This week, for a quiet night at home alone, I rented Deliver Us from Evil, a documentary about the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church that was released last year. Let’s just say, I didn’t sleep much that night.
Deliver Us from Evil is one of the most powerful films I have ever seen. I sat on the couch, frozen, hand over my mouth hanging agape, at what I was watching. The film chronicles the long and varied molestation career of Father Oliver O’Grady, an Irish priest who, each time his abuse of children was discovered, was quickly shuttled to yet another parish so he could abuse yet more children. His total number of victims, by his own estimates, numbers in the hundreds, and the youngest was a baby just nine months old.
The most compelling part of the film are the extensive interviews with O’Grady himself, who claims to want to make a “full confession” and yet is completely disassociated from the enormous evil that he has done. Full of equivocations and euphemisms, he clearly doesn’t get it.
But what affected me most as a mother was an interview with the father of one of O’Grady’s victims, recounting his reaction when he found out how his now-adult daughter had been violated. He asked her why she hadn’t told him about the abuse as it was happening. Because, she said. You told me if anyone ever hurt me that you would kill them. I asked another little girl what would happen if my dad killed someone, and she said you’d go to jail forever. So then I knew that I could never tell.
The father was racked with sobs as he recalled this part of the story. “I never, never should have said that,” he cried. His pain, his feeling that this had all been somehow his fault, is what has stayed with me most clearly from this deeply disturbing film.
My son Cooper is like that victim as a little girl. He listens to everything I say. Too carefully. And he takes it literally. I know I have to be careful with what I say to him, but hearing that story really made it hit home. Stephen Sondheim said it best: Careful the things you say. Children will listen.
Make it a point to see this film.