catholic chaplain

The Historical Ronald Knox & the Ten Commandments of Detective Fiction

 Could this guy:

Be a nod to this guy?:

Quite possibly! 

The historical Ronald Knox was born in England, in 1888. He grew up in an Anglican household and became an Anglican chaplain at the age of 24. Just five years later, he converted to Catholicism (getting disowned by his father) and was ordained as a priest. He converted to Catholicism because his family’s brand of Protestantism was too “old-fashioned”:

He’s best known for four things he’s done, plus he’s related to someone known for something else quite interesting (to Black Butler analysis). Let’s look at these:

Writing and codifying rules for detective fiction. 

While working as a Catholic chaplain at Oxford, he wrote numerous detective novels. He belongs to the Golden Age of Detective Fiction and codified the “Ten Commandments” of detective writing:

The funny thing here, is Yana-san has broken EVERY SINGLE ONE of these commandments (well, basically…)!

Here they are again. Let’s look at them, one by one:

Knox’s “Ten Commandments” (or “Decalogue”) are as follows:

  1. The criminal must be mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to know. Well, there are so many criminals, from arc to arc, but the earl and his butler are also criminals, basically, and we do get their thoughts, mostly the earl’s…. However, if you consider just the Phantomhive Murders arc, there are three real culprits. Charles Grey is introduced early on, we don’t know his thoughts, and he’s the guy who kills Georg Siemens (and tries to kill Sebastian). Mr. Woodley is mentioned early in the arc, we don’t know his thoughts except what he says, and though he’s falsely arrested for the murder of Georg Siemens, he’s actually the murderer behind the death of Mr. Roze… someone who didn’t attend the party at Phantomhive Manor. Third, we have Snake; he was not introduced as a player in this arc; he’s the real “13th person”, an uninvited guest whose identity is only revealed at the very end of the arc (and only to the earl, not to anyone else at the party). He’s the other murderer.
  2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course. HA! Though medieval theologians define the workings of devils, astral beings, and spirits as preternatural, not supernatural, we can clearly say that events beyond “natural” occur quite frequently in this story.
  3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable. In the Phantomhives Murder arc, Charles Grey says that his house has at least one secret passage for quick getaway. In the Green Witch arc, Sieglinde has a secret passage that leads to where she writes out her “spells” (chemical formulae). At the end of the Noah’s Ark Circus arc, John Brown and Double Charles use some special passage (a possibly preternatural method) in order to catch up with the earl and Sebastian (definitely using preternatural means) at Baron Kelvin’s mansion. Another possible secret passage (also possibly preternatural) is used during the Green Witch arc, as Sebastian’s test samples arrive at Windsor Palace way sooner than they should (Double Charles discuss how odd it is), and John Brown arrives with the test results way too quickly (and apparently on foot, beside his horse, no less).
  4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end. Though mustard gas and sarin gas were being developed during the Victorian era, we are introduced to “Sulin” (in the Green Witch arc), a gas that is probably (historically) derived from the term “sarin”, but we learn about it at the same time its inventor is let in on the truth… and “Sulin” comes from her own name. I’m not sure whether to call it an appliance, but perhaps an application – during the Campania arc, we get a fake scientific explanation from Rian Stoker about how the Bizarre Dolls supposedly work, and how the machine is supposed to control/deactivate them; truth is the machine does nothing. If there are devices installed in their brains, like he says there are, they are only for Undertaker’s amusement. In the same arc, Undertaker has to explain how he manipulates the cinematic records of corpses in order to reanimate them as Bizarre Dolls; it’s not really science, though, but preternatural again. In the Weston arc, Undertaker explains how he’s advanced his studies and improved upon the Bizarre Dolls. And this is just so far….
  5. No Chinaman must figure in the story. Um, Lau… and Ran-Mao. Enough said.
  6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right. This one I had to think about. There must be several occasions, but the one that most comes to mind is in the Weston arc when Soma rides off on his elephant, and the elephant gets spooked by what later turns out to be Agni hiding in the bushes. The spooked elephant causes damage to the Red House dorm, giving Soma a chance to get to know (spy on) Maurice Cole. What Soma learns gives the earl all he needs to know in order to expose Cole as a fraud.
  7. The detective himself must not commit the crime. Hmm. Well, like I said before, the earl and Sebastian commit several crimes. However, it’s up in the air who has committed the crimes the earl is trying to uncover, ultimately. However, it’s oddly hinted at that the earl’s birth, itself, is the crime that caused all this to be set in motion. That’s up for serious debate; we won’t know how that bit plays out until the very end, I’m sure.
  8. The detective is bound to declare any clues which he may discover. Though we think the earl and Sebastian declare the clues as they find them, we cannot be certain that ALL clues are being divulged. In fact, we could say they are hiding major clues from the very start! The earl knows whether he had a twin brother. They both know whether the earl’s real name is Ciel or something else. The earl doesn’t care where Sebastian came from, who his previous master was, or what he did for that master; we don’t know whether this would be of any pertinence, but it could be; Sebastian isn’t offering any info on his past, either way. We know the earl lies. We know that even though Sebastian does not directly lie, he does withhold information and does other deceitful things (like hide cats in his room {Phantomhive Murders arc}… and get info in ways other that expected/directed by the earl {Noah’s Ark Circus arc, sorry, Beast}).
  9. The “sidekick” of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal from the reader any thoughts which pass through his mind: his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader. Though we do often get to see Sebastian’s perspective of things, he hides a lot from the reader, particularly what he finds so disagreeable/amusing when the earl refers to himself as “Ciel”. I’m in the camp that believes the earl lies about his name and identity, so I think this is the main reason Sebastian reacts this way. There are other things we don’t know about, things Sebastian thinks but does not express, like (in the Blue Sect arc) his true emotions when he’s called out for not having the protection of a star; we see the expression on his face but don’t know his thoughts. Now, Sebastian can be an absolute dork and even rather immature, at times, but he’s not less intelligent than the average reader…. Nothing against the average reader, but Sebastian is freaking intelligent.
  10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them. Guh fufufu….! Well, I’d like to claim that this is the one Yana-san is actually following, since I think we have been prepared for this, but…. A lot of readers are going to be caught completely off-guard when the real Ciel shows up (in some form), and the earl is exposed as being, well… NOT Ciel. Oh, and then there’s S2 of the anime, in which a lookalike brother for Fred Abberline shows up, even though, in S1, Abberline says he has no siblings; that clearly breaks this rule.

Translating the Latin Vulgate bible into English.

As a Catholic priest, he took it upon himself to do his own English translation of the Latin Vulgate bible, and it’s considered one of the most “beautiful” English-language translations, simply known as the Knox Bible.

Creating one of the first on-air hoaxes of all-time.

In 1926, Ronald Knox used his program on BBC radio to play a hoax on unsuspecting Brits. It ended up inspiring Orson Welles to play his famous “The War of the Worlds” hoax, years later.

Wrote satirical essays.

Ronald Knox got in some humorous action by writing several satirical essays, too (from Wikipedia):

An essay in Knox’s Essays in Satire (1928), “Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes”, was the first of the genre of mock-serious critical writings on Sherlock Holmes and mock-historical studies in which the existence of Holmes, Watson, et al. is assumed. Another of these essays, The Authorship of “In Memoriam, purports to prove that Tennyson’s poem was actually written by Queen Victoria. Another satirical essay, “Reunion All Round”, mocked the fabled Anglican tolerance in the form of an appeal to the Anglican Church to absorb everyone from Muslims to atheists, and even Catholics after murdering Irish children and banning Irish marriage and reproduction.

Related to (brother of) E.V. Knox.

Why’s that matter? E.V. Knox was the editor for Punch, a publication that the earl says he also reads… when Arthur is surprised that the earl reads Beeson’s Christmas Annual (Phantomhive Murders arc). Recall that the 1887 issue of Beeson’s Christmas Annual is what published Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story, “A Study in Scarlet”. 

Funny: the very first issue of Punch shows Punch hanging the devil:

Quite interesting, yes??

Interesting Choice For Mural Art In Northern Ireland Found on Twitter- Location Glenbryn Park 

Irish Confederates were not as numerous as those who fought for the Union; an estimated 150,000 Irish served in the Union Army while only 30,000 served in the Confederate Army. Of the 425 Confederate generals, six were Irish. There were more Irish among the colonels, and they served in various positions, but many more Irish served in lower ranks - some in the Confederate Navy. One of the most famous Irish Catholic chaplains was Father John B. Bannon, also known as the “fighting chaplain.” Many of the hardest-fighting units included Irish within their ranks. The casualty rates were higher among the Irish than among other groups; these soldiers typically refused to give up where others would retreat. 

Source:  Irish Confederates: The Civil War’s Forgotten Soldiers
Phillip Thomas Tucker

Tracked Original Pic to Flickr-

I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your email, my husband coughed to death two years ago

Hi, today seems like a good day to answer some frequently asked questions.

Q: Are you marking any significant anniversaries today?

A: Yes, yes I am! Today is the second anniversary of Steve’s death.

Q: Who is Steve?

A: Steve was my husband uh DOI.  

Q: Urm, now I feel bad for not knowing that.

A: It’s fine.  At the two year point I find myself having to make more and more choices about whether or not I immediately blurt out HEYDIDYOUKNOWI’MAWIDOWTHAT’SMYFUNFACT!!!!!!!  People in my life are less likely to have been around then and more likely to need to be briefed on this backstory.  This is extremely annoying because after two years, I still don’t have a better way to relate this information than all caps-no spaces shouting.  

But beneath that, it’s actually a super awesome thing, because it means that my world has gotten so much bigger in these two years. I’ve met a lot of people, and done a lot of things that I maybe only mildly imagined doing before.  

Q: Dude, that sort of makes it sound like you’re glad Steve died.

A: I’m not, and that’s kind of a dick thing to say.


A: Ha ha, SIKE! I’m just fucking with you.  I’m not glad Steve died, not even a little.  He has missed SO MUCH COOL SHIT.  He missed the opening with Cuba, which he would have been really stoked about. He’s missing an equality revolution in spaces around gender and sexual identity, race, police power, capital, and class.  He’s missing whatever they’re doing with Hine over at Eastern Market. He’s missing Claudia’s turbulent adolescence.  He’s missing BERNIE SANDERS ELIZABETH WARRREN AND LAWRENCE LESSIG ‘NUFF SAID.  

Also, I’m missing him. Obviously. A lot. BUT: I have a cousin who’s also a widow, and she told my sister that she’s not sure if she’d bring her husband back. Which sounds TOTALLY CRAZY to other people, BUT: When you experience a loss like this, you get to see a really wild new amount of life.  Suddenly the parameters of the type of sad you can feel, or the type of happy you can feel is busted open.  The spectrum from happy to sad isn’t a foot wide anymore – it’s as far as your arms can stretch and then to the edges of the room and then up the block and over into the next ANC.

So I am not happy that Steve died. But I am happy a lot of the time, which I didn’t really anticipate on this day two years ago.

Q: What happened on this day two years ago?

A: Good question! While probably most people know that I am a widow, probably not a ton know what went down. Pretty much no one knows exactly what went down, because I don’t even know what happened.  

What I do know is that for a couple of weeks, Steve had what we thought was a summer cold.  Some coughing, some sneezing. Then he started a new job, and felt like that stress was compounding the illness – but it didn’t occur to either of us that this was a thing that was more than just something passing.  He certainly didn’t think it was worth taking a sick day during his first week of work.

That Friday he came home from work REALLY REALLY sick. He’d barely been able to drive. I made him get up off the couch and go to an urgent care. The doctor there gave him an antibiotic and said “it’s either the flu or it’s not, so this will either work or it won’t.”  We went to CVS and got the scrip filled right as they were closing. I had to pull a cry face to get them to fill it, and when I got back to the car I was pretty proud of myself for badgering them into doing it – I told Steve that “bitches get shit done.”  Tina Fey went on to steal this line from me. (Right? I’m pretty sure that’s how that went down, but my memory isn’t great.)

Steve didn’t sleep very well that night. Around 5 a.m. he couldn’t sleep, so we woke up and watched some 30 Rock together. (The degree to which Tina Fey figures into this story is now only being revealed to me now, two years later.) I went back to sleep.  Around 9 a.m. I made my way up to Eastern Market to get groceries, and when I got back, Steve came down the stairs, carrying a bunch of his sick dude things – probably some Kleenexes, his thermometer, a seltzer can.  I joked about him doing a Rachael Ray carry. Then he started coughing.

I don’t remember the sequence of events very well. He was sitting on the couch at one point and I encouraged him to cough it up, whatever it was.  At one point he went into the kitchen and looked out the glass door to the patio, and said “Oh fuck.”

He started coughing blood and I went to get him a bowl, and then said “that’s it, I’m calling 911.”  And then he collapsed onto his knees, and fell on the ground.

The 911 operator wasn’t super helpful. I kept asking if I should do CPR and she kept asking if he was responsive, if he was breathing. I was surprised by how hard it was to tell.  At one point I pulled on his ear to see if he would respond.  I turned him on his side and tried to clear his airway.  I cajoled the 911 operator, but weirdly, in the moment, I was really focused on being polite. Like, using a ton of please and thank you, as if that would make the fire truck get up Florida Avenue faster.  Finally, after a couple of minutes, I heard the sirens and the operator said to me “well, let me just make sure that’s for you.” Because, Welcome to DC, District Slogan: Those Sirens Might Not Be For You.

The EMTs cut off his shirt and intubated him, but they didn’t shock him.  They used a machine to tell them whether or not to do it, and the machine said “don’t.” I don’t know if it was “don’t bother” or “you don’t need to.” I don’t know if they knew this wasn’t going to end well or not. They asked me how old he was, which I assume was to gauge whether to keep working or not.

Once we were in the ambulance, I asked where we were going and one of the EMTs just sort of nodded “no” to me, and indicated I should hold on.  It felt like we sat there for a long time, trying to figure out what was happening. I struggled to call my parents with my cellphone – which was, ironically a recurring nightmare for me.  That something was happening to Steve and I’d have to dial 911 and I wouldn’t be able to unlock my phone or dial the right number.  Eventually I got my dad, who was in North Carolina, and he sent my sister over, who luckily was already down in the city helping a friend move.  

Then I had to call Steve’s parents, which was horrible. Steve’s mom was excited to hear from me, since on their end it was just a normal Saturday morning. And I had to say, no, turn down, your son’s in the back of an ambulance and the EMT just gave me a “no” nod.

Eventually we took off for Howard University Hospital, which was the closest ER.  They took me into a tiny little room that wasn’t square, so all of the furniture was crammed in at weird angles. A chaplain came in and said some very anatomically specific prayers, which even as they were cutting Steve open and trying to resuscitate his heart directly, I thought was funny.  My sister showed up, and they called a Catholic chaplain so he could give Steve last rites.  I don’t know how the last rites went, but in terms of dealing with the non-dying, that guy was fucking terrible. I wish I could remember his name so I could pan him on Yelp.

Doctors would come in pretty frequently to update me, but only one or two of those times were they hopeful. Apparently his heart caught a couple of times, but it never stayed working.  When the doctor came in to tell me that they’d declared a time of death, I made him tell it to Steve’s parents on the phone.  

Sarah and I saw him at least twice, once while they were still working on him, and once after they’d cleaned him up.  As they led me out of the ER, I told the nurse that I was conflicted about whether or not I should take a photo. She told me I’d see him again, at the funeral, and that I should just focus on sleeping and eating. And then I said “I can’t believe it, he was such a good husband.”

And she said, “Yeah, but he did a shitty thing today.”

And that was the first time I laughed after Steve died.

Ultimately what seems to have happened is that an infection developed in his heart.  This is probably related to the surgery he’d had around Christmas, to repair an aneurism in a valve in his heart.  I don’t have better clarity than this, and to some extent the facts I did dig up, I’ve forgotten.  It’s impossible to overstate what a hit your memory takes when you lose someone. It’s also impossible to overstate what a bureaucratic clusterfuck it is.  GUYS, I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH: IF YOU SHARE A PHONE PLAN WITH SOMEONE, MAKE SURE EVERYONE’S AN AUTHORIZED USER.

Q: Um damn, I’m like, a little overwhelmed now.

A: Yeah, me too.  I’ve been that way for two years. So if you sent me an email and I didn’t respond to it, that’s what happened. I couldn’t respond to your query about a story pitch because my husband coughed to death.

Q: So how are you doing in general?

A: I mean, like I keep saying, it’s fine.  I realized today that I’d never much thought about what happened after two years. After one year, I thought I might try to date (and in fact I tried earlier than that, and it was COMICALLY BAD).  In year two I thought I might be in a good enough head space to make a career transition (also: fail).  

But now, with no more map – with truly no expectation that getting this far was a real possibility, I feel like I’m starting to be strong enough to do the work to make those sorts of things happen. I have the beginnings of a plan and a little bit of vision about how to pursue the kind of creative community I want to be part of, and the resources to do that, even if it doesn’t make any money.  Even though it’s frightening, I feel like I’m getting closer to being able to hand someone my soppy bruised tomato of a heart. If they cup their hands and treat it with gentle little kitten paws, I think I might be ok.

One thing is for sure – I used to fucking HATE IT when people asked me, with that welling sincerity in their eyes, “but how ARE you?”  I probably don’t actually hate it any less, but it happens less now.

Q: What have you learned over the past two years?


Q: It sort of seems like you’re stalling, tbh.

A: Busted.  I think about that question a lot.  I would love to unequivocally be like “I am so much more empathetic now, and I have grand insights into the universe!”

But that’s not really the case.  I haven’t even really had a magnificent realization about the necessity of doing what you love, or cutting the bullshit. If you are reading this you know that bullshit is my number one stock-in-trade!  Or if I have had anything like a satori, I haven’t acted on it.

Probably the biggest finding of the past two years for me is that being comfortable being uncomfortable is a very effective way to be a human.

I am constantly trying to teach myself to watch my feelings as they pass through me, rather than chasing them away with Manhattans or Ambien or Netflix.  I often fail at this.  I am trying harder to engage with people as they are – not being afraid of strangers, asking better questions, really listening to the answers, not being afraid to go to a second location, being less judgmental.

Basically, I’m trying to have an open heart.  I’ve learned that it’s really hard to do, but I think it’s probably the Step 1 of any attempt to really be alive, following something like this.

Q: I’ve noticed that throughout this FAQ you’ve used two spaces after a period.

A: Yeah, I’m not a fucking ANIMAL.

All my love,



Scenes from Operation “Van Buren,” January 23, 1966

  • “SP4 McClanton Miller (Detroit, Mich), Co A, 2nd Bn, 327th Inf Regt, 101st Abn Bde, kneels in dense brush waiting for orders to move forward. “
  • “Catholic Chaplain (Capt) Bruno Massoti (Cullman, Ala), conducts services for troops during the operation. “
  • “Troops of the 327th Inf, 101st Abn Bde prepare to move across a rice field in search of Viet Cong. “

“Operation ‘Van Buren’ a combined allied operation of Military Forces of the Republic of Korea, Republic of Vietnam and the United States 101st Abn Bde. The operation was to deny the vital rice harvest to the Viet Cong. “

Lafoon, Robert C. , Photographer.  Series: Color Photographs of Signal Corps Activity, 1944 - 1981Record Group 111: Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 1860 - 1985