Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"Deliver Us From Evil"

I just saw this documentary, "Deliver Us From Evil," directed by Amy Berg. My friend and neighbor Matt told me about it a couple days ago - I thought I had seen it, but the way he described it, I wasn't sure. Yesterday, he came by the house, library dvd in hand. That's how strongly he felt about me watching it. Here it is, Beth. A seven-day rental. Be sure to watch it this week.

It is about the Catholic church - sex abuse in the Church. It was out in 2006. I'd confused it with a book by a similar title.

I've seen a different documentary - a really good one - filmed in Boston. This one, though - based in Los Angeles, about Cardinal Mahoney and abuser Oliver O'Grady - pulls together all the pieces in such a masterful way. The children, their parents, an abuser willing to be interviewed, the hierarchical cover-ups... The lawyers, the expert... All the pieces. I listened to the interviews and could see the spontaneous comments as though part of a script. Sadly, it is a part of a script - a bigger story - the same story, over and over... of valuing appearances over the protection of children, of covering up the cover up... The details in this documentary only emphasize what I've said before - the surprise isn't that the abuse scandal includes behavior by the Pope. The surprise is that people are surprised by that.

It was interesting to see men that I know, in the film. There was John Manly, and the Manly Law Firm from the Los Angeles area, who have co-counseled cases with me. There was Patrick Wall - I love Patrick - who is a former Benedictine monk and an expert in canon law, and who is on staff at John's law firm. And there was Tom Doyle - Father Doyle, a Dominican priest, the whistleblower. A rock star, in this world of SNAP (survivors network of those abused by priests). It was Father Doyle who told the U.S. bishops back in the mid-1980s that they had a crisis on their hands - that they needed to address sexual abuse by priests before it got really out of control. They didn't listen to him. Indeed, they demoted him. And then - nothing, until Boston erupted in 2002...

Most powerful, for me, was Bob Jyono, whose daughter Ann, now an adult, was one of the 100s abused by Oliver O'Grady. Mr. Jyono speaks little through much of the documentary. His wife does much of the talking for them. But then is his description of how he called his daughter Ann to ask her - after O'Grady had been arrested for abusing other children - if O'Grady had ever touched her. She said yes. His face crumples in tears as he remembers, and then it sets deep in defiance as he describes the details of that conversation, and its aftermath. He is a man who converted to the Catholic faith, who was betrayed by his adult choices. At one point, he explains that he asks his daughter why she never told him about the abuse. She says it was because he had always said that he would kill anyone who harmed her - that she remembers asking a friend what would happen if her father killed someone, and the friend saying that he would go to jail forever, and how she resolved right then not to tell anyone about the priest's abuse, because she knew her father would kill the priest if she told. "I was wrong," her father says, to threaten life like that, even in hyperbole. "I feel guilty," he confesses, for having unknowingly erected that barrier to truth. But then he says what we all know - that it is not his fault to want to protect his daughter. It is the fault of the church, for ever exposing his daughter in the first place to this known pedophile.

The creepiest moment comes when Oliver O'Grady, the pedophile priest, speaks of wanting to bring the abused children - now adults - to his home in Ireland so that they all can sit down and talk. I know O'Grady is doing something that he thinks is the right thing to do. But it's just so creepy and controlling the way he goes about doing it, like he wants to hold court one last time. He writes letters to the victims, explaining what he wants from them - wants from them, as though he has any rights here. Had he put the letter in the context of an offer to do whatever the children-now-adults want, including meeting with him (rather than telling them that meeting with him is the solution)...

But the thing is - he's sick. He can't see it any other way. Or so I imagine. (It turns out that, as a child, he himself was abused by priest, as well as by his own brother.) This is why my anger for the abuse suffered by people at the hands of sick priests has almost uniformly been reserved for the hierarchy. The pedophile priests are sick, under a compulsion. It was the hierarchy that knew better, and had the faculties to do better. (This documentary helps demonstrate all that.)

The documentary ends on a discouraging, while simultaneously uplifting, note. (There are silver linings to dark clouds.) Watch it and see. And I love, love the music at the end - "Hallelujah," by Leonard Cohen. In fact, I have been playing Justin Timberlake's version of that song - that he played at the Hope for Haiti Telethon, back in January - as I type this summary. Here's a link to it. The song always makes me cry. This documentary - it has the same effect. Song or no song. The heartbreaking stories, the missteps that led to 100s, 1000s, to be abused.... and those same men, being still in power... with no real consequences to their actions.... as though they lack not just compassion, but the capacity for it...

It makes eminent sense when Mr. Jyono - the father I describe above - says near the end of the film that he does not believe in God. How can anyone go through all that, and not at least wonder? And yet - I wanted to cry with his daughter Ann, as he said it. I too wanted him to have at least some hope, still, that there's a God. To not let those men steal that too.

it's not a cry that you hear at night
it's not somebody who's seen the light
it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

hallelujah, hallelujah
hallelujah, hallelujah


green libertarian said...

OMG that song is haunting.

Wanted to tell you I was exploring the Corbin Art Center area, and Marycliff and came across your office.

What a beautiful setting and office. Made my way up to Cliff Park for the sunset yesterday.

Beth Bollinger said...

Hi, GL. Just saw this. Isn't it a beautiful setting? Presumably you stopped by to say hello and I wasn't there... And yes - I love that song.