Documentary: Priest and Predator

(Newsweek) Oct. 9, 2006 issue: “Deliver Us From Evil,” a gripping new documentary opening in theaters next week, profiles Father Oliver O’Grady, a convicted pedophile who spent 22 years molesting children in parishes throughout California, where he served as their priest. In the film, O’Grady describes his sexual attraction to boys and girls, and details how church authorities, including Roger Mahony, now head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, moved him from parish to parish. Other chilling moments include interviews with O’Grady’s victims, their families, and never-before-seen deposition testimony from Mahony, who denies knowing about O’Grady’s predilection. Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the L.A. Archdiocese, said in a statement that the film is nothing more than a “hit piece designed to cast the Archdiocese and Cardinal Mahony in the worst possible light.” Julie Scelfo spoke with Amy Berg, the film’s writer and director, who covered the sex abuse scandal for years as a freelance investigative producer.

How did you get O’Grady to speak with you?

I got his phone number and started calling him at his home in Ireland. He wanted to tell his story but he wasn’t sure how. We spoke every Sunday for five months until he finally decided he was ready to speak on camera.

Were you surprised by how easily he spoke of molesting children?

No, because he was like that on the phone straightaway … He was very jovial and polite, and he just seemed like he wasn’t that nervous about it. He had been holding this in for so long, and obviously he was ready to talk.

I heard the interviews made you physically sick.

You have to be so nonemotional and professional and not let anything in, but after a week of listening to someone talk about molesting children, specifically and graphically, I was overcome. I spent the last day of the trip holed up in my hotel room, unable to get out of bed.

Has Cardinal Mahony seen the movie?

I don’t think so. We provided a private screening to the church and five people showed up, but not Cardinal Mahony.

Do you think that Mahony should resign?

I do. And I don’t think putting him in Rome in charge of a bigger church-like [Boston’s] Cardinal Law was-is a solution, either.