- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

Father Oliver O’Grady looks like the kind of priest anyone would welcome into his or her home.

He’s handsome in a ruddy sort of way, speaks with a whiff of a quaint Irish brogue and boasts a ready laugh.

The former priest used all those attributes, as well as surprising aggression, to find and fondle dozens, if not hundreds, of young parishioners.

Father O’Grady’s tale is the catalyst for “Deliver Us From Evil,” a brutal indictment of the Catholic Church’s approach to in-house pedophiles.

Writer-director Amy Berg’s account of Father O’Grady’s transgressions is a stunning portrait of evil. Miss Berg’s bigger picture, a blanket accusation against the Catholic Church’s power structure, is less definitive but only by a few shadings. The Catholic Church didn’t cooperate with the filmmaker but speaks indirectly via Father O’Grady’s own revelations and depositions filed by his fellow clergy in his case.

Audiences will make up their own minds, but it’s hard to imagine anyone leaving the theater more sympathetic to the church than when they entered.

Miss Berg’s documentary traces Father O’Grady’s career through multiple Northern California hamlets. Along the way, she introduces some of his victims. Now adults, the men and women detail the events leading up to the molestations. They often are very innocent encounters at first, and one can hardly blame the youngsters’ parents for exposing them to the affable priest.

Father O’Grady didn’t discriminate in his tastes. Boys. Girls. Toddlers as young as 9 months of age. Their lives were all damaged by his desires.

Every time his deeds threatened to spill beyond the church’s reach, superiors shifted him to another unwitting community.

Miss Berg tells her story with a firm yet gentle hand, guiding us through its tragic steps without losing our trust. When the pain suffered by Father O’Grady’s victims and their families finally is released, it’s overwhelming.

Watching one of the parents, a reserved father, dissolve on camera from rage at Father O’Grady’s actions may be the most poignant screen moment this year.

That anger eventually shifts to the church itself, which, according to court testimony and other documents, abetted not just Father O’Grady but other priests with similar passions.

Not everyone is a villain in “Evil.” We also meet some remarkable folks, including a theologian who pleads for more openness from the church.

But it all goes back to Father O’Grady. He spends his extensive screen time supplying miles of rope with which to hang himself. It’s fascinating to watch — and simultaneously repulsive, especially because it’s clear he derives unsavory pleasure from recounting his many abuses.

He was convicted in 1993 on four counts of lewd and lascivious acts on minors, was defrocked by the church, served seven years in prison and was deported to Ireland after his release.

***1/2

WHAT: “Deliver Us From Evil”

RATING: NR (Adult language and mature themes)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Amy Berg.

RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes

WEB SITE: www.deliverusfromevilthemovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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