The new documentary Deliver Us From Evil describes Father Oliver O'Grady as "the most notorious pedophile in the history of the modern Catholic Church." O'Grady allegedly molested more than two dozen children—as young as nine months old—in his northern California diocese for more than two decades. The church, meanwhile, allegedly covered up O'Grady's crimes, lying to parishioners and law enforcement while shuffling the priest from parish to parish. O'Grady was eventually caught, convicted, and prosecuted, and spent seven years in prison before fleeing to Ireland as a relative unknown

Director Amy Berg

Director Amy Berg

Amy Berg, a CNN journalist who had done a story about abusive priests, wanted to explore the topic further. She spent eight days in Ireland, where O'Grady had fled after his prison term, interviewing the former priest in his neighborhood. In the film, O'Grady speaks of his sexual desires as calmly as if he were talking about a flower garden. Those candid interviews, combined with further reporting and interviews with O'Grady's victims, make up much of Deliver Us From Evil, now playing in limited theaters

Berg, who describes herself as a non-religious Jew, says she wants to tell the victims' stories and expose the ecclesiastical corruption that makes it possible for priests to continue preying on children. In this interview with Christianity Today Movies, Berg doesn't come across as having an anti-religion bias, but as one who is able to see the tragedy of clerical child abuse from a different vantage point

We're told that there is no cure for pedophilia and that predators simply do not repent. What was your take on O'Grady?

Amy Berg: We don't know if he's repentant or not, though he's really willing to talk. I think he's so used to receiving absolution that he sees himself as kind of above his deeds.

He doesn't use the word "rape" when he talks about his actions?

Berg: No, he doesn't. He says "inappropriate touching and fondling." He kind of goes around it.

People are surprised that you could get a convicted pedophile to speak on camera?

Berg: Me too. I've done a lot of stories on this and I've tried to talk to a lot of priests to try to understand the psychology behind it. He's the first one who didn't put his hand in my face and tell me to go away.

How do you think he'd respond to the film if he saw it?

Berg: I think honestly he would not dislike the film. I think it's an accurate depiction of him.

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In the film, he said his happiest times were when he was in jail. What do think he meant?

The pedophile priest, interviewed in a church

The pedophile priest, interviewed in a church

Berg: He was confined to a group of people who knew who he was, who all had similar problems. I think it's probably easier than when you are holding this secret that is so terrible. I'm just guessing.

He got caught a lot over all those years. You get the sense that when he talks about the disciplinary meetings that he almost wanted to get caught?

Berg: Yes. You see him writing confessional letters, then getting in trouble for it from his bishop. Going to therapy, telling his therapist about the molestation, the therapist going to the police, and then with the police involved, he's still not taken out. He'd been crutched by the church for so long he was just waiting for the ax to fall, I would imagine.

I got the sense that he was conflicted and he needed an answer. They [church leaders] would say, "Well try not to do that again. Stay in the church. You need to be in a spiritual environment." And many victims later he was arrested.

Does O'Grady see himself as part of the hand of God? Did you get the sense that he thinks he should still be a priest?

Berg: Oh, he definitely has that sense about himself. He has a huge sense of loss for not being a priest. The church was his everything.

When he prays "deliver us from evil," do you think that since he feels that God didn't protect him, that it's just his lot in life to be a pedophile?

Berg: That's an area that I don't want to get into because it's not me. I'm not religious, I'm not a Catholic, and I'm not a victim. But that's an interesting idea, that maybe that's how he's able to walk above everyone.

The last pope was beloved by the people, but it seems he didn't do anything about pedophile priests?

Berg: He was the pope for 33 years. I don't know how you can excuse this kind of inaction.

There's a powerful scene when one victim's father says he no longer believes in God, and his daughter, the victim, breaks down and weeps?

Berg: She crosses herself when she's at the Vatican. She's obviously still a Catholic.

What did you make of that?

Berg: She had nothing left. O'Grady has already taken everything away from her. Should he be able to take her faith away too? He's taken her wedding away, he's taken her innocence. She's probably not going to have children. She can't have a successful relationship. Why should she lose her faith and her church too?

There was some controversy about the trailer, which shows the faces of kids with their nametags?

Berg: Oh, I know. Lionsgate [the distributor] did not blur out the faces and names in the trailer. That's not in the film, [where] the faces and the names were blurred. We hired a woman in Ireland to shoot that sequence. I told her it was about a pedophile priest from Ireland. But the school said that she presented it as an anthropological study.

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O'Grady speaks offhandedly about his sexual desire for children. How did you handle the horror of what he was talking about?

Berg: I tried not to have feelings in that whole eight days that I was with him, because if I had feelings, it would get in the way of what I had come there to do. It's really difficult to listen to him talk about unbuttoning a little boy's pants and masturbating him. I disassociated from my interviews. As a journalist you have to do that sometimes, and I kept reminding myself that it was very important.

How did you feel personally having spent so much time with O'Grady? Did you feel soiled?

Berg: "Soiled" is an interesting word. At the end, I felt that I'd lost my sense of myself. I just shut down for a couple of days. I got sick. I was taking a lot in without breathing.

There's a creepy scene when O'Grady is walking around chatting with you, and he just strolls over to the school playground fence and looks in at the children playing. How did that scene come about?

O'Grady, on a neighborhood street in Ireland

O'Grady, on a neighborhood street in Ireland

Berg: Well, there are parks every few blocks in Ireland, and when there's a nice day, everyone's around. So, we were walking along, and all of a sudden, there's the school. I said, "There are children over there. What would you do in this situation?" And he goes, "Well, it's not bothering me at all right now. I mean, you guys are with me, and everything's fine. I can walk over." And, you know, he just showed us that in his mind it was no big deal. Now, had he been alone and there was no camera, who knows what he might have done? You would hope he would resist, but with five people around him, he didn't feel threatened by the children.

"Threatened by the children." That's an interesting way to put it?

Berg: The first day of filming, we went to a school, to show him sitting on desks in a big, empty room. Then it was recess and all these kids ran in. His face just went … you knew something was going on. It was only the second day after I met him, and I saw right away that he was really distracted by the children.

What was your reason for filming in the school?

Berg: We'd hired a set location person. The school was very visually appealing; the windows were big, lots of natural light. I thought it was an interesting setting for the interview. We weren't expecting to see the kids.

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Was there anyone at all watching over O'Grady in Ireland?

Berg: No.

So he just had free reign?

Berg: Nobody knew who he was. The local Catholic Church there said they weren't even notified. But that's hard to believe, isn't it? The church is an international organization.

What would you hope people would get out of this film?

Berg: I would hope that people would go to get help if they needed it. I would want them to be able to talk about it with their peers and not feel alone. These people all have this tragic story, and they all feel very isolated and alone. I'd hope that [church people] would accept people who were abused, you know: "We don't shun the victims."

Maybe it's too early to tell, but has anybody from a seminary talked to you about using this film as part of a curriculum?

Berg: We did a screening with a seminary in Boston. They were very receptive. There were priests, seminarians and survivors there. There's hope.

For more on the film, visit the official website.