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'Evil' delivers a scalding indictment

It isn't often you get to meet the devil in all his glory, but here he is in "Deliver Us from Evil " (2006 ), and his name is Father Oliver O'Grady . A California priest who raped dozens of children from the 1970s until his arrest in 1993 -- and who now lives in Ireland, a free man -- "Father Ollie" was consistently protected by the diocese hierarchy, which moved him from one parish to another whenever complaints arose. Amy Berg 's scalding documentary wonders who's the greater sinner: the deeply sick man or the churchmen who knowingly allowed his reign of destruction to continue.

The film gives agonized voice to victims and their parents (and their attorneys), to theologians and child-abuse experts, and to the Rev. Thomas Doyle , who in 1985 warned the Vatican about the looming sex scandal and who has battled uphill on behalf of victims since. Most shockingly, though, "Deliver Us from Evil" lets us hear from O'Grady himself.

Interviewed by Berg in Ireland, the ex-priest is remorseful yet eerily disassociated from the immense swath of psychological damage in his wake. At one point, O'Grady sends a letter out to his victims, inviting them to Ireland so he can personally apologize. The deeper rage, of the victims and the film, is reserved for a Catholic hierarchy headed by Roger Cardinal Mahoney , now Archbishop of Los Angeles. Just in case you're unclear where his superiors stood on O'Grady: They offered (and he accepted) a lifetime pension in exchange for not testifying about their treatment of him.

Berg strains to make her larger case: that the sexual abuse of children by priests goes back to the fifth century, when celibacy was implemented by the church to get control of priestly assets. Interesting theory, but the evidence here is drive-by. Grander statements aren't needed when the specific indictments are so plentiful and so horrifying. (Lionsgate, $27.98)

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