Monday, July 16, 2007

Hit 'Em Where It Hurts

I've been holding off writing about a movie I've seen recently, but only because I wasn't sure I could do it proper justice. I've actually started writing it twice, but scrapped both versions because it wasn't coming out right.

Considering the Archdiocese of Los Angeles just paid out 660 million dollars in their sexual abuse lawsuit, I want to give it another shot. Not because justice has finally been served. Far from it. And not because it's another chance for me to take cheap shots at the Catholic Church, although that's an opportunity I rarely pass up. It's because this movie has scarred me in such a way that I get angry whenever I see Roger Mahoney. If you click on that link to the news story you will see his picture. Just seeing him now causes a physical reaction in me. I fucking hate this guy.

Allow me to backtrack. I watched a documentary called 'Deliver Us From Evil' about a month ago that interviewed victims, Roman Catholic officials and other peripheral people that were directly involved in the abuse. It begins with an interview with the soft spoken, Irish lilted Father Oliver O'Grady who just happens to have sexually abused children throughout the state of California for nearly 30 years. It's one of many disturbing facades this film rips away for all to see. Some of our monsters are ingratiating, charming and likable to our faces while practicing the most hideous crimes against the most innocent of victims behind our backs.

Unfortunately, that's just the beginning. For when parents brought their fears about Father O'Grady's to the attention of the Catholic Church, the Archdiocese's solution was to transfer O'Grady to another Parish about 100 miles away. They did make O'Grady promise to never do it again, but we all know how addicts take to promises. Anyway, O'Grady continued to sexually abuse and sodomize children in his new Parish which brought criminal charges.

The the Archdiocese's solution was to transfer O'Grady to another Parish about 100 miles away. This is not a recording. Intermingled with the path O'Grady took was videotaped depositions with the Los Angeles Archdiocese upper echelon about their handling of O'Grady. Prominent in the depositions is one Cardinal Roger Mahony who's sense of entitlement and denial of knowing anything about O'Grady is nauseating. Hand written notes from Mahony to O'Grady offering support were presented and Mahony still 'couldn't recall' anything about the situation. By the time this movie was over, I was more angry with Mahony than O'Grady. Never before had I seen such a display of pomposity, feigned ignorance and annoyance before. Frankly, I don't expect to see it again, either.

O'Grady, on the other hand, is candid and open about his crimes and strikes me as someone who was looking for some sort of help and never got it. He never denies anything, even when he was officially charged or confronted by angry parents. He acts like a scolded child more than a monster.

This, by no means, excuses what he did. One of the more powerful aspects of this film is showing the ripple effects of his crimes. Heartbreaking interviews with parents of the children especially. The most memorable being one father breaking down in tears recounting when he figured out why his daughter never told him she was being abused by O'Grady. She was seven at the time and didn't tell him because he once said that he would kill anyone that hurt her. She asked a friend what would happen to someone if they killed someone and the friend told her they would go to jail for the rest of their lives. So, rather than tell her father about the abuse, she kept quiet to keep him from going to jail for the rest of his life. As a parent, I don't know if I could ever handle hearing this sort of thing. Sacrificing their own innocence because of their love for you. If I didn't already think so, my reaction would be the same as this father, who states near the end of the film, 'There is no God. No true God would let this happen to a child.'

But the true crime belongs to the Church. Instead of responding to the abuse in an appropriate manner, they tried to hide what was going on. Transferring O'Grady around the state, hoping he would see the error of his ways and crossing their fingers nobody else would come forward was hardly the right approach. As anyone in the Boston area can tell you, this seems to be standard operating procedure for the Roman Catholic Church. Couple that with some of O'Grady's victims, now adults, travelling to the Vatican to seek a meeting with the Pope, only to be turned away at the front gate and all hope of any sort of humanity, sympathy or empathy coming from the Church vanishes.

It's difficult for me to recommend this film. It's not exactly feel good viewing, but I think it's necessary. I didn't have a healthy dose of outrage regarding what happened, both here and in California until I watched this. Now I can't help it. Cardinal Mahony is the poster boy for all the arrogance, ignorance and 'holier than thou' attitude the Catholic Church has exhibited during these abuse allegations. Apologies (yes, he offers one) that are 20 years too late won't help.

Part of me hopes there is a Heaven and Hell; that the afterlife follows the rules of the Church. I just wonder what the punishment is for sacrificing the innocence and safety of children in order to protect your reputation.

Today's distraction (not that I'm in the mood now): The most ridiculous set of driving rules ever. This is how the Vatican spends it's free time?

No comments: