the American legal system isn't all that bad, as it's the civil trials that finally have started shaking up the Catholic hierarchy.

Yet another reason to watch is this negative member review at Netflix: "This piece of film is inflamatory and disgusting. Documentaries such as this fuel religious hatred throughout the non-Catholic community. Whether or not this particular story is true has little to do with the image that it creates, depicting the Catholic Church as something it is certainly not." (My emphasis). Make that reviewer unhappy, and watch it.


Also worth watching: The Woodsman, a fictional movie about a pedophile who's evolved partially, but only partially beyond O'Grady's level.

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