Friday, August 1, 2014

The Detective's Act of Contrition: "Forget about the doctor. Send for a priest."

Turner Classic Movies recently broadcast the 1951 movie, Detective Story, based on the Sidney Kingsley play, with Kirk Douglas in the title role. At the end of the movie, after his wife (Eleanor Parker) has left him, the protagonist, Detective McLeod, saves the rest of the policemen and suspects in the squad room from a criminal who shoots him with a gun grabbed from another cop's holster.

He knows he is dying and when his lieutenant starts to call for an ambulance, he says, never mind an ambulance, call for a priest. ("Forget about the doctor. Send for a priest.")The police have a local parish dialed up in seconds. While he suffers the agony of being shot in the gut, Detective McLeod offers a man accused of fraud a second chance, and prays that his wife Mary will forgive him--he asks one of his friends to find her and ask her to forgive him, and to help her as he had not been able to help her when she begged him.

Then he makes the Sign of the Cross with his bloody hand and begins to pray the Act of Contrition--but dies in the midst of praying it. His friend, Lou Brody, played by William Bendix, finishes the Act of Contrition for him. It's a powerful scene, and I was praying along with him.

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You,
and I detest all my sins, because I fear
the loss of heaven [that's when McLeod dies]
[Brody continues the prayer:] and the pains of hell,
but most of all because I have offended You, my God,
who are all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace,
to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life.

In the context of the movie, this scene marks a great change in the Detective's story: Detective McLeod has not been able to forgive anyone, offer mercy or leniency to his wife for her past sin (an abortion) or to a young man whom even his victim wants to forgive. Now he prays for mercy and forgiveness.

May we all receive the grace of final repentance; and as Father Zuhlsdorf would say on his blog: Go To Confession!


  1. Re-blogged this on


  2. How many eejits are praying I forgive and all the while promoting - without realising it - the very thing I am not forgiven because the offense is being repeated?

    If any offense was JUST committed decades ago, and NOT repeated up to this day, I am usually forgiving about it.

    When I was a teen I defended Irish nationalists in a dialogue with a Swedish, probably the guy who was a freemason. I mentioned unjustice of gerrymandering and a few more done to Catholics and I mentioned it was not just a question of inequality as such, or inequality offered as an insult to them for their religion, it was also an inequality initiated by the unjust invasions under Cromwell and James VI/I.

    His reaction was VERY revealing. He seems to think Irish Catholics ought to have forgiven the Battle of the Boyne - as if it was just a past offense, as if Bernadette Devlin just was frantic over an injury done to her nation centuries earlier which had never in any way hurt it since back then.

    How is that for ... I was back then ready to puke. And I am still so about people continuing or sympathising with those continuing offenses done to me SINCE 1996, when they suggest I forgive what happened BACK IN 1996 or 1998 as if nothing else since then had been an injury! In my life the invasion has not been one of Protestant "Sassenach", but of shrinks.