Father Oliver O’Grady is a parish priest straight from an old Bing Crosby movie, an Irishman with a soft brogue and a modest, gentle manner. Those attributes must have helped ingratiate him with the dozens of families whose children—including one 9-month-old baby—he molested over a period of 20 years, as church leaders studiedly turned the other cheek.
Deliver Us From Evil, the first feature-length documentary from director Amy Berg, is not one of your pass-the-popcorn date movies. It’s a howl of rage and a keen-eyed study of a subject that, unfortunately, never stops being news: the way institutional power acts as a shield under whose cover the strong can abuse the weak. When Dennis Hastert wakes up Monday morning, there should be a copy of this movie on his desk.
From 1973, when O’Grady’s first offense occurred, until he finally went to jail in 1993, he was shuttled from parish to parish in Central California, often after outraged parents were assured that he would be defrocked or at least removed from contact with children. Roger Mahony, the Los Angeles archbishop who oversaw O’Grady’s protection for decades, is now a cardinal in the Catholic Church. The film argues persuasively that Mahony orchestrated the O’Grady cover-up to protect his own career.