Manly Movie Moment: Becket Excommunicates Lord Gilbert

September 18, 2013

St. Thomas Becket was a man in search of honor. Throughout his early life, he was consumed by ambition and was a consummate politician. He was best friends with king Henry II of England, and his political skill strengthened the king’s reign immensely.

But when king Henry appointed St. Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury for his own political purposes, Becket became a changed man. For the first time in his life, he found something bigger than himself—something worth fighting for. His political ambitions evaporated, and he no longer cared for anything except defending the honor of Christ and his Church. While he strove to remain a faithful servant and friend of the king, his loyalties were put to the test when Lord Gilbert, a nobleman who was also friends with the king, captured and unjustly killed a priest. St. Thomas courageously chose to defend the rights of the Church in defiance of the king, excommunicating the rogue nobleman.

In the following powerful scene from the movie Becket, which I highly recommend, St. Thomas lays the ecclesiastical smack down on Lord Gilbert, cutting him off from the sacraments and for all practical purposes condemning him to hell for his unrepentant disobedience. Yes, they believed the sacraments were necessary for salvation back then, and we should too.

I could think of a few politicians that deserve this, but I won’t go there.

Sam Guzman


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Reader Interactions


  1. Stephen Donahue says

    The only problem I have with Becket is the scantily clad women and the inappropriate behavior of the king which happens in the first part of the movie. It is unwise to subject my sons to that kind of imagery, but the rest of the movie is great.

    • Spencer says

      I think it works because it shows the corruption that Becket faces and has to battle against. Then again it is good to make sure your kids are at the age where they can understand it properly.

    • Nicholas says

      If you removed what you believe to be “distasteful” from this film, you would lose the contrast of Becket’s court life experiences with his life as archbishop. The king tells a peasant to send his daughter to him for purposes of carnal pleasure. Becket sends her home. ALL saints have lived or stood in opposition to “something”. Remove the “something” from the narrative and you have sugary nothing. Ever been to the Vatican museums? Scantily clad Greek and Roman statues of men and women are on display all over the place. Nudity is found on the Sistine Chapel ceiling too. God made our bodies, and they are beautiful.

  2. keithp says

    I’m not a historian. (But, play one on TV… 🙂 But, from what I have read, Becket before his elevation by Henry was a pious man. It’s hard to picture Becket sexual dalliances as shown by this movie. Becket was known to wear a hair shirt and scourge himself as well. It’s very difficult to know what was going on in Becket’s head at the time. Even contemporaries commented on his change especially his resignation as chancellor.

    There a a couple of choice scenes from Paul Scofield in A Man for All Seasons that could easily apply here. There are several scenes in The Mission that could also be added. Rodrigo’s conversion. The final scene with Fr Gabriel eucharistic benediction while they are being killed and especially Rodrigo’s reading of I Corinthians 13. I’d also add the scene in Passion where Jesus reminices about a very simple yet very moving recolleciton of his time with his Mother.

  3. Benjamin says

    A great film, and a truly great Saint. I agree wholeheartedly about the film “The Cardinal.” The truth is that Cardinal Faulhaber had to be “encouraged” by Pope Pius XII to take a stance against the Anschlus and Nazi atrocities. Unfortunately this is one of the many truth’s of Pope Pius’s opposition to Nazi ideology that the secular media and society choose to ignore!

  4. Amfortas says

    You may not go there , but allow me. I find it astonishing that the Bishops and Archbishops of America have not excommunicated Pelosi and Biden. They wave their Catholicism like flags while deliberately and egregiously advocating gay marriage and baby-killing, and deceiving all Americans as to what Catholic Doctrine actually is and means. They increase protestant suspicion of Catholics. They are a disgrace to all Catholics, America and God.

    Pray for them.

    I am unsure about the permanence of excommunication. I can quite well understand its impact but Grace must be permitted to work, should God give it, and repentance should be encouraged so that the person can be brought back into the Body of Christ. Christ is the Ultimate Judge in these matters.

    As to the film: by the Lord Harry, Burton is a hammy actor. Hahaha. And did you get the right King Henry?? 🙂

  5. Michael Kieloch says

    There are quite a few “Catholic Gentleman”-worthy scenes in “Romero” about Archbishop Oscar Romero, especially the scene in which he marches into a church to save the Blessed Sacrament from desecration.

  6. Fredrik King says

    Indeed, this is one of my favorite Catholic films as well. The ritual of excommunication demonstrates one of the strengths of the Church, which is rarely mentioned, and that is the majesty of the Church itself. Loyal Catholics do not dance riotously (although there’s nothing wrong with dancing per se) before the altar or with snakes, or sing (or rather scream) in worship of the Lord. I once attended a Baptist funeral for a teacher who passed–I was her substitute in a Detroit school–and everyone seemed to think they were on a primitive version of “American Bandstand” instead of paying homage to God. Singing, in the Catholic Church, is joyful and majestic, a reflection perhaps, of the world to come.

  7. romcathds says

    I second the “Scarlet and the Black”, especially when he goes into the prison to hear his brother priest’s confession! How about “A Man for all Seasons”? St. Sir Thomas More (or St. Thoma S’More as my 6-year-old likes to call him, he thinks it is funnier that way) standing before Parliament with the courage of a lion, having done all to live so that his example might continue to speak to the king’s conscience and not believing himself worthy of martyrdom until the Lord calls him to it (“this is not the stuff of which martyrs are made” he tells his wife in prison). Or “The Robe” with Marcellus Gallio professing his faith before the Emperor with words supplied by the Holy Spirit and with such courage (spoiler alert) that his intended Diana chooses also to stand for Christ and walk into eternity with him — now there is true manhood doing what it is called to do, leading our spouses to their heavenly home!

  8. Ray says

    “In the following powerful scene from the movie Becket, which I highly recommend, St. Thomas lays the ecclesiastical smack down on Lord Gilbert, cutting him off from the sacraments and for all practical purposes condemning him to hell for his unrepentant disobedience. Yes, they believed the sacraments were necessary for salvation back then, and we should too.”

    I don’t see excommunication as condemning the person to Hell, because they can still repent and have the excommunication removed. Salvation or condemnation is between God and man alone. I prefer the notion that excommunication is an invitation to the sinner to repent. By cutting off Lord Gilbert from the sacraments, it is made patently clear to him that he needs to repent. Were he not excommunicated, he may not have noticed the gravity of his actions. Excommunicating an unrepentant sinner practically eliminates one’s chance to rationalize his actions and fail to see how they were gravely immoral acts that are deliberately against God’s will.

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