Sunday, September 27, 2009

Deliver Us From Evil

Amy Berg’s documentary on priestly child-abuse Deliver us from evil is extremely well done. Apart from occasional short statements up on the screen, there is no narration. Victims, their families, their helpers, a paedophile priest and excerpts from depositions by senior clergy speak for themselves.

So, watching it, one alternates between disbelief, horror, rage, sympathy and a certain numb awareness. Having read Betrayal, the Boston Globe book on the priest scandals, I was aware of the background but there is an immediacy to listening to the slow build up from families and victims, interspersed by comments with Oliver O’Grady (“Father Ollie”), a paedophile priest, which is very powerful.

The lack of narration and the slow build-up makes the recounted experiences more vivid. A psychologist who specialises in dealing with victims of clergy abuse pointed out the importance of the lack of sexual experience, and family ties, within the hierarchy in explaining the pattern of evasion and cover-up. A lawyer who has years on such cases tells us that, having spent 23 years listening to depositions, he has encountered evasion, deceit, lies and perjury from cardinals, archbishops, bishops and senior clergy.

A priest and canon lawyer who is an advocate for the victims and their families points out that the monarchical structure of the Church—and the ambition of members in it—is central to understand the cover-ups. The scapegoating of homosexual priests is mentioned in passing: the psychologist points out that most paedophiles are heterosexual. (That is, sexual interest in children of whatever gender is a different matter from the direction of adult sexual interest.) The point is also made that, as all sex was forbidden to priests, it was all just "bad sex": the nature of the victims did not differentiate in the eyes of the hierarchy.

Father O’Grady was a priest in California, in the diocese of Stockton whose Bishop—Cardinal-Archbishop of Los Angeles—was clearly ambitious for higher office and continued the pattern (seen again and again by Catholic hierarchs in cases of paedophile priests) of simply transferring O’Grady to a new parish every time there was a “problem”.

Deliver us from evil is a very powerful film about an appalling problem and deeply entrenched institutional moral failure.

No comments:

Post a Comment