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Review: Deliver Us from Evil (2006)

Deliver Us from Evil (2006)

Directed by: Amy Berg

Premise: A documentary about the Catholic Church’s child abuse crisis, focusing on the crimes of Father Ollie O’Grady, who abused dozens of children in a California diocese. 

What Works: Deliver Us from Evil is a stunning piece of work. It is expertly shot and edited and gives a complete overview of the legal, religious, historical, and political issues involved in the abuse and the cover up of that abuse. At the same time, the film foregrounds this expository information with profiles of O’Grady, his victims, and their families. The two elements fit together like puzzle pieces, one providing the context to why this happened and the other displaying the human devastation that the abuse has wracked on people’s lives. And the film is heartbreaking at many points but it is careful about not exploiting the plight of the victims and gives them a voice and an opportunity to attempt closure. Deliver Us from Evil is one of best examples in a documentary film of what Hannah Arndt called “the banality of evil.” The interviews with O’Grady are frightening when viewers try to reconcile the kindly image of this old man with his crimes against children, and the Catholic clergy’s cover up of his crimes and their re-abuse of the victims through deceit and intimidation is an enraging example of institutional violence. In fact, the cover-up is so insidious that by the end of the documentary, O’Grady has in some ways taken the moral high ground over the high-ranking members of the church clergy who protected him.

What Doesn’t: This is a difficult documentary to watch. Although that should not shy anyone away from watching it, viewers should be aware that it is emotionally wrenching and is not what is normally considered a “feel good” movie.

DVD extras: Commentary tracks, extended interviews, trailers.

Bottom Line: Deliver Us from Evil is an important documentary to understanding the depth and breadth of the Catholic Church abuse crisis and it is also worthwhile viewing for understanding how systems of power can becomes dangerous.

Episode: #283 (April 11, 2010)