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Local moviegoers shocked by clergy abuse in O'Grady movie

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Posted: Friday, November 3, 2006 10:00 pm

JoAnn Heckenlaible isn't Catholic, but she knew many children who attended St. Anne's Catholic Church in the 1970s, when Oliver O'Grady was a priest in Lodi.

Knowing those children compelled her to see "Deliver Us From Evil," a documentary about O'Grady, who sexually abused untold numbers of children during the seven years he was at St. Anne's and 22 years he served in the Stockton Diocese.

"I think it's a good thing they had this movie," Heckenlaible said after the 11:35 a.m. showing Friday at Lodi Stadium 12. "I think more needs to be done to make more people aware."

"Deliver Us From Evil," directed by former CBS and CNN reporter Amy Berg, features detailed interviews with O'Grady near his home in Ireland and from several of his victims. One of them was Ann Jyono, who grew up at St. Anne's and graduated from Lodi High School. Jyono, 40, tells about O'Grady sexually abused her between the ages of 5 and 12.

"It was disturbing; it's so local," said Emi Fujii, one of several Stockton residents who drove up to Lodi to see the movie, which drew 27 patrons for the showing, the first of five on Friday. "I wonder if there were victims in the audience who never came forward."

O'Grady, 61, was a priest at St. Anne's from 1971 to 1978. He later served at parishes in Stockton, San Andreas, Turlock and Hughson.

O'Grady pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual abuse in Calaveras County in 1993. He spent half his 14-year sentence at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione and was then deported to Ireland shortly after being paroled in 2000. He is rumored to have recently fled Ireland for Canada.

"One of the basic tenets of Christianity is forgiveness," said Michael Holt, a former Catholic from Mokelumne Hill. "This really pushes that boundary to the limit."

Holt and a friend, June Davies, saw the movie because they know the family of an O'Grady abuse victim from Calaveras County who appears in the latter part of the film.

"Even St. Peter would have to wince at what's going on at his church," Holt said.

Davies, who isn't Catholic, said that "Deliver Us From Evil" is a good movie. She was also surprised that Berg got as many people as she did to talk so candidly.

"It's a form of embarrassment," she said.

Lodi resident Ray Norman, who attends St. Anne's and other churches, said every priest should be required to see the movie.

Show times

"Deliver Us From Evil" is showing at the following times at Lodi Stadium 11 this weekend:

11:35 a.m.
2:50 p.m.
5:10 p.m.
7:40 p.m.
10 p.m.

Pedophiles like O'Grady are destroying the Catholic church, Norman said. With so many pedophile priests, the good, dedicated work of many priests are hindered, he added. Norman's brother is a priest who has operated an orphanage in Mexico for 30 years.

Stockton resident Linda Morales, who isn't Catholic, saw "Deliver Us From Evil" because she has been hearing about O'Grady for years and because he was a priest in Lodi and Stockton. She remarked how normal O'Grady looks despite being a pedophile.

Holt considers O'Grady much more than a child molester.

"He's a serial rapist," Holt said. "It goes way beyond the theory of good and bad. It's one of the reasons I stopped being a Catholic."

Morales said she feels for O'Grady's victims and their emotional trauma.

"They didn't get any real justice - only seven years (in prison)," she said.

Stockton resident Lillian Sander watched the film because she was a Catholic when she lived in San Jose.

"There's a lot of corruption in the Catholic church," Sander said. "I found that Jesus is my savior, and not the church."

Davies disputed previous comments by some St. Anne's members that O'Grady's abuse happened years ago and has nothing to do with what's going on locally.

"It's happening today," said Davies, from Mokelumne Hill. "It will happen as long as they're celibate."

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

First published: Saturday, November 4, 2006

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